The tech world on the Android side is dangerously close to free-fall mode. Many companies are losing money, others are close but still breaking even, and it's only predicted to get even worse. But during the last quarter, there was one company that seemingly fiddled while it watched the industry burn even though it was partially responsible for the fire: Qualcomm.
Qualcomm shipped 21% fewer smartphone platform chips (that means the processor, GPU, coprocessors for things like the camera or AI) yet made 5% more profit. How the hell do you pull that off, you might be asking? The answer is that you overcharge for your product and make sure people will buy it anyway.
Qualcomm is the ultimate grandmaster of this game. Think about it — would you walk into the Verizon store and buy a flagship Android phone that didn't have the newest Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 series chip inside it? Of course not. When you're paying so much for a thing you expect it to be the best of things.
Qualcomm knows this but more importantly so does Samsung and LG and OnePlus and every other company that makes the "best" Android flagship phones. We react by saying Qualcomm is horrible for adding so much to the cost of the latest Snapdragon that phone prices have surpassed the $1,000 mark, which is true. But nobody pulled Samsung's arm and forced them to use it. Except we sorta did because we demand and expect it.
You don't have to use a Snapdragon to build a good phone.
There is an alternative. Several, if you're counting at home, but one sticks out as being brand-agnostic for use by any company that makes phones: MediaTek. Its new Dimensity 1000 mobile platform looks pretty damn incredible with things like 5G support, AI coprocessors, support for actual three frame HDR video capture in real-time and excellent performance. I'll bet it is a might bit cheaper than a Snapdragon, too.
The real problem is finding a phone maker that wants to use it in a flagship phone outside of China or India. That phone maker could be — no, should be — Google.
Google can make Android run really well on any chip it wants to. That means Google could take a powerful chip from MediaTek and make a Pixel phone that works exactly like a Pixel phone with a Snapdragon inside it does and bypass the Qualcomm taxes. That gets the ball rolling for third-party optimizations for MediaTek chips from game developers and forces MediaTek to be more proactive on the security front. Everyone is a winner.
We are pretty sure that Google is developing its own mobile computing platform, and it most definitely should. An in-house solution specifically designed to run Android would be a game-changer and it needs to happen. But that's going to take years to get right, so in the meantime why not use a drop-in solution like the Dimensity 1000 for the flagship and an Helio P series for the Pixel a series?
I doubt this is ever going to happen and every flagship phone sold in North America and half of Europe will be $1,000 / €1,000 Snapdragon-toting overpriced models. But some company needs to dare to pull away from Qualcomm and Google could get away with it.
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