Samsung Drops Quad-Core System-on-Chip from U.S. Version of Galaxy S III

Samsung Downgrades Specification of U.S. Galaxy S III in a Bid to Enable 4G/LTE

by Anton Shilov
06/07/2012 | 12:15 PM

Samsung Electronics' recently unveiled Galaxy S III top-of-the-range smartphone has all chances to become Samsung's most popular advanced handset of all times thanks to rich functionality, high-quality screens and powerful hardware. But not all versions of the Galaxy S III are equally good: the U.S. version of the smartphone uses dual-core system-on-chip, not the highly advertized quad-core SoC.


Samsung will release its highly-anticipated Galaxy S III smartphone in the U.S. this month with AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless and U.S. Cellular services starting from $199. Exact pricing and retail availability will be announced by each of the five carriers in the coming weeks. Samsung specifically notes that the handset is "optimized for peak performance on the nation’s fastest 4G LTE and HSPA+ 42 networks". Unfortunately, in a bid to enable 4G/LTE in the U.S., Samsung had to throw away its own Exynos 4412 (quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 and ARM Mali 400MP graphics engine) application processor and install Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 system-on-chip. Apparently, it was impossible to install a specific 4G/LTE baseband chip into the Galaxy S III for the U.S., which is why the company had to sacrifice performance and capabilities in favour of faster networks.

"Carriers using 4G/LTE all have different network requirements, due to different frequency bands, as well as different 3G networks, like CDMA and GSM technologies," said Nick DiCarlo, vice president of product planning for Samsung's mobile division.

It is not the first time when Samsung changes application processors in different versions of its flagship smartphones. For example, different flavours of Samsung Galaxy S II-branded smartphones utilize Samsung Exynos 4210 (two ARM Cortex-A9 cores at 1.20GHz, ARM Mali-400MP graphics engine), Texas Instruments OMAP 4430 (two ARM Cortex-A9-like cores at 1.20GHz, PowerVR SGX 540 graphics engine), Qualcomm Snapdragon S3 APQ 8060 (two Qualcomm Scorpion cores at 1.50GHz, Adreno 220 graphics engine) and even Nvidia Tegra 2 (two ARM Cortex-A9 cores at 1.0GHz, GeForce LP graphics engine).

While the changes of SoCs and application processors do not necessarily affect user experience with basic functionality of smartphones, they do affect work of third-party programs. As a result, some programs will behave differently on different versions of the same smartphone. Generally, it is called fragmentation, something that Google Android-based handsets are often criticized for as the difference between various devices is just too significant and user experience is incosistent.

Dropping quad-core application processor from Android 4.0-based Galaxy S III generally means two things: four cores are not going to be utilized by programs shortly and affect user experience; when programs start to take advantage of four cores, users of U.S. version of Galaxy S III will not get any benefits like the customers in different parts of the world. Apparently, Samsung began to "fragment" its most anticipated smartphone ever less than a month after the initial announcement.