Yesterday, Google announced its own new Google Tensor SoC alongside the new Pixel devices, now smartphone maker Oppo appears to also be developing their own high-end mobile chips for its premium handsets in a bid to gain control over core components and reduce its reliance on foreign semiconductor suppliers Qualcomm and MediaTek.
The world’s fourth-largest smartphone maker by shipments plans to use its own mobile systems-on-a-chip (SoC) in phones due out in 2023 or 2024, depending on the speed of development.
Oppo thus joins a race of smartphone makers — including Apple, Samsung, and Xiaomi — that are developing their own processors.
Developing key chips in-house could also enhance supply chain control and possibly soften the current widespread shortages and disruptions.
Oppo is looking to use the 3-nanometer chip production technology offered by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., the world’s biggest contract chipmaker, sources said. This would make it part of the second wave of TSMC clients, following Apple and Intel, to use the cutting-edge tech.
According to sources, this is a sign of Oppo’s commitment to developing high-end mobile chips capable of competing with the globe’s top semiconductor developers.
In-house designed processors have become a hallmark of the world’s leading smartphone brands. Apple began putting its A-series mobile processors in iPhones a decade ago. Huawei Technologies, once the world’s largest smartphone maker, made its mark with its Kirin processor before a U.S. clampdown on the company derailed its consumer electronics business.
Oppo has been ramping up its chip investments since the U.S. crackdown hit Huawei. It has hired top chip developers and artificial intelligence experts from MediaTek, Qualcomm, and Huawei, and is continuing its recruiting efforts in the U.S., Taiwan, and Japan, according to industry executives and job postings.
It is also working on its own AI algorithms as well as its own customized image signal processors for its handset cameras. Domestic rivals Xiaomi and Vivo have come out with their own image signal processing units as more smartphone buyers base their purchases on the advanced photo and video features.
Image signal processors are also less challenging to develop than systems-on-a-chip, which require combining central processing and graphics processing capabilities, security, and connectivity, as well as integration to work with a given operating system.
Xiaomi, one of the first Chinese smartphone makers to set up a semiconductor design team, back in 2014, currently does not use any in-house processors for its smartphones. Most Oppo and Xiaomi flagship smartphones use Qualcomm’s high-end Snapdragon chipsets.
Oppo declined to comment on its specific chip development progress but said the company’s core strategy is to make good products.
“Any R&D investment is to enhance product competitiveness and user experience,” Oppo told Nikkei Asia.