Today Qualcomm is announcing that it has begun sampling its next generation Snapdragon SoC. The announcement is unusual as in the past we’ve never really had sampling announcements from the company. Usually new silicon samples start around 4-6 months before commercial device availability.

At any rate, today the company is confirming that their unnammed next-generation high-end Snapdragon SoC will be manufactured on TSMC’s 7FF process node, bringing with it the associated performance and power benefits over current generation silicon. The new SoC can be paired with Qualcomm’s X50 modem in order to enable the first generation 5G smartphones next year.

Interestingly, this is the second such SoC announcement we've seen this month. Last week, Huawei had let it slip in an official press release that the new Kirin 980 SoC, which is to be used in the upcoming Mate 20, will be manufactured on a 7nm process node. So the timing of Qualcomm's own announcement – and the fact that they're announcing sampling at all – is probably not coincidental.

As for the subject at hand, Qualcomm says that we’ll see the full details of the next-generation flagship SoC and platform in the fourth quarter. And for long-time readers shouldn't be too surprising as – Qualcomm's latest sampling announcement aside – the timing itself doesn’t seem different to what has happened in prior years. In which case I expect we're still quite a few months away from the first commercial devices, as those will most likely arrive in in Q1 of 2019.

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  • A5 - Wednesday, August 22, 2018 - link

    Timeline seems pretty typical. Guessing you'll get an invite to the hands-on with the development testbed in a few months?
  • eastcoast_pete - Wednesday, August 22, 2018 - link

    Agree that one of the most interesting aspects is that QC made this sampling announcement. My guess is that with AMD and Huawei already announcing chips on 7 nm, QC wanted to show they are at or with the head of the pack when it comes to die tech. Another thing is that there were past questions about fab's abilities to scale-up of 7 nm processes to quantity, sampling is a good way to dispel doubts.
  • shabby - Wednesday, August 22, 2018 - link

    Intel is sampling 10nm...doubt is still there.
  • shabby - Wednesday, August 22, 2018 - link

    Wait, they're even shipping tiny laptop cpus.
  • Santoval - Wednesday, August 22, 2018 - link

    Yes, but only a single i3 CPU with low power efficiency, low clocks (a slightly lower boost clock than its closest 14nm equivalent at the same TDP), low yields and on top of it all a disabled iGPU. The fact that it has a lower clock and the same TDP *despite* the disabled iGPU is even more astounding.

    This half-baked, effectively beta Cannon Lake i3 is based on Intel's problematic first-gen 10nm node. At the end of 2019 they plan high volume release of 10nm based CPUs but these will not be Cannon Lake CPUs. They will be second gen 10nm+ based Ice Lake CPUs, with a new architecture (their first redesigned arch after Skylake), a (presumably) much better power efficiency, and with fixes of the issues and bugs of their first gen 10nm node.

    No other Cannon Lake CPUs are scheduled or expected to be released, so both Cannon Lake and their first gen 10nm node will be effectively skipped. Intel appears to have released that sole Cannon Lake i3 just to report that their 10nm node was technically released in 2018, and thus avoid mortally wounding their heavily injured Moore Law schedule.
  • Meteor2 - Wednesday, August 22, 2018 - link

    That's a great summary of where Intel is at, thank you.
  • name99 - Wednesday, August 22, 2018 - link

    If TSMC can ship Apple volumes (and they surely have, with the iPhone presumably being announced Sept 12 on TSMC 7nm), then doubts about 7nm volumes make no sense.

    My guess is that this is more related to a perception of chaos within QC.
    Are their more national lawsuits headed their way? Do they or do they not have a plan for Servers? Is the future custom Kryo cores, or thinly modified ARM commodity cores?

    Throwing out a "BTW we're totally on track for the next round of Snapdragons" is a way to calm outsiders that at least some parts of the company are functioning properly.
  • edzieba - Wednesday, August 22, 2018 - link

    Anyone else get the feeling the most we'll see of TSMC's 7nm in 2018 is a similar notional "We're whipping! (technically)" as we got for Intel's 10nm at the end of 2017? Both are using SAQP for processes of similar scale, so both would be expected to be facing the same issues.
  • edzieba - Wednesday, August 22, 2018 - link

    s/whipping/shipping. I blame the keys, they're right next to each other!
  • name99 - Wednesday, August 22, 2018 - link

    As I said, the A12 will be shipping in massive volumes in a month.
    TSMC 7nm may be a disappointment in some way (hotter, or lower frequency than expected) but it won't suffer from Intel's lack of mass manufacturability.

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