After Huawei's Kirin, Xiaomi's Rifle to rival Qualcomm's Snapdragon chips

Chinese phone maker Xiaomi will soon launch a mobile processor to reduce its dependence on foreign suppliers, notably Qualcomm, and in turn cut costs and reduce prices further!

Xiaomi has been known to use smartphone chips from Qualcomm and MediaTek to power its low cost phones while its domestic rival Huawei uses its home-grown Kirin processors. The latest Kirin 950 is, specifications suggest, as good as Qualcomm's Snapdragon 820 and Samsung's Exynos 8890 processors.

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As per reports, Xiaomi has decided to christen its first processor as 'Rifle' and may announce it as early as next month. The launch could take place at the same event where Xiaomi is rumoured to launch Mi Max, a 6.4-inch phablet with a Full HD display, 15MP and 5MP cameras, 10GB of storage and 2GB of RAM.

Xiaomi's 'Rifle' won't just be a smartphone CPU but an APU with a range of functionalities. An APU, or Application Processing Unit, contains a CPU, a GPU for graphics, DSP and on-board RAM. These APUs also consume much lesser space inside smartphones and thanks to their all-round performance, are expensive for phone makers to procure.

By developing the 'Rifle' and more capable chips in the future, Xiaomi will eventually reduce its dependence on Qualcomm's processors and licences and in turn, offer a large number of premium smartphones to buyers at lower prices. As of now, Rifle is being developed with designs licensed from ARM Holdings which have also been used in Qualcomm's, Samsung's and MediaTek's processors.

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Mi 5, Xiaomi's latest flagship phone, launched in February this year and came with Qualcomm's latest Snapdragon 820 processor along with an Adreno 530 GPU. While we aren't sure if Rifle is meant for mid-range phones or premium ones, but if it is meant for the latter, then Mi 5 could be the last flagship phone from Xiaomi to feature a Qualcomm processor.

Xiaomi's intent to manufacture processors on its own could not have come at a better time. In the last twelve months, the phone maker has made deep inroads in European, Latin American and South East Asian markets by selling top quality phones at mid-range prices. In the last six months alone, Xiaomi sold 34 million phones worldwide and is now the third-largest Chinese smartphone seller after Huawei and Lenovo.

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This is also the second major blow for chipmaker Qualcomm in as many weeks. Last Friday, Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf sent shivers down shareholders' spines after he announced that a major customer may order future LTE modem chips from a rival, thus inflicting a major loss of business to the company.

The news coincided with other reports on Apple hiring Intel to manufacture a big chunk of its LTE Modem chips for its future iPhones. While Qualcomm's MDM9635 LTE chips offer download and upload speeds of 300 Mbps and 50 Mbps, new Intel 7360 LTE modem chip is capable of offering support for up to Category 10 and download speeds up to 450 Mbps.

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