Demand for Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S4 mobile processors has become so great that it has been forced to partner with mobile processor rival Samsung to produce additional supply. Qualcomm is a fabless chip designer and currently contracts Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSMC) to build its latest design on its 28nm process. However, as it can’t meet demand, Qualcomm and Samsung have entered into an agreement that will now see Samsung also produce chips for Qualcomm in much the same way it continues to for Apple.
Although Samsung makes its own Exynos-branded processors, it electronics arm is having massive success with its newly-launched Galaxy S III. Ironically, although Samsung ships the Galaxy S III internationally with its own quad-core processor, it relies on Qualcomm’s 4G LTE-compatible S4 processors to power the Galaxy S III due to go on sale in the U.S. In a further irony, the sales success of the Galaxy S III no doubt also played a part in Samsung’s decision as one of Qualcomm’s largest customers for the S4 processor.
Additionally, Qualcomm has also entered into a similar deal with UMC to further bolster supply of its S4 processors. HTC’s One XL and One S also use the S4 processor. Like Samsung, HTC uses a quad-core processor in its non-LTE version of the One X, but has opted for the S4 to add LTE support for where available in certain markets.
The S4 is a unique Qualcomm design based on its ‘Krait’ architecture. It is said that this S4 design is very similar to ARM’s own next-generation Cortex A-15 mobile architecture. It has been shown to outperform Cortex A-9 processors like Samsung’s Exynos 4-series and NVIDIA’s Tegra 3 in a number of benchmarks, although not in graphics performance.