Samsung and Qualcomm may be big names in the smartphone processor space. But you know who sells more tablet chips than anyone else? Apple… but in second place is Allwinner, the Chinese manufacturer of low-cost ARM-based processors.
Research firm IDC says Allwinner shipped over 18 million tablet chips in the 4th quarter of 2013, according to Bloomberg. That’s about twice as many processors as rival Rockchip shipped in the same period, and 3 times as many tablet chips as Intel shipped.
While Apple continues to dominate the tablet market with high-quality, high-priced hardware (including bleeding-edge processors), companies like Allwinner are taking advantage of the demand for cheaper alternatives to iPads.
Apple doesn’t sell a tablet that costs less than $299, while it’s tough to find a tablet with an Allwinner processor that costs more than that.
You generally tend to get what you pay for… Allwinner chips often don’t offer the kind of performance you’d get from the latest Apple, Samsung, Qualcomm, or NVIDIA processor. But mobile processors have come a long way in the last few years and today even cheap Allwinner chips are much more powerful than state-of-the-art processors from a few years ago.
Allwinner and other budget chip makers such as Rockchip and MediaTek have also been stepping up their game recently with the introduction of octa-core chips and upcoming ARMv8 64-bit processors.
In other words, budget chips aren’t necessarily awful chips anymore… they just don’t offer the best experience money can buy. But I suspect that’s not what people buying tablets for $150 or less are looking for anyway.