The Samsung Galaxy S30's expected chipset, which will probably be found in every 2021 Android flagship, could lead to a range of even more expensive phones next year.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 875 has had a price increase of over 60% compared to this year's Snapdragon 865 chip, according to Twitter leaker Sleepy Kuma (via Max Weinbach). Sleepy Kuma refers specifically to Xiaomi in their tweet, referring to a forum post on Korean site Clién. But Qualcomm supplies chips to Samsung, OnePlus, Motorola, Google and many other big smartphone makers, so this change could affect a huge majority of the smartphone market.
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Qualcomm could likely afford to make such a change. It has a near-monopoly on the chipset market, with only Apple, Samsung and Huawei offering chips that could be considered rivals.
If true, phones are gonna be expensive next year. https://t.co/ZmEZR2g06AJune 28, 2020
And since those three companies make their A-series, Exynos and Kirin components strictly for their own products, it leaves Qualcomm with a lot of power over most manufacturers, which it can then translate into higher prices. Sure, the Snapdragon 875 will be better than the Snapdragon 865, but given Qualcomm's incremental approach to improvements, this rumored price increase seems like a lot to ask for.
While US users are familiar with Samsung flagships using Snapdragon chips, most Samsung phones sold globally ship with the company's own Exynos 990 chip. It's a little less powerful than the 865, but it's still very capable.
Samsung unfortunately can't just drop Snapdragon silicon completely to use Exynos. Due to a deal it made with Qualcomm, it has to continue using Snapdragon chips in its US and Chinese models. Perhaps Samsung will instead spring for the Snapdragon 865 Plus chip for its flagships next year, which might help keep the price of phones down.
Huawei's Kirin chips, made by subsidiary HiSilicon, could have posed a decent challenge a year or so ago. But the continued dispute between Huawei and the US government means the Chinese company's efforts to design and build chips have been severely hindered. That just leaves Apple, who is unlikely to give away its mighty, highly-customized chips to Android competitors.
There are other chipmakers around, such as MediaTek, but its products are nowhere near as powerful as Qualcomm's. This makes sense given MediaTek's concentration on budget phones, but it again shows how tightly Qualcomm grips the flagship market.
We'll find out how this price hike affects the Galaxy S30, and other Android flagships, next year, with the S30 likely getting a February release. We'll likely see leaks before then though, which we'll be sure to bring to you as they happen.
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Richard is based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.