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Samsung Exynos loses big even as MediaTek widens its lead over Qualcomm

When MediaTek overtook Qualcomm to become the biggest smartphone chipset vendor in 2020, it did so by grabbing 31% of the smartphone SoC market. A year later, the Taiwanese company has not only managed to hold on to that position but has also significantly widened its lead over Qualcomm.

According to a recent Counterpoint Research report, MediaTek’s share in the smartphone chipset market — as of Q3 2021 — stands at 40%, showing an increase of seven percentage points compared to the same period in 2020. This increase was bolstered partly by a surge in demand for 4G LTE phones in emerging markets (like India), where 5G networks are still several years away. In comparison, Qualcomm, which had 28% of the global SoC market in 2020, found its market share drop to 27%.

Not all seems lost for Qualcomm when you look at data from another perspective. The company continues to be the undisputed leader in the 5G smartphone chips segment, with a massive 62% market share as of Q3 2021. To put things into perspective, just a year ago, Qualcomm only held 32% of the 5G SoC market. In the same period, MediaTek’s growth was less spectacular, increasing its share from 25% in 2020 to 28% in 2021.

A chart showing the market share of smartphone chipset makers from 2021.
Counterpoint Research

The growth of MediaTek and Qualcomm in the 4G and 5G segments seems to have come at the expense of Samsung’s Exynos chipsets, whose market share plummeted from 10% to 5% in the span of a year. Things do not look great for Samsung in the 5G space either, where it saw its market share fall from 9% to 6%. Another notable thing is the fact that the same period saw Apple increase its market share increase from 12% to 15%.

A surprise entry to the list this year is Chinese chipset maker Unisoc, which now has 10% of the market — compared to just 4% a year ago. Even though Unisoc is a relatively unknown entity in the West, the company did manage to cut exclusive deals with companies like Honor, Realme, Motorola, ZTE, and Transsion Holdings. However, its biggest achievement was a tie-up with Samsung to provide chipsets for some of its entry-level A series devices.

Another chipset vendor worth mentioning here is Huawei’s HiSilicon that has been decimated by the U.S. trade ban. As a result, the company is not in a position to manufacture new Kirin chipsets, and its existing inventory of chips is on the verge of exhaustion. This has eventually led to its market share falling to 4% from a respectable 13% in 2020.

With the deployment of 5G networks continuing at breakneck speed across the globe, it seems Qualcomm is better-placed than MediaTek from a growth perspective. However, given the pace at which this segment has evolved, if MediaTek plays its 5G cards well, it could still pose a significant threat to Qualcomm’s dominance in the future.

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Rahul Srinivas
Rahul is a smartphone buff turned tech journalist who has been tinkering with all things mobile since the early 2000s. He has…
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