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Silicon integration key to lower-cost smartphones

Posted: 26 Apr 2011 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:silicon integration? lower-cost smartphones? dual-core? mobile processors? quad-core?

A presentation at the first Linley Tech Mobile Conference in San Jose, California has identified silicon integration as the key smartphone differentiator in the coming years. Smartphone shipments are forecast to hit 600 million units in 2014, with low-cost handsets fueling sales growth.

"The next 300 million smartphones will come from feature phone replacements," said Linley Gwennap, principal of The Linley Group, organizer of the event. "The pressure for smartphone designers will be in reducing systems cost to meet this growing demand for lower-cost smartphones and silicon integration is a key," Gwennap said.

Much of the integration will come from combining application and baseband processors. By 2014 nearly 70 percent of all smartphones will use such integrated chips, up from 40 percent in 2010, Gwennap predicted.

Linley Gwennap

Such chips will be key as designers try to hit prices as low as $100 for smartphones sold in emerging markets. Meanwhile, "the percentage of the market you can address with standalone application and baseband processors is slowly diminishing" to about 80 to 100 million units a year, Gwennap said.

"We totally believe most of the growth will come from integrated processors," said Raj Talluri, a senior Qualcomm manager at the event. "We did some analysis of the smartphone tiers and found greater than 50 percent of the market is for handsets costing less than $150and that segment is growing.

"When you get into that class the BoM doesn't support standalone apps and modem processors," Talluri added.

LG, Motorola and Samsung are among the largest feature phone vendors and thus best positioned for the next round of smartphone growth. Qualcomm and Marvell led the move to integrated application and baseband processors and along with Broadcom and ST Ericsson own the pieces required for next-generation integrated chips, Gwennap said.

Qualcomm is shifting from a four- to a three-chip smartphone set in 2012 with separate devices for digital, RF and analog, he added. However many integrated chips may actually use multiple die in a package.

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