Qualcomm, Apple challenged as rivals move up CPU pecking order

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Market leaders Qualcomm and Apple face a challenging year in the mobile CPU space as rivals continue to ramp up shipments.

Strategy Analytics’ report on mobile processor market share revealed that Qualcomm and Apple once again dominated smartphone CPU shipments in 2014. Qualcomm took home a 52 percent revenue share as the market grew 21 percent year-on-year to $20.9 billion (€19.3bn), with Apple claiming an 18 percent slice.

Growth at Qualcomm was credited to the favouring of its high-end Snapdragon chipsets by smartphone manufacturers, which in turn contributed to Samsung seeing the poorest performance in handset CPU shipments in six years.

However, Strategy Analytics warned that Qualcomm faces increased competition in 2015 as the trend for 64-bit CPUs gains momentum, putting Samsung on the high ground.

[Read more: Samsung begins production of new Exynos 7 using 14nm FinFET]

Stuart Robinson, the firm’s Executive Director of Handset Component Technologies service, said: “Samsung LSI is looking to regain share with the help of 14 nm-based smartphone APs and Strategy Analytics believes that the latest Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge design-wins bode well for Samsung LSI in 2015.”

Qualcomm competitors HiSilicon, Intel, and MediaTek all outgrew the Snapdragon chipmaker in 2014, Strategy Analytics revealed. Taiwan-based MediaTek claimed the fourth largest smartphone CPU market share at 14 percent.

[Read more: MediaTek eyes high-end after launching WorldMode SoC]

There was also increased pressured in the tablet processor space, with Apple facing renewed competition from Intel.

The popularity of Apple’s iPad helped Cupertino secure a 27 percent revenue share of the global tablet CPU market in 2014, which grew 18 percent to $4.2 billion (€3.9bn). However, Intel ranked number one in the “non-iPad” supplier market for the first time, after shipments grew over 300 percent year-on-year.

This scored Intel a 19 percent revenue share in 2014, followed by Qualcomm with a 16 percent share.

Sravan Kundojjala, Associate Director at Strategy Analytics, said Intel was “well positioned to continue its tablet AP momentum in 2015,” driven by its low-cost Atom X3, X5 and X7 chips.

Finally, there was strong growth in LTE modem shipments in 2014, which overtook 3G baseband sales for the first time on an annual basis.

LTE units accounted for more than half of all baseband revenue in 2014, Strategy Analytics revealed. Qualcomm once again ruled this space with a 66 percent revenue share, followed by MediaTek at 17 percent and Spreadtrum at five percent.

[Read more: Qualcomm “dominating” growing LTE baseband, smartphone SoC markets]

Kundojjala said: “For the first time on an annual basis, revenue from LTE baseband sales overtook revenue from 3G baseband sales, thanks to a strong push from the industry. 

“Qualcomm continued to lead this high-growth LTE baseband segment. However, Qualcomm’s LTE baseband competitors HiSilicon, Intel, Marvell, MediaTek and Samsung made good progress in 2014 and increased their LTE baseband shipments.”​