Samsung and Qualcomm have a quite peculiar and long relationship. At first glance it may seem that there are two companies that have been working relatively recently, coinciding with the effervescence of smartphones but no, both have been linked since 1993. 26 years until now in a relationship that has had all kinds of stages.
Any lover of mobile phones will know that Samsung has been developing different versions of their flagship phones for years. Same basic specifications but processor (or camera too) different. Why do they do this? The answer is complex and although at first glance it may seem that they are merely technical reasons, there is much more behind.
Relationship of Samsung and Qualcomm
In 1993 , Qualcomm and Samsung sign an agreement so that Koreans have the right to produce their own CDMA modems on their own devices but without the possibility of selling them to other manufacturers. Samsung, unlike other electronics companies, is not only an assembler but also produces many of the components that carry their terminals.
Years passed and with the evolution of Korean technology they managed to integrate CDMA compatible modems in their line of Exynos processors. In fact, in 2014 they presented the first SoC with LTE integration but there was a problem: all that development was still subject to the agreement that both companies agreed during the nineties.
According to local media, Samsung tried to renegotiate the agreement with Qualcomm in 2011 and three years later the relationship was broken to the point that in South Korea came to trial as the original agreement of 93 was considered a blockade to Samsung of not being able to sell their chips to other manufacturers, which incidentally happened also because some Meizu mobiles worked with an Exynos .
Even with all these lawsuits, both companies have worked together and without going further in 2017 the Koreans bought a large amount of Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 to ensure cover the demand of Samsung Galaxy S8 and also, as a side effect, leaving its main competitors without the most powerful chip of the moment and having to opt for outdated or less powerful SoCs.
In spite of everything, they still want to understand and do business
The mix of processors has remained so far, already with the Galaxy S10 on the street combining the Exynos 9820 and the Snapdragon 855 , each one signed by a company. Koreans, in fact, also start to open their market and no longer only manufacture chips for self-consumption, as the Exynos 9610 sets course for other catalogs.
Why Exynos on one site and Qualcomm on another?
It is time to address the main question that heads this article. What is the reason for this dichotomy with Exynos and Snapdragon? There is no simple answer, but there are several factors that help us understand why this decision. The first and most basic is a matter of provisioning. According to IDC data , in the third quarter of 2017, Samsung had 83.3 million smartphones distributed (what is known as sell in). Put another way: from the factories of the Korean company have left about 85 million telephones from the furnace. An incredible amount of which unfortunately we do not know the breakdown for each model.
Can Samsung cover all that? No, that’s why two years ago (to quote the most recent case) they had to resort to Qualcomm to cover production and meet those high production targets. Koreans produce chips, but that’s not all they do.
Samsung decides to distribute the phones by regions and distribute according to the processor. Some countries will go with Exynos, others with Qualcomm but they will never mix. From there, and taking into account the mix between some units and others, they begin to distribute the phones.
Performance of android processors
We have technical issues, at the level of performance, both the most powerful SoC of Qualcomm and that of Samsung perform practically as well, both in day to day as in synthetic tests. However, in the modems part, there are some differences and until recently the Exynos did not have CDMA support , technology used in the United States by many operators before making the leap to 4G.
That changed last year with the Exynos 9810 that in addition to more power and artificial intelligence also included support for CDMA, so, finally, Samsung could enter the big time in the United States with its technology. And still, bet on Snapdragon.
In the case of China there is no technical reason as such, for Qualcomm it is a very important market and where it has also had very important legal battles . In fact, when there was talk in November of rumors about the possible purchase of Qualcomm by Broadcomm, in Beijing they were following it closely .