One Third of The Smartphones Will Have AI Chip Inside By 2020

December 30, 2017
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Counterpoint Research expects that by 2020 a third of all smartphones will have a processor with special AI chip. The research firm published today figures for the third quarter of 2017. The global smartphone SoC market rose by 19% in the third quarter leading to a total turnover of more than 6.7 billion euros. Qualcomm is the absolute market leader of smartphone processors.

The System-on-Chip (SoC) is one of the most important parts of a smartphone. It gives the phone speed and computing power. The processor is also very important for processing photos. The market for SoCs has a few important players including, of course, Qualcomm. The total processor market in the third quarter of 2017 generated a record turnover of more than 6.7 billion euros. This means that turnover increased by 19% year on year.

  • Qualcomm the absolute market leader with 42% market share
  • Samsung biggest riser
  • Apple back to a fifth of the SoC market
  • Share of budget SoC maker MediaTek decreases
  • In 2020, one-third of all smartphones have an AI SoC

Qualcomm is market leader in SoC market

Qualcomm is a market leader with a market share of 42% in the smartphone processor market increasing the share slightly compared to the third quarter in 2016. Apple loses one percent market share and holds one fifth of the SoC market. Samsung sees the SoC revenues rise the most and gains three percentage points of market share. In the third quarter of 2017, we see that Huawei also increases the market share of its own Kirin processors. The Chinese company sees the market share of HiSilion Kirin processors rise from 6% to 8% worldwide. Both Samsung and Huawei are increasingly using their own processors in their smartphones.

SoC-market-in-q3-2017

MediaTek. MediaTek processors can be seen back in the cheap smartphones to opt out of the flagship segment. The company had to continue heavily over the past year. In addition to the outdated Helio P portfolio, the company was not able to participate in the latest generation of SoCs. The Helio X30 suffered a serious delay and ended only in the special Meizu Pro 7 Plus.

New AI trend of SoCs

Counterpoint sees a number of trends for future SoCs. Counterpoint research director Neil Shah says the following:

SoC market forecast 2020

” The focus in the SoC market for smartphones has shifted from the number of processor cores to the integration of newer technologies for newer experiences. For example: focus on immersion to unlock new experiences, such as AR / VR / Depth Sensing, using integrated ISP (image signal processors) and GPUs, to other areas such as artificial intelligence engines, special security architecture at chipset level, improved connectivity that covers the path to 5G and higher performance at lower power consumption levels. 

Neural Processing Unit, the NPU

Both Apple and Huawei (HiSilicon) launched this year’s SoCs with special Neural Processing Units (NPUs). The Huawei NPU can be found in the Huawei Mate 10 Pro and Huawei Mate 10. Apple implemented the AI technology in the A11 processor which appeared in the iPhone 8 iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X. These units are made for special AI. Qualcomm, on the other hand, has kept the AI architecture dynamic and flexible. The American processor manufacturer chose to use three subsystems; the Adreno GPU, Hexagon DSP, and Kyro CPU. The three manufacturers have implemented the AI capacity on their chip in their own way. Counterpoint expects that the AI capacities will only be present in the SoC for the premium segment for the time being.

The AI options will quickly seep into the high end to mid segment in the coming years. A trend that is driven by the further acceptance of AI. This should lead to low-end devices being connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) within the foreseeable future. According to the researchers, at least one in three smartphones in 2020 will have a processor with AI capabilities.

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