Samsung is reportedly hogging the supply of Snapdragon 845 chips for its Galaxy S9
The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 has officially launched, and we all know what that means. Flavour of the month rules means that attention will now turn away from the phablet, as it starts entering the hands of consumers its already old news. Eyes swivel forwards towards what’s next from the ever churning development cycle, and the next biggest things inside 2017 are the iPhone 8 and Google Pixel 2. But looking further than that, for Samsung fans at least, the next thing on Samsung’s agenda is the Galaxy S9; the next flagship.
Samsung may have a Galaxy X in the works too, according to some reports; a folding phone with a truly flexible OLED display. But we don’t know exactly when this will arrive, while with the Galaxy S9, we can fairly reliably predict it’ll rock up inside Q1, or at the latest beginning of Q2, just as the Galaxy S8 did in April this year.
Samsung might be being a bit naughty for the second year running when it comes to new Qualcomm Snapdragon chips, once again hoarding the supply of next-gen silicon for its next flagships; in this case the Galaxy S9 for 2018.
At the beginning of 2017, as we hotly anticipated the forthcoming new releases from the likes of Samsung (with its Galaxy S8 series), LG (with the G6), and HTC (with the U Ultra), a titbit of news emerged which suggested something fishy was happening.
Samsung, we knew, was Qualcomm’s manufacturing partner; it would produce the Snapdragon 835 processor on Qualcomm’s behalf, but what emerged was some details regarding the LG G6.
LG had apparently settled (reluctantly, it would seem) on 2016’s Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 SoC for its flagship, which launced at MWC in February 2017. According to reports surrounding the handset at the time, Samsung had bought ALL the supply of Snapdragon 835 processors it had produced on Qualcomm’s behalf. The story went that there would be no S835 chips available for anyone else until after April, when the Galaxy S8 was due to launch.
This turned out to be true. The LG G6 arrived with the Snapdragon 821, meaning it was a bit underpowered for a new flagship. The same happened with the HTC U Ultra. And lo and behold, when the Galaxy S8 launched in April, it was the only handset rocking an S835. It’s taken months since then for the other firms to catch up, with HTC recently releasing the Snapdragon 835-based HTC U11 and LG about to launch the LG V30 on the same chip.
Allegedly Samsung may be about to do the same thing in 2018 with the Snapdragon 845.
The word comes via oft-reliable Asian-based Twitter and Weibo tipster Ice Universe, who claims that “most” of the Snapdragon 845 supply has been purchased by Samsung for the Galaxy S9, specifically the US-facing model. It’s believed the European and Asian models will use Samsung’s own Exynos 9810, but assuming there’s not much supply left of the Snapdragon SoC it leaves LG, HTC, and the rest in a bit of a pickle. About the only OEM who is safe from this sort of thing (apart from Apple) is Huawei, which uses its own Kirin SoC brand.
Of course, when things like this happen there is always the potential for growth for motivated players – players like Huawei with its Kirin CPU, for instance. On top of this, you have NVIDIA and MediaTek as well.
If Qualcomm and Samsung won’t play ball, handset makers will have to look elsewhere and in the end, this kind of behavior will not only be good for competition, but it could do some damage to Qualcomm’s reputation, as it all seems a little uncompetitive.
The main difference this year is that, unlike with the Snapdragon 835, which Samsung made for Qualcomm and then hoarded the initial run, the Snapdragon 845 is being built by TSMC. Somehow, that hasn’t stopped Samsung getting in early and ninja-ing all the best chips.