Samsung covers its tracks by using Snapdragon

Samsung might have a bit of explaining to do after it emerged that the vast majority of its flagship Galaxy S4 smartphones could be shipped with Qualcomm chips, at least initially.

Even before Samsung announced the phone earlier this month, it was clear that it would have to use a Qualcomm chip with onboard LTE to be competitive in some markets, such as North America. The Snapdragon 600 is a good chip and it was also selected by HTC to power its latest flagship, the HTC One.

However, Samsung’s PR juggernaut focused on its own Exynos 5 Octa chip, which is understandable. The chip features ARM’s big.LITTLE design, with four A15 cores and four frugal A7 cores to keep power consumption down. The bad news? It doesn’t have LTE. The really bad news? Samsung couldn’t build enough of them in time for the S4 launch and now it seems that as many as 70 percent of first-batch Galaxy S4 handsets will ship with a Snapdragon inside.

That first batch is 10 million units, reports Korean tech site ET News.

Samsung’s LSI division was supposed to churn out the overhyped Octa chips and it failed to ramp up production fast enough. It doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Samsung’s 28nm process came online late last year and apparently the Octa is just now entering mass production.

In addition, Samsung took a rather risky approach. It tried to transition to a new manufacturing process and change the core architecture in one go, which is tantamount to begging for something to go wrong.

That’s why Intel doesn’t do it and that’s why Nvidia’s Tegra 4 was delayed by more than a quarter. Both Samsung and Nvidia decided to take a chance and both seem to have botched it quite badly. Still, one can hardly blame them for choosing the risky approach. Had it worked, Samsung would have had a killer chip on its hands just in time for the S4, while Nvidia would have had the first A15 quad-core SoC a couple of months ago.