MediaTek was almost unknown outside of Asia, where its affordable chipsets power inexpensive Android smartphones, but after the company offered Apple an alternative to Qualcomm and Intel 5G modems last year, everyone became interested in its future products. Up next: an affordable 5G and AI chipset built with the latest 7-nanometer process technology.
Following the Helio P90 processor introduced last year, the company’s unnamed next-generation chip aims to offer higher-end performance rivaling Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 and Huawei’s Kirin 980 — both of which made major strides in AI processing capabilities, thanks to dedicated on-chip resources. According to Android Authority, MediaTek is likely to adopt ARM’s Cortex-A76 CPU technology, which is designed to deliver sustained high performance, rather than just brief peaks, a competitive issue spotlighted by Qualcomm during the 855’s rollout.
To improve its energy efficiency while increasing performance, the new MediaTek chip will shrink from Helio P90’s 12-nanometer process down to the latest 7-nanometer process size. This manufacturing change will match the latest Kirin and Snapdragon, the latter of which is specifically designed for premium smartphones and slated to appear in almost all of the first 5G devices.
It’s worth noting that MediaTek’s first 5G solution, the standalone M70 5G modem, is a multi-mode chip offering backwards compatibility with 2G, 3G, and 4G networks. But it’s focused on sub-6GHz radio frequencies rather than the millimeter wave 5G frequencies that are already being used in 5G networks in the U.S., and may consequently wind up appearing only in Asian and European devices.
MediaTek apparently hopes to position the new chip “toward the higher end” of the market — somewhere above mid-range devices but below the most expensive models, perhaps in the iPhone XR’s $749 niche. While the likelihood of this chip appearing in Apple devices is roughly zero, as it’s going to be a full CPU, GPU, and cellular solution when Apple makes its own combined CPU and GPU chips, it’s quite likely to appear in second-wave 5G Android devices that are aiming for a different price and performance balance.