Samsung, Sony, Sharp join Qualcomm's roster of 5G handset makers

There are at least 70 phones in the works using Qualcomm's Snapdragon 865 technology for 5G phones.

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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."
Shara Tibken
3 min read
Samsung Galaxy S20 and S20 Plus and S20 Ultra group shot

Samsung's new Galaxy S20 devices are among the companies using Qualcomm's new Snapdragon 865 processor. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

More than 70 5G devices that use Qualcomm's new Snapdragon 865 processor are in the works, the chip giant said Tuesday. 

The tally includes already announced 5G devices like Samsung's new Galaxy S20 lineup and Sony's Xperia 1 II. But it also includes newcomers like Vivo's Apex 2020 concept phone, Oppo's Find X2 and Nubia's Red Magic 5G. Other Snapdragon 865 devices include the Asus ROG Phone 3 and ZenFone 7, Realme X50 pro, Redmi K30 Pro, Lenovo's Legion Gaming Phone, Sharp Aquous R5G, Xiaomi Mi 10 and Mi 10 Pro, and ZTE Axon 10s Pro.

"This year, the Snapdragon 865 will help make 5G accessible to billions of smartphone users around the world, further enabling immersive mobile experiences like high-speed gaming, intelligent multi-camera capture and all-day battery life," Alex Katouzian, senior vice president and general manager of mobile at Qualcomm, said in a statement. 

Watch this: Qualcomm unveils latest 5G Snapdragon chip

Qualcomm, the world's biggest mobile chipmaker, has led the push toward 5G. The company's modems are used in most high-end 5G phones on the market -- except those from Huawei, which designs its own chips -- and it has been expanding its processors to less-expensive devices. It's all with an aim to spread 5G across the globe as quickly as possible. 

The company had planned to make its announcements at Mobile World Congress 2020, which was scheduled for this week in Barcelona. But coronavirus fears caused the conference organizers to cancel the show. The cancellation could cause some handset makers to delay the announcement of their devices that use Qualcomm's 5G chips. Instead of an in-person event, Qualcomm hosted a live stream on Tuesday, broadcasting a presentation from its San Diego headquarters.

Qualcomm's Snapdragon chips have "become the platform of choice for 5G," Qualcomm President Cristiano Amon said Tuesday. "Snapdragon is also going to be the platform that will scale 5G globally."

He added that overall, there are more than 275 5G devices being designed using Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8- and 7-series chips. 

5G promises to significantly boost the speed, coverage and responsiveness of wireless networks. It can run 10 to 100 times faster than a typical cellular connection today, and it'll also boost how fast a device will connect to the network, with speeds as quick as a millisecond to start your download or upload. Operators around the globe began rolling out their networks in 2019.

The Snapdragon 865, unveiled in December, is the highest-performing chip available from Qualcomm. But unlike its predecessor and Qualcomm's other recent high-end chips, the Snapdragon 865 doesn't come with a modem integrated with the brains of the device, known as the application processor. Instead, phone makers that want to use the Snapdragon 865 and connect their devices to a 5G network must also buy Qualcomm's X55 modem. 

Qualcomm in December said it made that decision so it didn't have to compromise on the features in either the modem or the apps processor. If Qualcomm didn't pare back the modem or the app processor features, the resulting chip would be too big and too power hungry for high-end smartphones. 

Qualcomm earlier this month unveiled its next modem, the X60. While peak speeds aren't much higher -- you can download data at up to 7.5 Gbps versus the X55's 7 Gbps and upload information at 3 Gbps for both -- you will see faster average speeds, Qualcomm said. The X60 has the ability to aggregate the slower sub-6 networks with the faster mmwave spectrum, boosting overall performance. It will be in phones next year. 

The first major phones to sport the Snapdragon 865 include Samsung's new Galaxy S20 phones. Junehee Lee, SVP and head of Samsung's technology strategy team, joined Amon onstage at Tuesday's event. 

"We truly believe 5G has transformative power to change everything people do with their phones," Lee said. "We see this year, 2020, as a critical moment to establish the role technologies like 5G will play in our lives."

Originally published at 10 a.m. PT
Update, 10:48 a.m.: Adds comments from press conference