Qualcomm's Next Flagship Mobile Chip May Not Go All-In On 5G

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Industry insider Roland Quandt recently hinted that the upcoming premium chipset from Qualcomm, the Snapdragon 865, will have a variant that does not include an integrated 5G modem.

Qualcomm previously mentioned that the next-generation premium chipset from the American semiconductor would ship with an integrated 5G modem. The sampling of the new mobile platform will begin within the second quarter of 2019, and first handsets equipped with the chipset will ship to consumers within the first half of 2020.

However, Quandt noted that Kona55 Fusion would feature the SM8250 processor and a separate 5G modem. The SM8250 refers to the Snapdragon 865 chipset itself, while the separate modem likely pertains to the Snapdragon X55 5G modem, a chip that was previously seen as the SDM55 in internal development boards for the SoC.

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With the presence of a separate 5G modem, it is possible that the Snapdragon 865 may also come in a variant that can only connect to 4G LTE networks, in addition to options that already feature 5G modems. Consequently, there is a possibility that not all high-end Android smartphones sporting the Snapdragon 865 SoC can connect to next-generation cellular networks.

Integrating 5G modems into chipsets offers several advantages, which include increased space available inside the handset. Smartphone makers may choose to utilize the free space to boost the capacity of the device's power pack, resulting in improved battery life.

However, offering a 4G variant will allow smartphone manufacturers to improve the performance provided by its handsets without the additional cost of 5G modems. This variant may cater to models of flagship smartphones targeted towards more price-conscious consumers. Moreover, given that many areas may still not have 5G coverage in the coming year, 4G-only variant of the Snapdragon 865 may also be included in smartphones sold in these locations.

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There is little information available about the other features of the Snapdragon 865, although recent reports noted that the chipset would feature support for LPDDR5 RAM, which is an improvement over the LPDDR4X RAM supported by the current-generation Snapdragon 855.

Aside from the high-end segment of the smartphone market, Qualcomm is also developing a mid-range handset chipset that will feature an integrated 5G modem. Reports mention that the American semiconductor company will brand the SoC as the Snapdragon 735, and it will become available to handset makers starting the fourth quarter of 2019.

In addition to Qualcomm, several tech firms are also working on their 5G-capable chipset solutions. Interestingly, Huawei, a smartphone manufacturer that also produces its chipsets through its semiconductor subsidiary HiSilicon, will reportedly launch the Kirin 985 SoC, and this semiconductor product will feature an integrated 5G modem, which puts the Chinese tech giant ahead of the competition including Qualcomm. The upcoming Huawei Mate 30 will be the first device that will sport this chipset, according to recent leaks, and all future flagships from Huawei will likely ship with 5G connectivity support.

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Meanwhile, Samsung will likely announce the successor to its Exynos 9820 chipset in the second half of the year, while MediaTek is also developing 5G-capable SoCs, although these products will likely target the mid-range segment of the smartphone market.