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Year in Review: Mobile Vendors Prepare for 5G

January 15, 2019

Author: Linley Gwennap

The mobile industry is tremendously excited—perhaps too excited—about the launch of next-generation 5G cellular technology in 2019. Despite the widespread interest, however, 5G will be less than 1% of phone shipments in 2019, and perhaps a few percent in 2020. Instead, most phone buyers will continue to purchase lower-cost LTE models.

In the premium segment, three top suppliers—Apple, Samsung, and Huawei—develop their own processor chips to help differentiate their phones. Vendors such as OnePlus, Oppo, and Xiaomi instead employ Qualcomm silicon to deliver competitive products with similar capabilities. These premium processors typically offer the highest-performance CPUs and graphic units, powerful AI engines, and LTE downloads at 1.0Gbps or faster.

For customers who don’t want to pay $400 and up for a premium smartphone, phone makers have established a new “mid-premium” segment in the $250–$400 range. These phones offer some premium features, such as high-speed CPUs and AI engines, but they lag in other areas, such as GPU performance and LTE throughput. Although MediaTek hasn’t broken into the premium tier, it’s been successful in the mid-premium tier, most recently with its Helio P60. To counter, Qualcomm has created the new 700-series for mid-premium phones.

The growing mid-premium segment is a bright spot, but total smartphone shipments were flat in 2018 for the second straight year. This stagnation increases the pressure on mobile-chip vendors to move into other markets. Wearables shipments remain a small fraction of phone shipments, but Qualcomm hopes to goose sales with a trio of new products for everything from traditional smartwatches to smart headsets. At the other end of the power scale, the company competes head-on against Intel for 2-in-1 PCs.

Subscribers can view the full article in the Microprocessor Report.

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