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Samsung strikes deal to produce Qualcomm's Snapdragon 820 processor

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Samsung announced today that it's begun mass production of chips using the second generation of its 14nm process, the technology that will power both the company's own Exynos 8 Octa processor and that of a major rival: Qualcomm. The Snapdragon 820 will be manufactured by Samsung, using the new 14nm LPP process, and is likely to be used by multiple flagship devices available in the first half of 2016.

The news comes after a challenging 2015 for Qualcomm, who saw its Snapdragon 810 processor fall short of the company's reputation for class-leading performance in the Android space. Samsung, meanwhile, moved away from Qualcomm chips in earnest for its 2015 high-end lineup and turned in excellent results from its Exynos processors. Samsung's foundry business shouldn't be confused with the company's phone business or the chips it designs itself — it's very much for hire, and most prominently has been Apple's long-term partner in iPhone chip manufacturing.

At least some models of the Galaxy S7 are rumored to use the Snapdragon 820, however, and last year Recode reported that Qualcomm's decision to use Samsung's foundries was in part motivated by the hope that the Korean company might bring its custom back. But the 14nm process does also give Samsung a technical edge over traditional Qualcomm partner TSMC, at least in theory — it should allow for cheaper chips that consume less power. Whatever the reasons for Qualcomm's deal, the question of the eventual Galaxy S7's components just got a little more intriguing for industry watchers.