Qualcomm announces latest line of 5G-ready smartphone chips

Expect both mid-tier and flagship phones to feature 5G in 2020, but OEMs have to make a tough choice

Qualcomm 5G ambitions

Qualcomm has announced its next generation of smartphone chips, with mid-range products now boasting integrated 5G support.

The Snapdragon 865 will succeed the current 855 as the chip with most powerful specs and will likely feature in 2020's Android flagship devices.

What's unusual is the top-tier chips will instead use dedicated 5G modules, meaning vendors will have to designate enough space to place an external 5G modem, such as Qualcomm's second-generation X55, in the device and connect it to the 865.

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Such configurations have been criticised for being more power-hungry than an integrated approach and there are questions as to the company's strategy around integrated 5G chips given that the other manufacturers offer 5G in one package.

Qualcomm's seven-series line of system on a chip (SoC) designs typically serve the mid-tier market, but these have received a shakeup this year. 

The Snapdragon 765 succeeds the 755 and follows the traditional path of targeting the mid-tier market. It will feature lower specs than the 865 but boasts integrated 5G which means we can expect to see networking technology, which was previously a key differentiator between mid and top-tier devices in 2019, more commonly on cheaper devices.

The move also raises questions as to what significant factors will separate the mid-tier devices from the most expensive ones in 2020. With 5G connectivity out of the equation, a device's camera, display and processing power could warrant a bigger price tag.

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The Snapdragon 765 will also get a separate iteration in the form of the Snapdragon 765G, the "G" denoting its application to gaming experiences.

Like the stock Snapdragon 765, the 765G will have integrated 5G and will benefit from Qualcomm's advanced AI processing, but will bring "select Qualcomm Snapdragon Elite Gaming Experiences," the company said.

"5G will open new and exciting opportunities to connect, compute, and communicate in ways we've yet to imagine and we are happy to be a key player driving the adoption of 5G around the world," said Cristiano Amon, president at Qualcomm. 

"Our Snapdragon 5G mobile platforms announced today will continue to show leadership in the industry and deliver on the promise of scaling 5G in 2020."

In addition to the new SoCs, Qualcomm unveiled its new 3D Sonic Fingerprint technology which will support up to two simultaneous fingerprint scans for more secure authentication in a scanning area 17 times larger than previous iterations.

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