It’s no secret that MediaTek has had a phenomenal year in terms of OEM tie-ups and market share. The Taiwanese chipmaker is ruling the roost in the Indian and Chinese smartphone market, and as a result has eaten into the market share of Qualcomm, Nvidia and the likes. Along the way it has helped Indian smartphone companies like Karbonn, Lava and Micromax increase their market share too, at the expense of bigger brands, thanks to the low-cost MT6589 quad-core chipset. But now the world’s leading mobile chipset maker, Qualcomm, is fighting back.
Qualcomm looking menacingly at the mid-range market
The company announced the Snapdragon 410, a next-gen chipset aimed at low-cost smartphones, but which potentially delivers a high-end device experience. With integrated LTE, future-proof 64-bit support and a whole lot of multimedia and graphic goodies packed into the 410, Qualcomm has the right weapon to take aim at MediaTek. The 410 combines a quad-core Cortex-A53 cores and an Adreno 306 GPU, a variant of the 305 used in the now last-gen Snapdragon 400 SoC.
But it’s not just about intent; the 410 has more than enough firepower to take down the MediaTek MT6589, MT6572 and possibly, even the octa-core MT6592. Firstly, it’s based on ARM Cortex-A53, which is an extremely power efficient design and also much faster than the MediaTek chipsets, which make use of Cortex-A5/A7 cores. Qualcomm has decided to move up from A5 and A7 to offer a faster, power efficient replacement for not only the MediaTek line-up but also its own Snapdragon 400 SoC, which is used in the likes of the Moto G, HTC One Mini and Nokia Lumia 625. So potentially, the next-gen Moto G, if it does employ the Snapdragon 410, could deliver a higher-end experience, with the much-missed LTE band and enhanced multimedia support, without Google and Motorola having to raise the low price, which has made it a darling of the critics.
The LTE support is Qualcomm’s biggest trump card as none of the current-gen MediaTek chipsets support that band. While the Taiwanese company has said it will be bringing out chipsets that support LTE with markets like India in mind, Qualcomm has beaten them to the punch. The Snapdragon 410 will be sent out for sampling to OEMs in the first weeks of 2014 and the first devices should be hitting stores in the second quarter of 2014. With India about to jump on the 4G LTE bandwagon at about the same time, Qualcomm could have a leg up in one of the fastest growing markets in the world.
MediaTek's chipset power phones from Micromax, Karbonn, Lava and Sony
Another thing of note is that the Snapdragon 410 is a 64-bit chipset. Despite the fact that there is no 64-bit Android at the moment, Qualcomm has moved first into this space. Even if it may not deliver any oomph in performance at the moment, it could be a great marketing angle for the 410. With Apple’s much-touted A7 making 64-bit processors fashionable, the Snapdragon 410 will bring a much-coveted ‘feature’ to mid-range phones.
It’s all up to MediaTek now to hit back at Qualcomm with a salvo of its own. If the company manages to announce its next-gen chipsets with LTE support within the next month or so, we could have an exciting second quarter in 2014. For now though, Qualcomm has scored one over its Taiwanese rival.