Report: Qualcomm, Apple battled for top spots in smartphone, tablet chips in 2013

Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) and Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) competed fiercely for the top spots among chipset makers for smartphones and tablets in 2013, according to new reports from research firm Strategy Analytics. However, Qualcomm maintained its strong lead among baseband chip suppliers thanks to its dominant position in the LTE market, the research firm found.

In smartphone application processors, Qualcomm was the clear winner, with 54 percent revenue share, followed by Apple with 16 percent share and MediaTek with 10 percent share in 2013. Samsung Electronics and Spreadtrum were No. 4 and 5, respectively, according to Strategy Analytics. The global smartphone applications processor market grew 41 percent year-over-year to reach $18 billion in 2013, the firm said.

The research firm found that Qualcomm capitalized on its flagship Snapdragon 600 and 800 families, and that the company's mid-range Snapdragon 400 and 200 families of chips also gained strong traction across multiple price tiers. Apple's A7 chip, in its new iPhone 5s, helped Apple gain significant traction in the latter half of the year. MediaTek saw strong momentum in sub-$200 smartphones, and the company's 28-nanometer-based quad-core chips were  received well in 2013. Samsung's Exynos 5 octa-core chip was featured in flagship devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S4 and Note 3, and during 2013, Samsung also released its first baseband-integrated applications processor, which the research firm said was a significant product in the search for future growth. Spreadtrum ranked No. 5 with the help of its EDGE, TD-SCDMA and UMTS applications processors.

For the tablet market, Apple, Qualcomm, Samsung, Intel and MediaTek held the top-five revenue share spots in the tablet applications processor market in 2013. Apple continued its lead with 37 percent revenue share in 2013, thanks to its dominant iPad, followed by Qualcomm with 11 percent revenue share and Samsung with 10 percent revenue share. The global tablet processor market grew 32 percent year-over-year to reach $3.6 billion last year.

"Intel, Marvell, MediaTek, Qualcomm and Samsung all made progress in tablets in 2013 and registered significant growth in shipments," Strategy Analytics analyst Stuart Robinson said in a statement. "Qualcomm scored multiple high-profile tablet design-wins in 2013 and captured the top revenue share spot in non-iPad tablets in 2013."

In baseband chips, Qualcomm, MediaTek, Intel, Spreadtrum, and Broadcom captured the top-five revenue share spots in the cellular baseband processor market in 2013. Qualcomm dominated with 64 percent revenue share, followed by MediaTek with 12 percent revenue share and Intel with 8 percent revenue share. The overall global cellular baseband processor market grew 8.3 percent year-over-year to reach $18.9 billion in 2013, the firm said.

"MediaTek overtook Intel to capture the number two spot in the 3G UMTS baseband market in 2013, by Strategy Analytics estimates," Strategy Analytics analyst Christopher Taylor added. "MediaTek capitalized on its smartphone chip momentum and improved its baseband-mix. MediaTek's recent LTE chip announcements could potentially improve its baseband revenue share in future."

MediaTek is aiming to support LTE to smartphones that cost less than $200 on an unsubsidized basis, using a new octa-core chip it hopes will finally let it crack more into Western markets.

Looking to the future, research firm CCS Insight said in a separate report that it believes Qualcomm's LTE dominance "will change substantially by the end of 2014, with further announcements made at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. This is unlikely to affect Qualcomm significantly in the short term; Qualcomm's leadership is set to continue with the launch of LTE Category 6, given that the company is now on its fourth generation of LTE while many others are on their first."

However, the research firm "expects increased competition from several quarters. MediaTek is likely to rise to become the most significant of these, now representing Qualcomm's biggest single competitor alongside Intel."

Other competitors are lurking as well. "Broadcom is also set to intensify competition in the mid-tier in 2014. Although we question Broadcom's future as a mobile SoC supplier, it has made up for lost time since acquiring the Renesas LTE assets," CCS Insight wrote. "The move saw Broadcom abandoning previous LTE plans by launching the M320 SoC with Category 4 LTE, a dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 and an Imagination Technologies graphics processing unit (GPU), rather than its own VideoCore. This is scheduled to ship in a Samsung product in 1Q14."

For more:
- see these three separate Strategy Analytics release

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