Xiaomi has been working on its own ARM SoCs for a while now, and according to new information, account with the collaboration of Samsung to carry out this important project. If it comes to fruition, Qualcomm, and MediaTek, could be the big losers, since they are the two chip suppliers that Xiaomi currently uses.
The complexity of creating your own SoC depends on many things, but without a doubt one of the most important is the degree of differentiation that we want to achieve with that chip. For example, designing an SoC based on the ARM architecture without any layer of customization, and accompanied by an ARM Mali GPU, also without any type of addition, it is very “simple”, but we could not consider it as a truly own chip.
Add layers of personalization that improve performance base of the ARM architecture used, as Qualcomm does with its Snapdragon chips, and also other firms such as Apple and Samsung, adds an important differentiating nuance, and also increases complexity of that SoC. The same applies if instead of using an ARM Mali GPU an own GPU is used, something that Qualcomm also does with its Adreno solutions, and Apple with its custom graphics cores.
Xiaomi could go the easy way: Cortex-X2 architecture and ARM Mali GPU
The latest information we have been able to see points in that direction, and the truth is that it makes sense. Xiaomi could combine a core based on the Cortex-X2 architecture high-performance with Cortex-A78 and Cortex-A55 cores, shaping a CPU structured in three blocks of cores: one of maximum performance, another of high performance and one more of high efficiency.
The GPU deserves a special mention. It had been rumored that Xiaomi could use an AMD Radeon GPU, but in the end everything seems to indicate that it will not be the case. This has an explanation, and that is, Samsung would not be able, for productive reasons, to offer a good level of supply of these GPUs, and would have chosen to reserve all the production for its new Exynos SoCs. If this is confirmed, that Xiaomi SoC it will come with an ARM Mali GPU.
Xiaomi is not the only company that is betting heavily on developing its own SoCs. We recently saw that Google is also working to bring forward «Whitechapel«, a proprietary chip that will be used, in theory, in the Google Pixel 6, a smartphone that should be presented next year, and that could once again position itself as a top of the range, which the Google Pixel 5 did not do.
Why this “exodus” to their own chips?
The greats of the technology sector have adopted this strategy for a series of very important reasons that we are going to detail below. The first is that developing their own chips allows them better control renewal cycles, as well as supply and stock.
On the other hand, it must also be taken into account that offering their own SoCs gives them a unique value, and allows them differentiate yourself in a much clearer way from the competition. Apple was one of the first to realize the importance of this, which is why it bet so heavily on its A-series chips.
We finally have the issue of costs. The price of Qualcomm’s high-end and mid-high-end SoCs has skyrocketed, and with the arrival of 5G things have only gotten worse, since a modem compatible with this standard can represent a significant added cost. Developing their own chips allows the big players in the sector to have greater control over costs, and reduce expenses on a key component. For all this, it is not surprising that Xiaomi wants to have its own SoCs.