Qualcomm announces flagship Snapdragon 865 chip, won’t have integrated 5G

Qualcomm's newest Snapdragon 865 won't feature 5G integration.
Image: Qualcomm

The next generation of mobile technology is almost here. Companies are starting to roll out 5G networks across America, like T-Mobile, who just rolled out nationwide coverage. However, smartphones and other mobile devices are currently trying to catch up.

On Tuesday, Qualcomm announced its newest flagship smartphone processor, the Snapdragon 865. While the chip will deliver tremendous performance for high-end phones, there is one problem—Snapdragon 865 won’t feature integrated 5G. To make things more convoluted, the processor will be released alongside a less-powerful, 5G-ready Snapdragon 765 chip. This will leave smartphone manufacturers in a tough place as they must choose between better performance and staying ahead of the 5G curve.

New Approach

On Qualcomm’s part, the move is a little strange. Typically, the company releases a high-end and mid-range chip together. The strategy usually works well since it gives Android smartphone makers a comparable processor for phones of all price points.

However, this lineup will be a different story. Since February, Qualcomm has hinted that it will unveil a lineup of Snapdragon chips with integrated 5G. Most people believed that the more powerful chip, the 865, would be the one to feature that technology. As such, it is both strange and surprising that the company went the complete opposite direction.

There is no doubt that next-gen smartphones will need to feature 5G capabilities if they want to stay competitive in an evolving mobile landscape. Since there is no integrated 5G on the Snapdragon 865, manufacturers will need to add an additional modem to support the new network protocol.

Interestingly, the 865 also doesn’t support 4G LTE connections. This means that smartphones with it will actually be forced to have 5G capabilities, albeit with a modem that takes up extra space and power. Nonetheless, it is expected that 2020 flagship phones like the Galaxy S11, OnePlus 8, Pixel 5 and more will feature the chip.

Mid-Range 5G Access

Currently, consumers hoping to jump into the world of 5G will shell out around a thousand dollars for a high-end smartphone. However, not everyone needs the ultra-powerful features that these phones offer. Some people just want faster connections with 5G.

The Snapdragon 765 will finally open the door for mid-range 5G smartphones. As the chip itself isn’t as powerful (or expensive), it is a natural fit for budget-friendly phones that can access the fastest networks.

As of now, 5G technology is still struggling to catch on. A large part of that difficulty can be attributed to the fact that only high-end phones support it. With the Snapdragon 765 inside mid-range phones, the newest innovations in network technology could finally start catching on. Meanwhile, flagship phone manufacturers will have to put up with additional modems for at least one more generation.