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Feature phones may be 'dumb' but they're getting 4G LTE

Qualcomm's latest 205 chipset allows the simplest phones to enjoy fast data speeds.

A feature phone equipped with the 205 chipset and the chipset itself.

Lynn La/CNET

Thanks to the Nokia 3310 reboot, what's old is new again -- especially when it comes to retro technology that makes us remember the good old days. But while it's fun to wax nostalgic about feature phones and how they're durable, easy to use and last days without a charge, no one wants the sluggish data speeds that came with the devices.

Though LTE-enabled feature phones do exist, like the Kyocera DuraXE and Sonim XP5, they're niche devices that are rare and oftentimes rugged. US chip maker Qualcomm, however, recently announced its 205 chipset, that'll allow more feature phones (aka "dumb" phones that don't have a touchscreen, GPS or an app store) to achieve LTE speeds.

Smartphones are still on the rise around the world. But in emerging markets such as India, Vietnam and South Africa, about half of all phones in use are feature phones, according to a 2016 report by IDC. At the same time, demand for 4G is climbing and emerging markets are building out the infrastructure needed for 4G networks. The same IDC study predicts that by 2020, 80 percent of all phones will be 4G-compatible.

With the 205 chipset, feature phones can get much faster internet than before. And while they're not the most capable devices around, faster internet speeds will allow these handsets to browse social media, upload photos, load news sites and stream video and live sports.

Specs

  • Peak speeds of 150Mbps download and 50Mbps upload
  • Dual-core CPU with 1.1GHz clock speed
  • Adreno GPU
  • Can support phones with 3-megapixel rear camera and 0.3-megapixel front camera
  • Can support VGA display at 480p and 60 frames per second
  • Dual-SIM support
  • NFC capabilities

You can expect phones carrying the Qualcomm 205 platform in the next few months. So far, the company has partnered with manufacturers such as Megafone, Nubia and HiPad to make 4G feature phones. Qualcomm did not reveal any upcoming phones in the US that will feature this chipset.