In a surprising new move, Samsung and AMD have partnered together with the aim to bring better graphics performance to smartphones. Samsung will license AMD’s Radeon intellectual property to help it create the low-power-consuming, high-performance smartphones.
This new partnership will focus mostly on Samsung’s Exynos chipsets, which appear in its global flagship smartphones (Qualcomm chipsets are used for its North American flagships). In the future, we can expect Samsung’s Exynos chips to put a bigger focus on graphics performance — an area in which it has been significantly falling behind for some time.
This is an interesting move for AMD which exited the mobile business in 2009 when it sold its Imageon graphics systems to Qualcomm. Qualcomm then used that technology to build its own graphics chip known as Adreno, which powers most flagship smartphones today. Even the name “Adreno” is a reference to AMD, as it’s a simple rearrangement of the letters in Radeon, AMD’s branding for its graphics business.
Perhaps even more interesting is the fact that Samsung’s previous announcement of a partnership with Arm for similar purposes was posted exactly four years ago to the day. This suggests Samsung’s contract with Arm had a four or five-year exclusive clause and Samsung is just now able to announce or sign a new deal. It’s not clear why Samsung would be moving away from its partnership with Arm (which just announced its own news of a new Mali GPU architecture). It’s possible Samsung was disappointed with its dealings with Arm or that AMD simply offered the company better terms.
Going forward, it’s unlikely this partnership will affect Samsung flagships in the immediate future. However, it’s a smart move from both companies because it will allow Samsung to use AMD technology to advance its chipset business and it will allow AMD to earn royalty cash without having to build the chips itself.