Semiconductor Value Chain

Qualcomm Aims 64-bit Processor at Low-End

17 December 2013

Qualcomm's Snapdragon 410 is the company's first 64-bit application processor. The quad-core device integrates the LTE modem and is aimed at what Qualcomm calls "high-volume" smartphones.

It is reported that Qualcomm has dropped the use of home-designed processor cores in favor of an off-shelf ARM-designed core; the Cortex-A53. Qualcomm has said the Snapdragon 410 is the first of many 64-bit capable processors to come from the company, so it may be that the Cortex-A53 was an expedient solution while the company works on its own design of 64-bit processor core.

The Snapdragon 410 is not the first 64-bit processor for mobile. That honor goes to the ARMv8-compliant A7, which first appeared in the iPhone 5S in September 2013. However, the Apple design is captive and so the Snapdragon is the first 64-bit mobile that is generally available for inclusion in third-party mobile phones.

However, rather than coming in as part of the top-of-the-range Snapdragon 800 series, the 410 is aiming to address the needs of consumers as 4G LTE networks begin to ramp in China. As such it can also be seen as an attempt to head-off MediaTek, which some observers have predicted could overtake Qualcomm as the leader in application processor market share in 2014. An alternative view is that Qualcomm has pushed out the 410 to try and deter acceptance of 64-bit Atom processors from Intel.

The indications are that the high-end of the smartphone market is undergoing a growth stall as saturation in the western hemisphere takes hold. However, the market for entry- to mid-level smartphones is expected to continue, particularly in emerging regions, such as China and India, and prompted by the arrival of LTE.

The new Snapdragon 410 chipsets are manufactured using 28nm process technology. They feature processors that are 64-bit capable along with Adreno 306 GPU, 1080p video playback and up to a 13 Megapixel camera. Snapdragon 410 chipsets integrate 4G LTE and 3G cellular communications for all major modes and frequency bands, and include support for Dual and Triple SIM.

Together with the Qualcomm RF360 radio front end, Snapdragon 410 chipsets will have multiband and multimode support. The chipsets also feature Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, FM and NFC functionality, and support satellite navigation constellations: GPS, GLONASS, and China’s new BeiDou. The chipset supports Android, Windows Phone and Firefox operating systems.

The Snapdragon 410 processor is anticipated to begin sampling in the first half of 2014 and expected to be in commercial devices in the second half of 2014.

"We are excited to bring 4G LTE to highly affordable smartphones at a sub-$150 price point with the introduction of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor," said Jeff Lorbeck, senior vice president and chief operating officer of Qualcomm Technologies China, in a statement.

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