Step into my shoes for a second. There are 2,049 unread emails in my inbox and an additional 837 unread “News Tips” that stare at me every time I start my work day. Every company behind every component that makes up a smartphone, every piece of infrastructure gear needed to make a network run, every mediocre application that you can imagine, they all have a public relations team struggling to get my attention. The only reason I bring this up is because Mobile World Congress is going to kick off in less than 24 hours and I’m going to get even more bullshit to sift through when at the end of the day I can count the devices that will matter this year on one hand. What makes those devices special? Is it the processor that’s inside? The operating system that’s delivering an awesome user experience? Is it a bundled web service that’ll quickly become an essential part of my digital life? It’s a combination of all those things, which is why I find it extremely difficult to understand people who are blindingly loyal to a particular ecosystem, chip vendor, OS maker, or device manufacturer.
The other reason I bring this up is because you’re going to hear a lot about quad core, 4G LTE, 720p HD mobile screens, and more over the next few days. Will any of these individual things on their own matter in the mobile landscape? Back in December 2010 LG announced the Optimus 2X, the first smartphone powered by a dual core processor, in this case the NVIDIA Tegra 2. Because NVIDIA was the first company to make a chip with two application processors, then surely they dominated the market in 2011, right?
Wrong. According to the folks at Jon Peddie Research, of all the smartphones and tablets that shipped last year only 3% of them had an NVIDIA chip inside. What about Samsung and their insanely fast Exynos processors? They ended up in just 13.8% of devices. And Texas Instruments? A bit better, but still only 17%. Qualcomm on the other hand made chips that ended up in 31.4% of all mobile devices.
Subtract the 22.7% market share that Apple’s chips have (remember, that’s iPad and iPhone) and you’re left with 77.3% of the market that everyone else has to fight over. Do the math: Qualcomm’s Snapdragon was at the heart of 40.6% of every non-Apple smartphone and tablet that shipped in 2011.
It’s something to keep in the back of your mind as you read about the new toys being announced this week.