Qualcomm’s New 5G Chips Target Budget Smartphones in 2020

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Qualcomm promised to play its role in enabling 5G connectivity for up to 2 billion people by expanding the 5G modem support in its chips beyond the 8- series to the 6 and 7-series processors. The new 5G-enabled mobile platforms will be available in 2020, the vendor announced today.

The majority of the 5G smartphones we saw so far have launched at premium prices over $1,000. However, if 5G is supposed to become the technology that will change everything, then it also needs to be affordable, so that most people can make use of it. 

This is where Qualcomm’s new integrated 5G chips come in. The current Qualcomm X50 modem is a dedicated chip that supports only 5G connectivity. Therefore, if smartphone makers wanted to sell 5G phones, they had to buy two different modems, a 5G one and one that also supported previous technologies (3G, 4G, etc). This is partially what made the 5G phones so expensive. 

Qualcomm's new X55 modem will be integrated into the Snapdragon 8-series mobile platform and will support both 5G and the older wireless technologies. This should make it significantly cheaper for many manufacturers to put the 8-series processor into their high-end and potentially mid-range or upper mid-range devices.

For lower-cost devices, Qualcomm will also make available new Snapdragon 6 and 7-series with their own integrated 5G modem in the second part of next year. Some manufacturers have already signed up to use these chips, including Motorola, Vivo, HMD Global (maker of Nokia phones), Oppo, realme and Redmi.

This week, Samsung and Huawei also announced their own chip platforms with integrated 5G modems. The 5G chip competition is starting to heat up as 5G smartphones begin to become mainstream, so we can expect to see many more 5G smartphone models next year and at much lower price points than what we’ve seen so far this year.

Lucian Armasu
Lucian Armasu is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He covers software news and the issues surrounding privacy and security.