MediaTek Continues to Face Qualcomm and Lead the Smartphone SoC Market in Q3: Counterpoint

MediaTek continued to lead the smartphone systems-on-a-chip (SoC) market in the third quarter of 2021 with a 40% increase in market share, according to a report by a research firm. MediaTek’s continued growth makes it difficult for Qualcomm to return to its leading position in the market. However, the San Diego, California-based chipmaker still leads the market for 5G smartphone modems. The strategy of opting for dual sourcing from foundries is also helping Qualcomm score quarterly and annual growth in SoC smartphone shipments.

Counterpoint reports that MediaTek achieved 40% market share in the third quarter, up from 33% in the same quarter last year, thanks to its competitive 5G SoCs and strong demand for its 4G chips. The company said the Taiwanese company has gained share in the low-to-mid segment of 5G SoCs, although its 4G LTE SoCs have also helped to strengthen its lead in the market.

Unlike MediaTek, Qualcomm lost its market share from 1% to 27% in the quarter, according to Counterpoint. The company, however, managed to grow nine percent sequentially through double sourcing from foundries. Qualcomm’s SoC shipments also increased quarter-over-quarter and year-over-year in the third quarter, the company said.

“Qualcomm led the 5G baseband market with a 62% share. It built on the victory of the 5G baseband modem chipset in the Apple iPhone 13 series and the demand for its full 5G SoC chipsets, from the flagship 8 series to the affordable 4 series, ”said Parv Sharma, analyst at research at Counterpoint.

Counterpoint also predicts that Qualcomm will gain share in the fourth quarter through the renewal of its Snapdragon 7, 6 and 4 series portfolio.

After Qualcomm, Counterpoint data shows that Apple maintained its third position in the market in the third quarter, with a 15% share. The company managed to increase its market share by 3% and is expected to continue growing in the fourth quarter. The growth will come mainly from the launch of the iPhone 13 series and the ongoing holiday season. However, Counterpoint said component shortages will affect Apple’s sales for the holiday season.

China’s Unisoc also continued its growth momentum in the third quarter in a row in the third quarter, with double-digit market share of 10%, Counterpoint reports. The company expanded its customer base by integrating Honor, Motorola, Realme, Transsion and ZTE. It has also started selling its SoC for Samsung’s Galaxy A series.

Samsung itself, however, slipped from fourth to fifth in the third quarter, according to third-party results. The South Korean giant has captured a 5% share thanks to the Samsung Exynos chips.

Counterpoint said Samsung was revamping its strategy of in-sourcing and outsourcing its smartphone portfolio to Chinese Original Design Manufacturers (ODMs). The move helped MediaTek and Qualcomm grow into Samsung’s smartphone portfolio, from mid-range 4G and 5G models made by ODM to flagship models.

Huawei’s HiSilicon continued to decline in the global smartphone SoC market and fell from 13% to 2% in the third quarter, according to Counterpoint data. The company has been unable to manufacture its new HiSilicon Kirin SoCs due to the U.S. trade ban, and the existing stock of Kirin chipsets is on the verge of depletion, Counterpoint said.

Global smartphone SoC shipments market share, Q3 2020 vs Q3 2021 (according to Counterpoint)

Maker Q3 2020 Q3 2021
MediaTek 33% 40%
Qualcomm 28% 27%
Apple 12% 15%
Unisoc 4% ten%
Samsung ten% 5%
HiSilicon 13% 2%

Overall, global SoC shipments grew 6% year-over-year in the third quarter, according to Counterpoint. SoC shipments for 5G smartphones have almost doubled compared to the same period last year.

Counterpoint said Qualcomm led shipments of baseband modems for 5G smartphones, MediaTek came in second and Samsung came in third on that front. Other players in the race contracted 34 percent to four percent in the quarter.

Global 5G Smartphone Baseband Modem Shipment Market Share, Q3 2020 vs Q3 2021 (According to Counterpoint)

Maker Q3 2020 Q3 2021
Qualcomm 32% 62%
MediaTek 25% 28%
Samsung 9% 6%
Others 34% 3%

“The mixed ASP [Application Processor] will continue to increase due to the launch of flagship products in the first quarter of 2022 and an increase in chipset prices starting in the fourth quarter of 2021, ”said Dale Gai, Director of Research, Counterpoint.