mediatek dimensity 9200 3

Could MediaTek be a better Google Tensor partner?

Qualcomm has always dominated the high-end smartphone space, but that’s slowly changing. This week, MediaTek unveiled the Dimensity 9200 SoC for its high-end Android phones, which seems to be a very solid option, but it happens because Google is also pushing forward with Samsung’s own Tensor chip. Could MediaTek Become Google’s Best Partner?

During this week’s MediaTek Executive Summit, the company showcased its latest chipset designs including the Dimensity 9200, a top-tier SoC for Android devices set to rival Qualcomm’s “Snapdragon 8 Gen 2”. While we don’t have the hardware to actually see how the two compare – Qualcomm won’t be officially announced until next week – it really does look like MediaTek is in a good place to compete with the best of what Qualcomm has to offer, and that’s a high bar to clear! Samsung, for example, has been trying for years to make Exynos a good alternative, but year after year the best Galaxy smartphones are opting for Qualcomm instead.

That’s why some have had trouble with Google choosing to stick with Samsung on the Tensor chip for Pixel phones.

In fact, it is hard to disagree with that. The first generation Tensor had a solid but messy foundation compared to the alternatives. Network issues, poor power efficiency, and heat issues have put a bad taste in the mouths of many Pixel 6 buyers. Google seems to have fixed a lot of these issues in the Tensor G2, but there’s clearly still a gaping hole. However, Google seems to be fine with it. The company recently said it’s “absolutely comfortable” with Pixel phones lagging behind in overall performance.

Despite all of that, Google has a real impact in the evolving Android market. A slide shared by MediaTek during this week’s summit showed that MediaTek on its own has begun to take over a portion of Qualcomm’s high-end Android space. As seen below, MediaTek’s biggest growth in the global high-end Android space is in devices under $600, but it’s slowly affecting more expensive devices as well. But what is particularly interesting is that Google Tensor has a similar effect on the high-end space, even though there are quite a few devices on the market.

MediaTek Tensioner Chip Sales Volume
Data provided by Counterpoint Research

Here’s the big problem for MediaTek’s main ambitions. As is the case today, the company doesn’t really have an easy “entry” into the US market. The addition of mmWave in the Dimensity 1050 last year earned it a spot with Motorola in the upper mid-range space, but regardless, MediaTek is only really seen in entry-level or mid-range smartphones in the US, like the OnePlus Nord N300 or Samsung Galaxy A13.

When it comes to flagship phones in the US, it’s been a tough road for MediaTek.

It sure is a disgrace to these last generations. MediaTek Dimensity 9000 and now the 9200 holds its place against Qualcomm’s best, but nobody really uses it in Western markets, as the numbers clearly show.

What is deactivation?

I had the opportunity to speak with Yenchi Lee, Deputy General Manager of the Smartphone Chip Unit at MediaTek, this week about the company’s efforts to increase its presence in premium devices in particular.

Looking at the biggest roadblocks facing MediaTek, Lee pointed out how much the new MediaTek really is in this market, as Dimensity 9000 was the company’s first true game in the premium segment. For now, MediaTek is still establishing itself as a true choice for high-end smartphone makers. There is no technical hindrance, in Lee’s opinion, but only time to prove that MediaTek is a viable option – and time to show MediaTek its commitment to the best.

All that said, it’s important to remember where MediaTek is making gains at the moment.

MediaTek is growing fast, but it’s not coming from flagship smartphones. Instead, it comes in part from affordable smartphones, as well as smart home devices and network infrastructure that we buy. Something MediaTek clearly wants based on its feelings this week is to be a known name, which is not the case at the moment. MediaTek is confident that almost everyone has at least one device in their home with a MediaTek chip, but most people do not know the name. Being a bigger player in the high-end smartphone space is one step towards that goal, and there is a path that could make a lot of sense in moving in that direction.

Mediatek Dimension 9200

Tensor is a chip that Google wants everyone to think it makes on its own, but a good chunk of the core comes from Samsung’s Exynos lineup. This does not mean that Google is just renaming the Exynos layout. Tensor has a custom design and custom elements that make it truly unique, but it all comes back to Samsung’s foundation in the end.

It does make sense, however, that Google could take a lot of this work to another partner, and MediaTek seems to be a perfect match. Especially with the Dimensity 9200, MediaTek offers a killer offer, and one that really competes with Qualcomm.

But the real question – is MediaTek suitable for this kind of thing? According to me, yes.

MediaTek has apparently not received any requests to work on such a collaboration with any major Android brands, but is open to working on something along the lines of Tensor with any brands that might be interested. And in fact, this is not even an extension of the company’s existing business. MediaTek just revealed yesterday that it was providing a SoC for the PlayStation VR2. This is not an off-the-shelf solution, but a custom chip that MediaTek is building with Sony.

As for Tensor itself, MediaTek appears open to taking on the challenge if Google is to switch partners from Samsung. He told me that MediaTek would be willing to discuss Tensor if Google was looking.

MediaTek’s ability to work on such a project will have major implications for both sides as well. If we look at Tensor as an example, Google phones can certainly benefit from the tremendous power that MediaTek will bring to the latest Samsung phones. Furthermore, MediaTek’s use of TSMC’s foundries is sure to have a significant impact on Tensor’s energy efficiency, something that Google’s chip has been struggling with significantly for two generations thus far. Just take a look at what the switch from Samsung to TSMC did for Qualcomm. MediaTek will then benefit from being able to show off what it can do with chips into the hands of customers in more regions, particularly in the United States.

But realistically, Google won’t make the switch Just for power. Recently, Google said it’s “quite comfortable” because Tensor isn’t leading the pack in terms of performance standards, focusing instead on vertical integration that benefits the end product in other ways. And honestly, we could get behind that feeling. But still, regardless of the criteria, there seem to be a lot of Google products could Take advantage of the partnership with MediaTek. It’s a prospect that certainly seems tempting.

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Note: MediaTek paid for travel and accommodations for this launch event, but did not have any input regarding editorial content.

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