LG Electronics and Sony are both reported to be considering the in-house development of smartphone processors, according to DigiTimes – a publication with a mixed track record.
The rationale behind the move is that with smartphone market leaders Apple, Samsung and Huawei all having their own processor units, such a move would enable the vendors to have more control of their own destiny. However, such freedom comes at a price, as application processor development is both costly and competitive.
In the case of LG, the news is perhaps less surprising, as the company has already dabbled in this activity. It announced its Nuclun processor in October last year, which was used in the G3 Screen smartphone, although it has not been used beyond that.
But according to separate reports, LG has a second Nuclun chip in the pipeline, which will be higher performance for use in flagship products. The company has reportedly worked with both Intel and TSMC to prototype different versions with different configurations.
The case for Sony is less clear. The company has seen its smartphone business shrink significantly as it looks to focus on profitability, and developing its own processor could easily be seen as a costly diversion when off-the-shelf products from Qualcomm and MediaTek have served it well in the past.
With Sony’s smartphone volumes having shrunk, the company arguably does not have the scale to support development of its own smartphone chips for its own use.
Interestingly, Sony does have a sound business selling imaging components to smartphone makers, but extending this into processors in competition with Qualcomm, MediaTek, Intel and others, seems an unlikely step.