Qualcomm, MediaTek, and Unisoc Post Robust Growth in Smartphone Processors

The global smartphone applications processor (AP) market grew 17 percent to $8.3 billion in the third quarter of 2021, according to Strategy Analytics. Their report estimates that Qualcomm, Apple, MediaTek, Samsung LSI, and Unisoc captured the top-five revenue share rankings.

Qualcomm maintained its leadership with a 34 percent revenue share, followed by Apple with 28 percent and MediaTek with 27 percent. MediaTek exited the first nine months of 2021 with a 26-million-unit lead over Qualcomm. Consequently, MediaTek is on track to become the leading smartphone AP vendor in unit terms for the first time on an annual basis in 2021.

Qualcomm deprioritized mid-range and low-end 4G APs to focus on premium and high tier APs to make the best use of available foundry capacity. As a result, MediaTek gained volume share in 4G APs with its Helio A/G/P lineup. 5G-attached AP shipments grew 82 percent year-on-year, driving a 19 percent growth in overall AP average selling prices.

Qualcomm's premium tier AP Snapdragon 888/888+ was the top-selling Android AP during the quarter. TSMC manufactured three-fourths of total smartphone APs shipped in 3Q21, followed by Samsung Foundry. Smartphone APs manufactured in 7 nm and below process, technologies accounted for 47 percent of total shipments in the period.

"Qualcomm, MediaTek, and Unisoc all posted solid double-digit shipment and revenue growth. Qualcomm and MediaTek benefited from HiSilicon's forced exit, while Unisoc saw strong growth in its 3G and 4G AP shipments. Strategy Analytics believes that 4G AP foundry capacity continues to be tight. We expect AP vendors to focus more on 5G in 2022 to maximize their revenue and profit," commented Sravan Kundojjala, author of the report and Associate Director of Handset Component Technologies service at Strategy Analytics.

"HiSilicon, hit by trade sanctions, saw its smartphone AP shipments decline 96 percent in 3Q21. On the other hand, Samsung LSI posted a 12 percent decline in its AP shipments. Google, a new entrant, captured a 0.1 percent unit share with its Pixel Tensor AP. Strategy Analytics believes that Google needs to acquire 5G modem technology to strengthen its cost competitiveness in the smartphone AP market," concluded Kundojjala.

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