With the threat of Qualcomm litigation receding, Samsung is in talks with ZTE, among others, and ready to license its Exynos phone chips to anyone who wants them. This could lower the costs of high-end mobiles.
Reuters quotes former Qualcomm, now Samsung, executive Inyup Kang as saying that Samsung is talking to "all OEMs" about licensing the SoCs. Kang is president of Samsung's LSI Logic division and led Qualcomm's modem development for 13 years. Kang sounded confident that Samsung would reveal a new licensee in the first half of 2019.
Given product development lifecycles, that would mean a new third-party Exynos phone is already under development.
Samsung has developed Arm-based phone chips for almost two decades (a Hummingbird powered the Danger Hiptop) but it has largely kept its own high-performance Exynos SoCs for its Samsung-branded phones and tablets. For some variants of Samsung products sold in the US, Samsung continued to use Qualcomm's Snapdragon processors. China's Meizu has been the only Exynos licensee to date.
However, in February, Qualcomm and Samsung lawyers parked their differences, signing a long-term licensing agreement. Qualcomm's Alex Rogers described it as "the foundation for a long-term, stable relationship with Samsung following the KFTC investigation", a reference to the Korean competition authority's $853m fine imposed on Qualcomm.
The San Diego company had previously said it thought the investigation was "heavily influenced by commercial interests" – meaning the state had given its giant chaebol a huge helping hand.
Right now, OEMs looking for flagship-class performance have been obliged to go to Qualcomm, as the industry's other big smartphone SoC provider, MediaTek, can't match it for performance, and neither Huawei nor Samsung have licensed their own chips.
ZTE will be pleased at the news, no doubt. It seems to be one Trump tweet away from death these days. ®