Man holding Samsung phone taking photo of the city from Tokyo Tower

Qualcomm and Samsung partner to develop flagship 5G smartphone chips

Image credit: Taner Muhlis Karagüzel/Dreamstime

Qualcomm has announced a new flagship smartphone chip that will feature enhanced gaming and photography abilities and will be manufactured by Samsung’s chipmaking division.

Called the Snapdragon 888, the 5G chip represents the top of Qualcomm’s line-up for mobile phone processors. Smartphones containing the chip, which include high-end Android phones from Xiaomi and LG, are due to be launched in the first quarter of next year.

It is the first time Samsung – which competes with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC), which makes chips for Apple Inc’s iPhones – has made Qualcomm’s flagship chip on its new 5-nanometre process for smartphones. The South Korean firm won a contract for 5G chips from Qualcomm earlier this year.

According to Alex Katouzian, Qualcomm’s senior vice president of mobile, compute, and infrastructure, these new chips focus on improving common tasks when using smartphones. 

Qualcomm said the chip can process 120 high-resolution photos per second, while a new artificial intelligence processor on the chip will let software select the best five shots and combine them into one final image.

Katouzian said the Snapdragon 888 orders will not be split between Samsung and TSMC, adding that Samsung had been the best fit for this chip in terms of design needs and timelines.

“I think it would be very bad if you had to split your resources between two different foundries for a given chip,” he said. “We do so much work with the process technology vendor that we become very, very certain about what we want to use a couple of years before the chip comes out.”

Last month, Qualcomm told analysts that it expects to see 175 to 225 million 5G smartphone sales next year, with more than 450 million in 2021 and another 750 million in 2022.

And earlier this year, the chipmaker company warned that the coronavirus outbreak in China poses a threat to the mobile industry as growing numbers of firms temporarily shut down their manufacturing facilities. 

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