Qualcomm is struggling to meet a demand surge for its Snapdragon chipsets with multiple supply challenges affecting its production strategy. The ripple effects could bring more priority to the premium tier at the expense of more affordable devices and longer waits for orders.
Sources at suppliers to Samsung — the most popular Android phone brand and a production partner for the Snapdragon chips — tell Reuters that the Korean OEM is facing shortages right across the Snapdragon line, all the way up to the flagship Snapdragon 888. It's not been said whether this has translated to a slowdown in smartphone production. Meanwhile, an executive at a smartphone ODM with several major brand contracts says that his company will have to cut shipment forecasts this year because of a general components shortage from Qualcomm.
A few factors are suspected to be contributing to the squeeze, some of which include: the devastating winter storms in Texas that have cut power to a Samsung plant that makes radiofrequency transceivers for Qualcomm; a slowdown in power management chip production in China and Taiwan, and; scarcity-driven panic buying in the wider chip market that has rocketed prices exponentially without the guarantee of stock arriving just in time. Qualcomm is supposedly directing most of its precious components to building more Snapdragon 888 product than lower-end chips.
What hasn't helped are the burdens of Huawei — the Chinese phone maker is under an import ban from the U.S. that effectively prevents the company from using goods, services, and intellectual property like the Android OS, Qualcomm parts, and Arm chip blueprints. As such, those who were previously fans of the firm's affordable yet powerful phones have either had to deal with major changes to their products or, more likely, switch brands.
If you're looking to buy a phone this year, you may want to take this as your signal to check out sooner rather than later.