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

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

MediaTek continued to lead the smartphone system-on-chip (SoC) market in the third quarter of 2021 with an increased share of 40 percent, according to a report by a research firm. The continuous growth of MediaTek is making it difficult for Qualcomm to make a comeback to its leading position in the market. The San Diego, California-based chipmaker, however, still leads the 5G smartphone modem market. The strategy of going with dual sourcing from foundries is also helping Qualcomm to mark quarter-on-quarter and year-on-year growth in smartphone SoC shipments.

Counterpoint reports that MediaTek grew to 40 percent market share in the third quarter from 33 percent in the same quarter last year, thanks to its competitive 5G SoCs and high-demand for its 4G chips. The firm said that the Taiwanese company gained share in the low-mid segment of 5G SoCs, though its 4G LTE SoCs also helped strengthen the market lead.

Unlike MediaTek, Qualcomm lost its market share by one percent to 27 percent in the quarter, according to Counterpoint. The company, however, managed to grow nine percent sequentially due to dual sourcing from foundries. Qualcomm’s SoC shipments also grew on both quarter-on-quarter and year-on-year basis in the third quarter, the firm said.

“Qualcomm led the 5G baseband market with a 62 percent share. It gained from the 5G baseband modem chipset win in the Apple iPhone 13 series and demand for its complete 5G SoC chipsets, from the flagship 8 series to affordable 4 series,” said Parv Sharma, Research Analyst at Counterpoint.

Counterpoint also predicts that Qualcomm will gain some share in the fourth quarter as a result of its refresh portfolio of the Snapdragon 7, 6 and 4 series.

After Qualcomm, Counterpoint’s data shows that Apple maintained its third position in the market in the third quarter, with a share of 15 percent. The company managed to grow its market share by three percent and is forecast to make further growth in the fourth quarter. The growth will mainly come from the launch of the iPhone 13 series and the ongoing festive season. However, Counterpoint said that component shortages would affect Apple’s festive season sales.

China’s Unisoc also continued its growth momentum in the third consecutive quarter in the third quarter, with its market share entering double digits at 10 percent, Counterpoint reports. The company expanded its customer base by bringing Honor, Motorola, Realme, Transsion, and ZTE on board. It also started selling its SoC for Samsung’s Galaxy A series.

Samsung itself, though, slipped from fourth to fifth position in the third quarter, as per the third-party results. The South Korean giant captured a five percent share through Samsung Exynos chips.

Counterpoint said that Samsung was in the middle of rejigging its smartphone portfolio strategy of in-sourcing as well as outsourcing to Chinese original design manufacturers (ODMs). The move helped MediaTek and Qualcomm to grow across Samsung’s smartphone portfolio, from the mid-range 4G and 5G models manufactured by ODMs to the flagship ones.

Huawei’s HiSilicon continued to fall in the smartphone SoC market globally and declined to two percent in the third quarter from 13 percent, Counterpoint’s data shows. The company was not able to manufacture its new HiSilicon Kirin SoCs due to the US trade ban, and the existing inventory of Kirin chipsets is on the stage of being exhausted, Counterpoint said.

Global smartphone SoC shipments market share, Q3 2020 vs Q3 2021 (as per Counterpoint)

Manufacturer Q3 2020 Q3 2021
MediaTek 33% 40%
Qualcomm 28% 27%
Apple 12% 15%
Unisoc 4% 10%
Samsung 10% 5%
HiSilicon 13% 2%


Overall, global SoC shipments grew six percent year-on-year in the third quarter, as per Counterpoint. 5G smartphone SoC shipments grew almost two times compared to the same period last year.

Counterpoint said that Qualcomm led the 5G smartphone baseband modem shipments, MediaTek came second and Samsung third on that front. Other players in the race contracted from 34 percent to four percent share in the quarter.

Global 5G smartphone baseband modem shipments market share, Q3 2020 vs Q3 2021 (as per Counterpoint)

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


“The blended ASP [Application Processor] will continue to increase due to the launch of flagship products in Q1 2022 and an increase in chipset prices starting Q4 2021,” said Counterpoint Research Director Dale Gai.

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