Earlier tonight Samsung announced all three US variants of the Galaxy S II: the Galaxy S II on AT&T, the Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch on Sprint and the Galaxy S II on T-Mobile. The first two are based on the same 1.2GHz Exynos 4210 SoC that Samsung used in the international version of the Galaxy S II. The T-Mobile version, on the other hand, ships with an unnamed dual-core SoC also running at 1.2GHz. In our story earlier tonight we listed the T-Mobile version as having a Qualcomm SoC. I wanted to clarify my reasoning for suspecting that Qualcomm is inside the third US-bound Galaxy S II.

To begin with, T-Mobile has been very scant on details about their variant, noting only that the device exists and (through Samsung's more general Galaxy S 2 announcement) that it has a 1.2 GHz dual core SoC. Note that there's no direct announcement that the T-Mobile version has or doesn't have an Exynos SoC. Our own Jason I. asked reps as well who declined to comment for or against Exynos. Further, the device was off limits for hands-on, instead housed in a glass case where only the home screen was permitted to be shown. That's certainly one way to raise an eyebrow and draw attention to the fact that one of the three US Galaxy S 2 devices isn't quite like the others. But without much more, it seems circumstantial at best.

So what's the next clue? The next major piece of evidence is that we've been expecting a similarly-specced device for some time now. Back in May, This is my next noted that a top-tier Samsung device would soon arrive on T-Mobile soil with an APQ8060 SoC and MDM8220 baseband. Qualcomm's MDM8220 is a 45nm 3GPP Release 8 DC-HSPA+ HSDPA Category 24 (42 Mbps) modem. APQ8060 is merely an MSM8x60 dual core snapdragon minus the modem.

As a refresher, the DC in DC-HSPA+ stands for dual-carrier (or dual-cell), and effectively means that the air interface supports using the bandwidth of two WCDMA channels, which are 5 MHz wide. Dual-carrier HSPA+ effectively aggregates traffic across two 5 MHz WCDMA channels, resulting in close to a doubling of performance. Recall now that T-Mobile has been upgrading its network to DC-HSPA+ in markets where it has the bandwidth, and no doubt has been looking for a smartphone to rightfully take advantage of it. 

The question you should be asking now is why all of that that matters for the SoC choice - shouldn't Samsung be able to pair any modem with any SoC? In almost every circumstance, that's absolutely the case, however what's interesting about MDM8220 is that it isn't natively voice enabled. Instead, MDM8220 (unlike other voice-enabled Qualcomm basebands used in smartphones, like MDM6600 or even MDM8200A) is only voice enabled through "fusion" with a Qualcomm SoC. Like we've seen in the past, most fancy new air interfaces start out being data-focused at first (for dongles or portable hotspots), and then become voice enabled later for use in handsets. MDM8220 is one of those kinds of parts, much like MDM9x00 - designed primarily as a data device baseband, but able to do voice with the right Qualcomm SoC.

With that factored in, it becomes easy to see how and why Samsung would go for an APQ8060 alongside MDM8220 - it really is the only means to a DC-HSPA+ smartphone until the next generation of DC-HSPA+ enabled basebands.

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  • 3DoubleD - Wednesday, August 31, 2011 - link

    So to increase data speed they are sacrificing CPU power by using only dual core A8's vs dual core A9's in the other models?

    ... weak... very weak.

    The writers at Anandtech always knock phones that aren't "4G", but what's the real world impact performance difference between phones with 10, 20, 40, 100 mbps download speeds? The answer is barely anything from my experience, although I'd welcome them to prove otherwise. I "only" get 15 mbps cable internet at home to my i7 desktop, why do I need more than 2x that on my relatively slow phone.

    This "GHz"-like race with 3G/"4G" in the US is destroying the phone market. This is really disappointing. Guess I'll wait for the Nexus Prime, I'm sure it won't disappoint!
  • bah12 - Wednesday, August 31, 2011 - link

    The main benefit IMHO is tethering. You are correct I don't really need 10mbs+ on my phone. However if the coverage and latency was good at your house, it could replace your ISP at home. This represents a pretty significant savings. Not to mention in my testings I rarely if ever see more than 1.5mbs on 3G, so getting 10 or so is noticeable even on the rather weak hardware in the phone.
  • Dug - Wednesday, August 31, 2011 - link

    It could replace your ISP at home, but what about data caps. I couldn't imagine being caped at 5GB. So what good is the speed?
  • z0mb13n3d - Wednesday, August 31, 2011 - link

    While it makes sense as to why T-Mobile decided to make the trade-off between the Samsung Exynos and the lower-end Qualcomm APQ8060 for potentially better data throughput, what doesn't make sense to me is whether this trade-off is even worth it.

    In an ideal (or imaginary) world with no caps on data, users would greatly benefit from the higher HSPA+ speeds, especially on tablet devices. However, given the reality of the situation, better speeds only mean that you will blow through your paltry data allowance much faster. To add to this, given that T-Mobile arguably has the smallest network in the US, the possibility of a user hitting full HSPA+ 42 speeds on a regular basis is also greatly reduced.

    IMHO, T-Mobile should have just stuck to the Exynos and HSPA+ 21, as the obvious benefits of this combination would have been much more acceptable to most people. What they've now done is just added a Samsung-branded Sensation 4G to their roster, which is surprising given that Samsung recently announced that the 'S' line of devices would be their very best.
  • imkrispy - Wednesday, August 31, 2011 - link

    snapdragons are not a8's, they are scorpion cores based of arm v7 architecture

    a8 and a9 are both also arm v7, the scorpion cores are custom. you can think of them being between a8 and a9
  • dfgddfdf - Thursday, September 1, 2011 - link

    Come go and see, will not regret it Oh look


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