South Korean handset vendor LG has recently said that they’re working on making their own smartphone chips. Instead of buying a Tegra 2 from NVIDIA, OMAP 4 from Texas Instruments, or Snapdragon from Qualcomm, they’re going to go at it alone and will most likely slap together a few cores from ARM and a GPU from Imagination into something that’ll melt your eyelids off. This is a pretty bold move since it shows the company is committed to not only staying in the mobile device market, but also growing past the competition and shipping more devices. Nokia, the leader of the mobile industry in terms of volume, stopped making their own chips years ago. Samsung, the runner up, uses both their own chips and chips from other vendors depending on how well they’re doing at pumping components out of their factory. It’s why we’re going to see two versions of the Galaxy S 2, one with a Tegra 2 inside, the other with the Samsung Exynos 4201. LG is behind Samsung, and Apple is quickly catching up and on course to grab the bronze medal from them. The California company designs their own processors; Samsung builds them.
Now why would LG want to do this? Wouldn’t it require hiring a bunch of ultra nerdy guys and pouring vast sums of money into a part of the company that has yet to be created, who will ultimately have a fate attached to how well a 3D capable ultra expensive smartphone sells? The answer is control. When you control your destiny you can go where others don’t. LG could have probably loved to ship their dual core Optimus 2X earlier, but they had to wait for NVIDIA. And now that NVIDIA is shipping in volume, there’s going to be a glut of Tegra 2 devices on the market.
One observation I’d like to share: American handset vendors buy software companies while Asian vendors invest in factories for screens, processors, and memory chips. Who do you think will be more successful? The guys who try, and fail, to match the iTunes ecosystem or the guy who peddles the silicon that’s needed to run the ultra-super-mega HD version of Angry Birds?