Qualcomm Steps Up to the 5G Plate with New Snapdragon Chips

Qualcomm Technologies unveiled two new 5G mobile phone processors this week: the Snapdragon 865 for high-end Android phones, such as Samsung's Galaxy and Google's Pixel, and the slightly slower and less expensive Snapdragon 765. The company made the announcements at its annual Snapdragon Tech Summit, promising to make the chips generally available for mobile devices in Q1 of 2020.

The Snapdragon 865 comes bundled with Qualcomm's X55 modem/antenna system, which the company claims will deliver peak modem speeds of up to 7.5 Gbps. What the company is calling the Snapdragon Mobile Platform also includes the 5th generation Qualcomm AI Engine, the new Qualcomm Sensing Hub, and the Qualcomm Spectra 480 Image Signal Processor (ISP).

Alex Katouzian, senior vice president and general manager of Qualcomm's mobile group, called the 865 "the culmination of Qualcomm's more than 30 years of wireless leadership and innovation."

The Snapdragon 865 is aimed at high-end phones, but the Snapdragon 765 comes with an integrated 5G modem, which reduces its cost and may provide a kind of 5G onramp for budget conscious end users.

At the conference, Qualcomm predicted that 1.4 billion smartphones will include 5G tech by 2022. There are currently more than 2 million 5G subscribers in South Korea, and Qualcomm mobile phone maker Samsung expects to see 4 million of their 5G mobile phones in that country by year's end. Qualcomm expects all high-end Android phones using its chips to support 5G next year.

Apple, which builds its own processors, recently signed a multi-year deal with Qualcomm to buy its 5G modems. The company has said that the iPhone will get 5G in September of next year.

The San Diego, CA-based mobile chipmaker is promoting the lower-cost chipsets (765G) for the next generation of 5G gamers with a set features called Snapdragon Elite Gaming, which the company says will deliver "desktop-quality gaming and ultra-realistic graphics." The next-gen Kryo 585 CPU is designed to deliver up to a 25% performance improvement, the company says, and the new Qualcomm Adreno 650 GPU offers up to a 25% overall performance boost, compared to the previous generations.

"We expect Snapdragon 865 and 765/765G to power the most advanced Android-based smartphones in 2020—regardless of whether users are 5G or 4G coverage," Qualcomm said in a press release.

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].