MediaTek this week announced that it is now the No. 1-selling chipset vendor in Android phones in the US, but Qualcomm disputes the claim. The issue appears to be in the murky realm of how the numbers are calculated.
There’s a bit more than bragging rights involved in MediaTek’s meteoric rise. Where the company was once limited to low-cost tablets and bargain-basement phones in the US, it’s been taking a bigger and bigger bite out of Qualcomm’s midrange business in Qualcomm’s home market. Showing that momentum is on its side is a big deal for MediaTek.
MediaTek based its claim on fourth-quarter market-share figures from analysis firm IDC. Qualcomm responded with contradictory claims from competing firm Counterpoint. Both Counterpoint and IDC agree that Qualcomm is No. 1 for the year of 2021 as a whole. Analysis firms all use different, proprietary data collection methods and it’s common for them to disagree somewhat, although not usually to this extent. Here’s how the two estimates compare:
IDC’s mobile phone research director, Anthony Scarsella, said MediaTek was helped in the fourth quarter by two factors. First, the company had three top-selling phones: the Samsung A12, the Samsung A32, and the new Motorola G Pure, which debuted in the fourth quarter.
Public Counterpoint data agrees that the Samsung Galaxy A12 and Galaxy A32 5G were the two most popular Android phones in the US in October 2021, with a total of 9% market share.
Google also played a role by abandoning Qualcomm for its own Tensor chipset. If Google had stuck with Qualcomm, MediaTek wouldn’t have gained the lead, Scarsella said.
Note that this is all a battle for less than half of the US market. Apple held a 56% sales share in the US in Q4 2021, according to a different Counterpoint report. Apple uses its own processors with Qualcomm modems.
“MediaTek trusts IDC and the accuracy of information from its recent report,” a MediaTek spokeswoman said.
I also emailed Neil Shah at Counterpoint for more information, but didn’t hear back. Most of the company’s key staff are at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona right now.
MediaTek Moves Up, Qualcomm’s Flank Stays Exposed
This week at MWC, MediaTek revealed a new Dimensity 8000 chipset designed to take more share in high-midrange phones. In the US, though, Qualcomm’s weakness is showing more in mid-to-low-cost phones, where its 400- and 600-series chipsets have long been dominant. Qualcomm’s announcements at MWC reached over a broader realm of add-in modems, wireless earbud chipsets, Wi-Fi chipsets, and a Lenovo laptop.
In the low-cost phone realm, Samsung’s inexpensive Galaxy A11 phone last year used Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 450; its newer Galaxy A12 moved to MediaTek. Motorola went all-MediaTek with its G Stylus, G Power, and G Pure this year, while last year’s G Power, G Play, and G Stylus all used Qualcomm chips.
Qualcomm still dominates at the high end of the Android market in the US, where “high-end Android” generally means Samsung Galaxy S, and Galaxy S runs Qualcomm. Motorola’s new high-end Edge+ also runs Qualcomm, as does the upcoming OnePlus 10 Pro. But even in the high end, as Scarsella pointed out, Google moved away from Qualcomm for its Pixels this year.