The semiconductor market is starting to recover, with smartphone silicon a key driver of growth. According to IDC’s Semiconductor Applications Forecaster, sales of chips for 4G smartphones will increase 140% in 2013, while overall semiconductor revenues will increase almost 5%.
Qualcomm, Broadcom and Nvidia — three of the major suppliers of semiconductors for smartphones — have seen significant growth during recent years and the trend is expected to continue. Meanwhile the companies that make chips for personal computers are scrambling to switch gears. Intel is still by far the world’s largest chipmaker, but saw its semiconductor revenue slide during 2011, while Qualcomm’s was up almost 30%.
Samsung is the world’s second largest chipmaker, and has seen that part of its business suffer recently. The Korean giant has emerged as the world’s leading maker of smartphones, and is hard at work refocusing its chip business on mobile. The company is investing $3.9 billion to retrofit a Texas memory chip plant in order to increase production of chips for mobile devices. Samsung makes the processors that power the iPhone 4S and the iPhone 5.
IDC counts tablets as part of the consumer segment and counts smartphones as part of the communications segment. Overall, the consumer segment is expected to post semiconductor revenue growth of 9.8% in 2013, driven by sales of chips for tablets, e-readers, blu ray players and set-top boxes. The computing segment is projected to grow 1.7% next year, the communications segment is expected to grow 6.5%.