Qualcomm unveiled the latest iterations of its Snapdragon mobile processors this week. The chip maker announced not one but two new chipsets: one that will launch some of the highest quality smartphones in 2020, and another system-on-a-chip for mid-range phones.
Chip's new chipsets are the flagship Snapdragon 865, which includes an additional X55 5G modem, and the mid-tier Snapdragon 765 or 765G with built-in 5G capabilities.
The announcements came during a press conference on the Hawaiian island of Maui with hundreds of analysts and media representatives in attendance. Some of them were flown to a remote, tropical destination at Qualcomm's time. (WIRED was not there.)
The stronger of the two, the Snapdragon 865, is the natural successor to last year's 855 chipset. Qualcomm's high-end Snapdragon chips are routinely used by smartphone makers to power their most advanced and feature-rich phones. For example, the 855 201
The new 865 includes an updated engine for processing AI functions, which according to Qualcomm is twice as powerful as the AI engine on the previous chip. Gamers will also experience a boom, as a GPU is 20 percent faster than before, according to Qualcomm. The new chip also supports real-time voice translation and can run a smartphone camera with 8K video and still images up to 200 megapixels.
Even though the next-generation wireless 5G high-speed networks were slow Qualcomm says phones using the latest Snapdragon chip will be ready to take full advantage of 5G every time they arrive around the world spread. The company claims that devices powered by the 865 and its associated X55 modem can achieve maximum download speeds of up to 7.5 gigabits per second. The modem also supports all the different frequency bands used for 5G communication, including mmWave and Sub-6.
The less powerful Snapdragon 765 offers somewhat less impressive specifications with an integrated X52 5G modem and support for download speeds of up to 6 to 3.7 Gbps. But it has some of the same AI features and graphing as its more powerful sibling.
The fact that Qualcomm announced its mid-tier chip alongside its most powerful mobile processor is remarkable. Qualcomm tends to unveil chips for non-flagship devices in the spring or summer – the Snapdragon 730, 730G and 665 Mobile Chips were launched in April of this year. Analysts said Qualcomm's double-headliner show this week was really about accelerating the introduction of 5G technology.
According to Patrick Moorhead, founder of Moor Insights and Strategy, the meat of the global smartphone market is in the mid-range of devices that could potentially run on Qualcomm's less expensive 5G-enabled chip. "I see this as a message that the company wants to accelerate 5G," he wrote to WIRED.
In 2019, three of the four major US mobile operators were targeting 5G Wireless in 30 cities by the end of 2010. However, the rollout was slower than expected, the 5G standards were different, and there were few handsets Associating with 5G networks, Qualcomm's intention was to offer integrated 5G in its less high-performance chip, as in its world-class SoC. Creative Strategies analyst Carolina Milanesi notes, however, that Qualcomm is likely still "leaving it open" for brands that may want only the modem part and not the integrated solution. Here, of course, Apple comes to mind. "(Alex Katouzian, Qualcomm's senior vice president and general manager of mobile business unit, said Apple later in a question and answer session with analysts was not the reason why his company delivered a separate 5G modem.)