Report: MediaTek’s Flagship Helio X SoC Line May Return in the Second Half of 2018
At one time, MediaTek was a rising star. Despite issues with abiding by the GPL for the release of kernel sources, its processors became more and more popular for smartphones made in China. This was because MediaTek’s system-on-chips were cheaper than Qualcomm’s and in the low-end and mid-range price ranges, MediaTek’s chips had competitive performance as well.
However, the situation has since changed. The Taiwan-based chip maker has found it increasingly difficult to cope with competition from Qualcomm, and in recent years, its chipsets haven’t been competitive in terms of performance and power efficiency against Qualcomm’s chipsets. As Qualcomm has bounced back from its issues, MediaTek has struggled, and accordingly, its market share of smartphone processors has decreased.
The problem came to a head when MediaTek launched its flagship Helio X30 SoC in the market. The company admitted at launch that only a few devices would use its latest-and-greatest chip, and in practice, it’s been used in devices numbering in the single digits. In contrast, Qualcomm had a great year with the Snapdragon 835, as all OEMs apart from Samsung (except for in the U.S.) and Huawei opted to use the chip in their flagship smartphones.
Consequently, reports stated that MediaTek was seemingly moving back from the flagship smartphone chip market. This was bad news for competition, as we have already seen the exit of a few notable chip makers in the past. Now, a Digitimes report states that MediaTek’s Helio X series flagship smartphone chipsets are expected to stage a comeback in the second half of 2018 at the earliest, in order to prepare for the advent of the 5G era. The report adds that MediaTek will continue to tap the mid-range and high-end smartphone markets with its Helio P series in the first of this year.
Digitimes states that the Taiwan-based chip maker has worked out “at least” three new-generation chips which will be fabricated using TSMC’s 7nm process. This is said to show the company’s determination to have a presence in the world’s top smartphone chip market, according to the report. (It’s worth noting that last month, a report stated that TSMC would manufacture the Snapdragon 855 on its 7nm process.)
The report continues by stating that MediaTek has been actively developing AI chip solutions, which is notably an important focus of competitor chips such as the HiSilicon Kirin 970. The company’s customers, which include Oppo, Vivo, Sony, LG, and others, are said to be upgrading their smartphone models in line with the advent of the 5G era. Therefore, MediaTek is expected to return to the top-tier smartphone smartphone chip market in the second half of 2018 or 2019.
Why did Helio X30 fail to win customer support and build a large customer base? This was because top smartphone vendors such as Apple, Samsung, Huawei and Xiaomi have rushed to carry out in-house development of their smartphone chips, according to the report. Tough competition from Qualcomm is also said to be a factor as Qualcomm’s budget and mid-range SoCs have steadily improved over the years.
The failure of the Helio X30 is said to have forced MediaTek to stop production of Helio X series chips and suspend related investments in the second half of 2017 in order to prevent gross margins for mobile processors from further declining, according to Digitimes. Developments throughout 2018 will ultimately prove the veracity of this report, but we hope to see more competition in the chip industry, as that has the potential to benefit end users.