Snapdragon S4 supply shortages forcing the industry to look for alternative silicon from Intel and ST-Ericsson
Now it doesn't get much better for smartphone makers than the Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 integrated mobile chipset - it has two "Krait" cores that are a step up from the usual Cortex-A9 flavor, a good GPU, and above all, an on-dye LTE radio, soldered into a chip the size of your nail, that can hook it up to most networks on planet Earth. Add the usual Wi-Fi, GPS and Bluetooth connectivity, and you get a complete solution that takes away thinking about the processor and wireless in your phone.
The 28nm process, on which the Snapdragon S4 is built, however, is still in its nascence, as far as mobile chips are concerned, so the TSMC foundry is installing equipment as fast as it can to satisfy demand, but it still won't be able to completely meet it until early next year.
That's why smartphone vendors like Samsung, Sony, HTC and LG are frantically looking for alternative suppliers. Reports are that NVIDIA, ST-Ericsson and even Intel are swamped with request for alternatives, urgent orders are being placed as stopgap measure, and manufacturers are even testing their silicon for complete adoption.
Both Intel as well as NVIDIA are leveraging their respective Infineon and Icera baseband makers buyouts to come up with integrated chipsets of their own by year-end, which ST-Ericsson already offers.
It's Qualcomm's loss for now, but we are curious if we will see popular devices with more exotic mobile chipsets from Intel and ST-Ericsson inside than the usual Snapdragon/Tegra/Exynos triumvirate. Sony is already using ST-Ericsson for its mid-range Xperias, and Samsung for the Galaxy Beam, so the process has already started, but we can't help but wonder where is Texas Instruments in all that.