Samsung may be abandoning its own chip for Galaxy S23
Samsung Electronics may be abandoning its own smartphone processor in favor of a Qualcomm Snapdragon chip, the latest questioning of the company’s ability to design and manufacture advanced processors.
Multiple analysts and tipsters are predicting that for the upcoming Galaxy S23 series, set to be released early next year, the company has chosen Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 from Taiwan’s TSMC over Samsung's own Exynos 2300, the latest in the family of chips that have been at the heart of Galaxy smartphones since 2011.
Ming-Chi Kuo, an analyst at TF International Securities, said that Qualcomm will likely be “the sole processor supplier” for Galaxy S23 models due primarily to lower-than-expected performance of the Exynos 2300.
If Samsung was going to use Exynos for the S23, the specifications of the chipset should have been circulated by now.
“Since the development of application processors precede the manufacturing of smartphones, details of the Exynos 2300 should have come out this time for the launch of Galaxy S23 early next year,” said Jeong In-seong, a semiconductor specialist who authored "The Future of the Semiconductor Empire."
“But no specifics yet, and it seems that Samsung internally developed the Exynos 2300 and presented it to the smartphone business, but the division decided not to use them,” he said.
Exynos-branded chips are designed by a division named System LSI and manufactured by Samsung Foundry.
If true, the move would be a break from the past practice of either mixing Exynos and Snapdragon chips depending on the region.
Samsung Electronics declined to comment, saying that such issues are kept secret until the official release of products.
Industry insiders think there must be a significant performance disparity between Samsung's newest chip and the competing Snapdragon chipset because of a gap in manufacturing technique and architectural design.
Qualcomm is considered to have superior processor design than Samsung Electronics'. On the manufacturing front, devices with TSCM chips tend to perform better than those with Samsung-manufactured chips, even though they are made in the same manufacturing node.
“Even though the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 is made using TSMC’s 4 nanometer process, and the Exynos 2300 by Samsung Foundry’s 4 nanometer process, there probably is a substantial difference in processing speed and energy efficiency,” Jeong said.
Qualcomm selected TSMC over Samsung Electronics for the production of its latest chipset, after the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, which was made by Samsung, showed disappointing results.
Samsung's big problem in manufacturing is lower production yields especially after it started using a relatively new lithography technology based on a range of extreme ultraviolet (EUV) wavelengths.
The yield rate is the amount of a silicon wafer that is successfully made into dies, which are themselves packaged to become semiconductors. The lower the yields, the less product produced.
Semiconductor experts believe that severely low yields can affect the overall quality of chips as well as the costs of production since they indicate that the manufacturing process has problems generating chips in accordance with the clients' designs.
Although Samsung Electronics never officially releases its yield rates, the chipmaker admitted in conference calls that it experienced challenges in ramping up yield rates for advanced manufacturing techniques such as 5 nanometer and 4 nanometer processes.
Both the Galaxy S21 and S22 models faced complaints of overheating and lower-than-expected processing speed. The S21 line was powered by Exynos 2100 and Snapdragon 888 and the S22 by Exynos 2200 and Snapdragon 8 Gen 1.
Exynos-powered Galaxy phones showed lower average scores in processing speed than the same Galaxy model with the Snapdragon chips, according to several benchmarking test tools like Geekbench.
The underperformance of recent Exynos chips prompted Samsung Electronics to gradually increase the volume of Snapdragon-powered Galaxy S models.
In the case of the Galaxy S22s, 70 percent of the units shipped had the Snapdragon chipset and the remaining 30 percent Exynos, according to Kuo, the analyst.
Shipments of Galaxy phones equipped with Exynos processors totaled 83 million units in 2021, down 17.8 percent over a year earlier, according to Korea Investment & Securities. That figure includes budget Galaxy A lines run by mid-range Exynos chips.
The reduced adoption by Galaxy phones translated into a decline in market share in the global markets.
“Samsung Exynos’ share declined in the first quarter of 2022 due to losing share to Qualcomm in the flagship Galaxy S22 series smartphones and due to the low yields of the 4nm premium Exynos chipsets,” said market tracker Counterpoint Research in a report.
Counterpoint Research said that Samsung Electronics commanded 7.4 percent market share in the global smartphone chipset market in the first three months, lagging behind Qualcomm at 43.9 percent and Apple with 26.4 percent.
In response to the recent fiasco, Samsung Electronics is trying to revamp both its smartphone and chipmaking businesses.
The tech giant recently launched a team dedicated to enhancing the performance of smartphone’s main processor, according to local media outlets.
The team brought together key engineers from the smartphone, System LSI and foundry divisions to collaborate on the development of future processors optimized for Galaxy phones.
Roh Tae-moon, chief of Samsung Electronics smartphone business, told employees in a meeting that the manufacturer considers making a main processor exclusively tailored for Galaxy models.
The Exynos chips are not exclusively customized for Galaxys as they are supplied to Chinese vendors like Vivo.
BY PARK EUN-JEE [firstname.lastname@example.org]