Semiconductors are everywhere. As electronic devices proliferate, the companies that make semiconductors continue to prosper. In fact, they are among the most successful companies in the world.

Because semiconductors are hidden away in phones, tablets and computers, many semiconductor companies are relatively unknown. They quietly do business with companies that manufacture devices. The names on our top 10 list may not be known to everybody, but they are giants in the industry.

On the other hand, some semiconductor companies are household names. They spend millions of dollars on advertising to make the public aware of who they are.

We selected the top 10 semiconductor companies based on sales. It should be noted that sales are not identical to revenues. Whereas a company may have revenues from sources that don’t include sales of its products, sales are derived from exchanges with customers. All figures are current as of April 18, 2017.

1) Intel

Sales: $56.31 billion

Intel Corp. (NASDAQ: INTC) is an integrated device manufacturer that designs and manufactures motherboard chipsets, network interface controllers and integrated circuits. The company is headquartered in Santa Clara, Calif., and was founded in 1968 with $2.5 million in funding arranged by American venture capitalist Arthur Rock.

Intel's initial products were memory chips, including the world's first metal oxide semiconductor. Intel's introduction of the Pentium microprocessor in 1993 helped spur significant expansion of the PC market. Intel supports processors for computer companies such as HP and Dell. 

Revenues have risen from $13,702,000,000 to $16,374,000,000 over the past four quarters. During that same period, operating income rose to approximately $4.5 billion from $2.6 billion. This indicates that Intel is keeping expenses in line. If increased revenues were not producing more income, that would indicate the cost of sales is rising too fast.

Wells Fargo rates the stock as an “outperform,” and the consensus it that the stock has room to rise. In addition to the potential for capital appreciation, the stock pays a 3.09% dividend.

2) Samsung 

Sales: $43.54 billion

Samsung is actually made up of about 70 companies. Samsung Electronics makes mobile devices such as smartphones, and it manufactures television sets and appliances. The company also creates semiconductors.

Revenues continue to rise for this stock, and a glance at the past four quarters shows that the rise is steady (Read more: Samsung's Absurd History: From Fish to Riches to Shame).

3) Taiwan Semiconductor

Sales: $29.32 billion

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (NYSE: TSM) claims to be the world's largest dedicated independent pure-play semiconductor foundry. Pure-play foundries only fabricate integrated circuits and do not have any in-house design capabilities. Many leading semiconductor companies outsource the manufacturing of their components to Taiwan Semiconductor to cut labor costs while investing capital in research and development. 

This company has reported higher revenues in each of the last four years and operating income has been up for each of those years.

The stock pays a 2.95% dividend. Note that the stock price is currently at the consensus target price, so this may be a dividend play rather than a capital appreciation play.

4) Qualcomm

Sales: $15.44 billion

Qualcomm, Inc. (NASDAQ: QCOM) designs and markets wireless telecommunications products and services. Telecommunications companies worldwide use Qualcomm's patented code division multiple access (CDMA) technology, which has played an integral role in the development of a single international standard for wireless communications. 

This stock has a hefty 4.32% dividend. Revenues have been flat over the last four years, and operating income has dropped. However, the dividend appears to be safe, so this is a stock for income-driven investors. 

5) Broadcom

Sales: $15.33 billion

Broadcom (NASDAQ: AVGO) was the source of major news when it was purchased by its rival Avago for $37 billion in 2015. Their products serve four primary markets: wireless communications, enterprise storage, wired infrastructure and industrial. It manufactures semiconductor devices and analog devices and provides interfaces for computers' Bluetooth connectivity, routers, switches, processors and fiber optics.

Revenues are fairly flat for the past three years, but operating income has almost doubled. Management is doing something right. With a 1.93% dividend, this stock is a steady investment for the foreseeable future.

6) SK Hynix 

Sales: $14.23 billion

This company makes and sells semiconductor products. It also is involved in automobile electronics, storage and computing solutions. The company is based in South Korea.

SK Hynix reported a 574% rise in April-June 2017 profit to 3.1 trillion won ($2.8 billion), according to second quarter financial reports.

7) Micron Technology

Sales: $12.84 billion

Micron Technology (NASDAQ: MU) markets semiconductor products on an international basis. Its products are used in computers, consumer electronics, automobiles, communications and servers. It creates flash products and rewritable storage solutions.

Revenues are down for the last three years and operating income is dramatically lower. However, cash flow turned to the positive side in the last year.

8) Texas Instruments

Sales: $12.35 billion

Texas Instruments Inc. (NASDAQ: TXN) designs and fabricates semiconductors for manufacturers worldwide. The company is a major manufacturer of chips for mobile devices, digital signal processors and analog semiconductors, and still manufactures the product it first became widely known for: calculators.

Texas Instruments started out as an oil and gas company in 1930, then focused on defense systems electronics in the 1940s. The Dallas-based company entered the semiconductor business in 1958 and now has more than 40,000 patents in electronics. 

Income, revenues and cash flow have been consistently higher for the past three years. The stock pays a 2.57% dividend.

This is a steady company in an industry that can have dramatic ups and downs. Analysts view this as an income stock.

9) Toshiba

Sales: $10.92 billion

Toshiba (OTCMKTS: TOSYY) manufactures consumer products such as televisions PCs and tablets. It also creates systems for industrial companies, railways, security firms, broadcasters and even elevators.

Four-year revenues are down, and income has dropped. On the other hand, cash flow is positive, and the company is keeping a lot of cash on hand. This could fuel future growth.

10) NXP

Sales: $9.5 billion

NXP Semiconductors (NASDAQ: NXPI) manufactures semiconductors for radio, audio and power applications. It creates sensors, controllers and connectivity devices. It is based in the Netherlands.

Revenues are up for the last three years and net income is down. That is because the company has dramatically increased its spending on research and development. Watch this one to see if that expenditure pays off.

The Bottom Line

Semiconductors are a signficant part of modern life that the average person probably doesn’t think about them much. However, they are vital to everything from getting to work (automobiles, elevators, stop lights) to communicating with customers, friends and family (computers, phones, tablets). As the internet of things becomes more of a reality, every imaginable product will have semiconductors inside to enable communication and networking.

The top 10 companies that made our list survived a year (2016) when semiconductor sales dropped 6%. The top three companies on our list managed to increase sales. The long-term outlook is arguably bullish as more people get internet access. Only 40% of the worldwide population currently has internet access, and as that percentage increases, semiconductor companies will continue to find new customers and explore new world markets. 

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