Qualcomm Enlists Chinese “Lucky Number” for Premium 5G Smartphone Platform Update

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By David McQueen | 4Q 2020 | IN-6022

Qualcomm has announced a significant upgrade to its premium 5G flagship mobile platforms with the launch of the Snapdragon 888 5G platform by utilizing its tightly integrated Snapdragon X60 5G Modem-RF System to achieve faster low-latency 5G while improving coverage, performance, and battery life.

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Qualcomm Adds to Its Premium Smartphone 8-Series Chipset Stable

NEWS


Qualcomm has announced a significant upgrade to its premium 5G flagship mobile platforms with the launch of the Snapdragon 888 5G platform by utilizing its tightly integrated Snapdragon X60 5G Modem-RF System to achieve faster low-latency 5G while improving coverage, performance, and battery life.

In a Number of Firsts, the New Platform Will Support the Introduction of 5G Carrier Aggregation

IMPACT


The announcement of Qualcomm’s latest premium 5G flagship mobile platforms brings with it a number of industry firsts. Importantly, the new Snapdragon 888 platform supports the first introduction of 5G carrier aggregation, giving vendors and mobile operators the ability to get close to the maximum achievable Downlink (DL) speed commercially available (currently it stands at 7.5 Gigabytes per Second [Gbps]). It also offers peak upload speeds of 3,000 Mbps. In comparison, 5G single carrier aggregation over Millimeter Wave (mmWave) spectrum has a top-end DL speed of only 4 Gbps, which can be achieved by some commercial smartphones today. The platform will offer third generation 5G mmWave and sub-6 across all major bands worldwide and 5G carrier aggregation via the integrated third generation X60 5G Modem-RF System that provides more reliable, accurate, and low latency communications. It will also be among the first to support global 5G multi-SIM, stand-alone, non-stand-alone, and dynamic spectrum sharing technology.

In addition, the Snapdragon 888 includes a completely reengineered Artificial Intelligence (AI) engine as well as advanced mobile gaming and camera technologies. These are all significant upgrades that will combine to improve performance and power efficiency in the next generation of premium 5G smartphones, strengthening Qualcomm’s commitment to offering enhanced smartphone experiences on its high-end chipsets. The new platform notably uses a five nanometer manufacturing process, allowing a breakthrough in performance and power efficiency that offers up to a 25% uplift in overall CPU performance. It also has up to 35% faster graphics rendering compared with the previous generation.

Qualcomm Addresses "Challenger" OEMs to Provide a Welcome Boost to the High End

RECOMMENDATIONS


For the moment, the smartphone market is currently pushing quickly into the lower-priced 5G segment—to be a major catalyst for advancing subscriber technology migration—thereby accelerating 5G adoption in 2021 and beyond. However, despite this drive down the price tiers, a host of Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs)—including Lenovo, LG, MEIZU, Motorola, OnePlus, OPPO, Realme, vivo, and Xiaomi—has committed to provide their support for the high-end Snapdragon 888. This approach reinforces Qualcomm’s strategy for supporting “challenger” vendors in their quest to compete and to effectively differentiate in the high-end 5G smartphone market against the captive Tier 1 OEMs—notably Samsung, Apple, and Huawei (at least in the short term owing to the ongoing effects of the U.S.-China trade war). While Samsung was not listed by Qualcomm, it is expected to join Qualcomm sometime soon, using the platform in regional stock keeping units of its flagship series. Smartphones based on the Snapdragon 888 are expected to become commercially available in the first quarter of 2021.

Addressing “challenger” OEMs with this latest chipset will be a welcome boost to the high-end smartphones sector, which has been at risk of being squeezed quickly owing to the frantic pace of plunging 5G smartphone prices. With such strong backing from Qualcomm, the OEMs can enhance their competitiveness and speed time to market in the sector while also enabling differentiation via these latest innovations in AI, gaming, and cameras, ultimately helping to grow volume. By adding this significant number of OEMs and their smartphone models to the mix, the window of opportunity widens to the premium 5G smartphone sector, arguably reaching more affordable price points using this top-end technology since Xiaomi is notably on the roster. This could ultimately delay the onset of a fast-approaching 5G mass market and prolong the opportunity for vendors to extract more favorable levels of profit out of what is still a relatively nascent part of the industry.

What should not be lost in this latest release is the choice of number for the Snapdragon update—888—which is the luckiest combination of numbers in Chinese numerology. While in reality the launch could just signal a set of digits used to showcase its latest enhanced platform refresh, it may also point to Qualcomm’s extending an olive branch to those in the industry caught up in the ongoing U.S.-China trade war. Indeed, the longer the trade war rumbles on, the more Qualcomm may be concerned that smartphone vendors will start to look to alternative 5G chip suppliers, notably MediaTek and Unisoc, and so it is probably no coincidence that China-based OEMs have accounted for the vast majority that were name checked in support of the Snapdragon 888. Moreover, 888 is regarded by the Chinese as a symbol of fortune and prosperity, which will also undoubtedly chime well with Qualcomm’s expectations of success for its newest premium platform.

 

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