While Qualcomm designs its Snapdragon chips, they are actually made by a company that has the facilities to manufacture the components. The Snapdragon 855 and Snapdragon 855+ Mobile Platforms are both produced by the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) using its 7nm process, and Qualcomm was expected to switch back to Samsung to build the new Snapdragon 865 Mobile Platform using the 7nm process. But this might not be the case. According to Business Korea (via WCCFtech), Qualcomm decided to give the business to TSMC. This has not been confirmed, but the reason why this might be the case does seem to make sense.
the Snapdragon 865 Mobile Platform will be found under the hood of next year's Galaxy S11 in all regions except for Europe. Galaxy S11 units sold in that continent will sport the new Exynos 990 chipset. The report added that Samsung executives believe that the Snapdragon 865 outperforms the Exynos 990 SoC. We can point out that the Snapdragon 865 will include ARM's latest and greatest CPU core, the Cortex-A77; the Exynos 990 features the Cortex-A76.Unlike TSMC, which is the world's largest independent foundry, Samsung designs its owns chips and manufactures them itself. The report suggests that Qualcomm is concerned that Samsung might use its chip designs to improve its Exynos chipsets. Speaking of Samsung's own SoCs, there is some unusual stuff going on behind the scenes. Typically, the Galaxy S line is powered by Samsung's latest Exynos chipsets in most regions of the world except for the U.S., China, and Japan; in those markets, the Galaxy S line is traditionally powered by the latest Snapdragon Mobile Platform. But a media report out of Samsung's home country of South Korea says that
Samsung stopped production of its custom Mongoose CPU cores
While Qualcomm might have decided to keep production of its new flagship chip in the hands of TSMC, it appears that the Snapdragon 765 and Snapdragon 765G will still be manufactured by Samsung. Both TSMC and Samsung have had their moments in the industry. TSMC was the first to produce 7nm chips and Samsung was the first to use EUV. The former, which refers to process size, is a way of measuring how many transistors can fit inside a chip; the lower the process number, the higher the number of transistors packed inside the integrated circuit. And the higher the number of transistors inside a chip, the more powerful and energy-efficient it is. Consider that Huawei's Kirin 990 5G chip packs over 10.3 billion transistors inside one little chipset. EUV stands for extreme ultraviolet lithography, a more precise way to mark up a chip for transistor placement. Using this technology allows more transistors to be placed inside a chip and we've already explained the benefits of that.
TSMC and Samsung are expected to move to the 5nm node next year, but not in time for the Snapdragon 865. TSMC, which manufactures Apple and Huawei's APs, should be offering 5nm production by the time Apple's A14 Bionic starts rolling off of the assembly lines which could help the iPhone maintain its performance edge over Android phones when the 2020 iPhones are released next fall.
Last month, Samsung stopped designing and producing its own custom Mongoose CPU cores and instead, plans to focus on graphics processing units (GPU) and Neural Processing Units (NPU) for AI functionality. Right now, Samsung relies on ARM's Mali GPU. We could be a year or more away before the company starts producing its own GPU chips.
Right now, TSMC owns a commanding 52.7% of the global foundry market, up 4.6 percentage points since the beginning of the year. Over the same period of time, Samsung's share has dropped 1.3 percentage points to 17.8%.
If Qualcomm has decided to continue using TSMC's foundry for the Snapdragon 865 Mobile Platform, we would imagine that some word of this would be released through official channels. Unless that happens, we'd be surprised if Samsung doesn't make the Snapdragon 865 Mobile Platform.