Qualcomm brings 5G to cheaper phones with Snapdragon 690 processor
The chip will enable $300 to $500 5G phones from LG, Motorola and others.
Shara TibkenFormer managing editor
Shara Tibken was a managing editor at CNET News, overseeing a team covering tech policy, EU tech, mobile and the digital divide. She previously covered mobile as a senior reporter at CNET and also wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. Shara is a native Midwesterner who still prefers "pop" over "soda."
Phones based on the Snapdragon 690 will cost in the $300 to $500 range when they launch later this year, and they will include some features normally found only in premium devices. By comparison,
new iPhone SE, which only runs on 4G networks, starts at $399. The Snapdragon 690 will appear in cheaper phones from companies like
handset maker HMD,
, Sharp and TCL, which sells phones under Alcatel and TCL branding.
"We want to bring more flagship experiences ... to billions -- things like immersive camera experiences, intensive and interactive
, [and] fast responding AI voice assistants," Deepu John, senior director of product management at Qualcomm, said during a briefing with reporters ahead of the company's news.
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5G is the new, super-fast wireless technology that's been rolling out across the world. It's live in many major cities in the US, as well as places in China, South Korea and the UK, among other countries. The technology is poised to change the way we live and is expected to power everything from self-driving cars to advanced augmented reality experiences.
While the pandemic has hurt phone sales in places like the US, Qualcomm, Swedish networking gear maker Ericsson and others have said it ultimately won't stop the expansion of 5G around the globe over the coming years. Phones are considered must-have devices. Still, people watching their spending may increasingly opt for cheaper devices, like those enabled by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 690.
The Snapdragon 690 includes 4K HDR support to capture more than a billion shades of color and shoot photos at up to 192 megapixels. It also supports 120Hz displays for fast refresh rates and smooth scrolling. The Snapdragon 690 comes with Qualcomm's latest AI engine for smart cameras, voice translation, AI-based imaging and AI-enhanced gaming.
The processor also packs in Qualcomm's new X51 5G modem, which delivers multigigabit speeds. The modem can download data at up to 2.5Gbps over 5G networks and 1.2Gbps over
. And its upload speed peaks at 660Mbps over 5G and 210Mbps over LTE.
It only supports one flavor of 5G, though. The X51 runs only on lower-band airwaves, not the ultra-fast millimeter wave network favored by carriers like
. Those lower bands have been favored in places like China and Europe, as well as by US carriers like
"There's absolutely no doubt in our commitment to millimeter wave and making it ubiquitous," Kedar Kondap, vice president of product management, said during a briefing with reporters. "It's all a function of timing ... and prioritization right now."
While the Snapdragon 690 will push 5G into less expensive phones, it's not the lowest-end chip lineup offered by Qualcomm. The company also offers its 4-series and 2-series processors, which don't yet have 5G. It hasn't provided a timeline for when the new wireless technology will come to those processor families.