Qualcomm chips not used in Galaxy S6, reveals teardown

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By Larry Banks

Samsung has eschewed Qualcomm in a key choice of chips in its new Galaxy S6 smartphone. However, the South Korean company is hedging its bots on another choice of technology provided by Qualcomm.

Qualcomm modem not used in Galaxy S6

Chipworks, a company that tears down and analyses mobile devices, reported last week that Samsung has used its own wireless modem in the Galaxy S6. Qualcomm had previously expected to supply the component, which is one of the most important chips in any mobile, even though Samsung stated that it would use its own processor chip over Qualcomm’s popular Snapdragon series.

Chipworks analysed a Galaxy S6 that was intended for a specific mobile operator’s network. Models built for other networks apparently do use Qualcomm modems, leaving the company still with a meaningful share of modems used in Galaxy S6 models.

Qualcomm loses Samsung, financial results suffer

Qualcomm said in January that its financials would be hurt this year as a major customer (which they did not identify) had decided not to use the Snapdragon 810 in one of its flagship phones. Qualcomm never mentioned Samsung but did not dispute that it was referring to the South Korean electronics giant.

Samsung Exynos
The internals of the Exynos chip.

Typically, mobile phone makers either buy a single chip that covers the CPU and communications, such as the Snapdragon, or use separate chips for such functions. Qualcomm of course prefers the first approach as it can get more money for products that carry out multiple functions.

Apple however uses separate chips, with its own CPUs but using Qualcomm wireless modems. Samsung previously used the Snapdragon but has now turned to its own Exynos processor line. The company makes the chip using a 14 nanometre production process that apparently has performance and power saving benefits.

“Samsung has always mixed up their vendors,” says Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy.

Samsung may switch back to Qualcomm at a later date

Apparently, Samsung may switch back to Qualcomm for some of its flagship phones at a later date, once the company creates a new version of Snapdragon that uses more advanced circuits and the latest manufacturing processes.

The teardown by Chipworks has revealed an Exynos chip and Samsung modem in the Galaxy S6, but also several other types of Samsung chip – two processors for power management, an image processor and a Wi-Fi chip. Samsung also supplies the memory used in the S6, being one of the world’s largest manufacturers of memory.

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