Samsung has long partnered with Qualcomm on mobile technology, and the pair have just announced an expanded relationship. Not only will they maintain their patent licensing agreement through the end of the decade, but Samsung will use Qualcomm chips in more of its phones. That might mean Exynos haters will get their wish for a global Samsung flagship with Snapdragon instead of Exynos.
Most iterations of the Galaxy S family have been bifurcated — in North America, these phones rely on the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon ARM chips. For instance, the latest Galaxy S22 series has the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1. However, the global variant of Samsung’s flagships usually sport the latest Samsung Exynos chip — that’s the Exynos 2200 for the S22. This chip has almost the same CPU configuration with a Cortex X2, three Cortex A710s, and four Cortex A510s. For whatever reason, Samsung’s chip doesn’t perform as well, and Qualcomm’s Adreno GPU dominates the RDNA2-based Xclipse 920 in the Exynos.
The newly announced partnership is still a bit vague, and Samsung stopped short of explicitly confirming that it was ditching Exynos. However, it certainly sounds that way. During the Qualcomm earnings call, CEO Cristiano Amon noted the agreement means that Samsung will be “expanding the use of Snapdragon platforms for future premium Samsung Galaxy products globally.” This goes into effect next year, just in time for the Galaxy S23.
This could be a rare instance of a business alliance that makes consumers happy. The Exynos system-on-a-chip (SoC) has most of the same bone stock ARM components as other mobile processors, but its performance, battery efficiency, and heat generation are worse than the corresponding Qualcomm parts. This has been true generation after generation, with the sole exception of 2015 when Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 810 had such severe heat issues that Samsung used the Exynos 7420 even in the US.
The situation is so bad that Samsung customers have started petitions asking for the company to stop using the Exynos SoC altogether. The almost 50,000 signatories to that petition might get their wish. Although, Qualcomm’s latest chips aren’t exactly bowling over picky smartphone consumers. The 8 Gen 1, based on Samsung’s 4nm process, exhibits higher heat and battery consumption than the last-gen Snapdragon 888. Early results from the 8+ Gen 1 with TSMC’s 4nm process are more encouraging. Should Samsung actually move all Galaxy S23 models to Qualcomm, we’d be looking at the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, which will hopefully refine the formula further.