Massive 84% growth of 5G application processors for smart phones in 2021

Date: 11/04/2022
Riding on the wave of 5G, covid pandemic induced mobile digital life, smart phone usage has grown significantly in 2021. The global sales of smartphones in year 2021 grew by 6%, as per Gartner. It is observed in the industry that a small growth in smart phones results in large growth of semiconductor market for smartphones. The estimation by market researcher Strategy Analytics tells exactly that, where it finds global smartphone applications processor (AP) market grew 23 percent to $30.8 billion in 2021.

The key findings shared by Strategy Analytics on this market include:

Qualcomm, MediaTek, Apple, Samsung LSI and Unisoc grabbed the top-five revenue share ranking spots in the smartphone applications processor (AP) market in 2021.

Qualcomm maintained its smartphone AP leadership with a 38 percent revenue share, followed by MediaTek and Apple with each 26 percent.
Apple, MediaTek, Qualcomm and Unisoc gained market share while HiSilicon and Samsung LSI lost share.

5G-attached AP shipments grew 84 percent year-over-year, accounting for 46 percent of total smartphone Aps shipped in 2021.

Shipments of Aps with on-device artificial intelligence (AI) engines crossed 900 million in 2021, roughly flat compared to 2020. However, increased shipments of mid-range Aps without AI engines limited the growth.

Top-selling Android AI Aps include Snapdragon 888/888+, 765/G, 750G and 662 and Dimensity 700.

TSMC manufactured three in four smartphone Aps shipped in 2021. In addition, semiconductor foundries, including TSMC and Samsung Foundry, held up well despite supply constraints and helped the industry capture growth.

Smartphone Aps manufactured in 7 nm and below process technologies accounted for 43 percent of total smartphone AP shipments in 2021.
Google entered the smartphone AP market in 2021 with its Pixel Tensor chip, capturing approximately 0.1 percent unit and revenue share.

Sravan Kundojjala, who is behind this analysis at Strategy Analytics, has shared these below comments:

"For the first time on an annual basis, MediaTek overtook Qualcomm in units and established over 75 million unit-lead in smartphone Aps 2021. MediaTek capitalized on Qualcomm's defocus on mid and low tier 4G LTE Aps and gained volume share. Despite the loss of unit share crown, Qualcomm exited 2021 with over 43% higher revenue than MediaTek, thanks to an increased mix of higher-priced premium and high-tier Aps. Both companies performed well in the 5G AP segment and posted a 13-year high in their AP average selling prices (ASPs)."

"Unisoc made a strong comeback in 2021 with the help of renewed LTE AP portfolio and tier-one design wins. Strategy Analytics believes that Unisoc has the potential to take LTE AP share from MediaTek in 2022 as the latter shifts its focus to 5G. On the other hand, Samsung LSI saw a sharp decline in its AP shipments as its primary customer Samsung Mobile shifted orders to Qualcomm, MediaTek and Unisoc. As a result, for the first time in the last six years, Samsung shipped less than 100 million Aps in 2021. However, Samsung could regain market share with its new Exynos 1280 mid-range 5G AP in 2022."

Author: Srinivasa Reddy N
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