ZTE is working on their own mobile CPU with integrated 4G LTE support
According to Chinese media, another smartphone vendor – ZTE – its getting into custom application processor business for its own devices.
The new ZTE chip will come with integrated 4G LTE support and should be announced during PT/Expo Comm China, on Sept. 24th.
ZTE, like some other biggest smartphone OEMs, is following in Apple’s footsteps with a custom ARM CPU development for their own devices. The problem is, no one, except Apple, was really successful with their own silicon so far.
The closest who came to at least limited success – is Samsung. Which put their Exynos CPUs into a few million smartphones. The problem is - most of those smartphones are Samsung’s own Galaxies. And, since Sammy is still unable to produce an Exynos chip with an integrated LTE modem, it has to rely on Qualcomm’s Snapdragons in the markets with widely deployed LTE networks.
Another smartphone OEM, ZTEs main rival – Huawei, has been in the custom CPU business since last year, and learned the hard way that making its own chips is not as easy as expected. Their whole 2012 worldwide high end smartphone offensive was disrupted because of custom CPU production issues , which delayed the launch of their D Quad flagship for months.
Looking at the results so far, I can’t see any competitive advantage that a custom ARM chipset gives to Android smartphone OEM. For now, Qualcomm holds a near monopoly at the high end, with NVIDIA continuously trying and failing to break into the market. The low end is well served by older Qualcomm CPUs, Mediatek chipsets and Broadcom offerings. And Intel is also pouring huge resources into their mobile Atom chips, which may produce a competitive offering eventually.
Mobile chipsets are a highly competitive market, with pretty wide range of offerings. So I am not sure what ZTE expects to to gain from their own custom chip. No other Android OEM gained anything so far.
Maybe its some kind of the long game and we’ll see the benefits few years down the road. But for now, it looks like a big waste of resources. And the best way forward is to leave mobile Application Processor development to specialists.