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  1. Mandatory, but useless — Thanks, Qualcomm: Mandatory 5G means phones now ship with disabled 5G modems Pay for a 5G modem you can never use, thanks to Qualcomm's Snapdragon 865 design. First image of article image gallery. Please visit the source link to see all 7 images. It's Qualcomm's world, and we're all just living in it. Phones are starting to trickle onto the market with Qualcomm's new Snapdragon 865 SoC, and the company's unchecked monopoly power over the mobile industry is really coming to a head with this new chip. Qualcomm is forcing 5G on everyone with the Snapdragon 865, increasing the size, cost, and complexity of smartphones, even if the world's 5G networks are not ready yet. This week, we're seeing an absurd new wrinkle in the Mandatory 5G Saga: manufacturers are sticking to Qualcomm rules and shipping its 5G modems, but they are also disabling them because 5G just doesn't work in some markets. Meet the "iQoo 3." As pointed out by XDA Developers, in India, this phone ships the Snapdragon 865 in a first-ever "4G" configuration. Apparently, BBK subsidiary iQoo does all the work of paying for Qualcomm's mandatory 5G modem, integrating it into the phone design, and then the company just, uh, disables the 5G functionality completely. A phone that ships with some of its modem features disabled is not unusual. Sometimes companies turn off some 4G bands to help region lock phones to certain countries or possibly to save costs. Turning off the 5G bands on a Snapdragon 865 phone is tough to come to terms with, though, because the SoC's design and performance was compromised just to bring this 5G capability to market. Qualcomm rolled back years of SoC progress by building the Snapdragon 865 without an onboard modem, and the only way to give this SoC cellular capabilities is to pair it with an external modem chip, the Qualcomm Snapdragon X55, which adds 4G and 5G connectivity. External modems take up more space, run hotter, and use more power than an onboard modem, and to accept this compromise while also not getting 5G seems like a really bad deal. One reason for the lack of enthusiasm for 5G from iQoo is easy to understand: despite being the world's second-largest smartphone market, India does not have 5G networks. Unlike in places like the United States, where tiny pockets of 5G are slowly being built, India does not have a clear path to 5G. The Indian government set prices to auction off public spectrum for 5G, but Indian carriers say the prices are "prohibitively expensive" and aren't willing to pay the prices to buy the spectrum to begin to build the networks. Besides the conflict over the airways, the situation on the ground is not really settled, either. Most towers in India are not connected to fiber backhaul and probably can't handle the bandwidth demands of 5G. Fixing this requires even more money that the carriers say they don't have. In short, 5G ain't happening anytime soon in India. Enlarge / Enlarge / 2019's Snapdragon 855 offers 4G connectivity in a single, simple package. 2020's Snapdragon 865 has no onboard modem, and it needs an extra chip. Qualcomm / Ron Amadeo Last year, Qualcomm had a more sensible, flexible design for its first-ever 5G compatible chip, the Snapdragon 855. That chip had an integrated 4G modem—needed in every single market—and had a separate 5G modem as an optional extra. 4G connectivity would be more power-efficient than 5G on the Snapdragon 855 because the 4G modem was integrated and the 5G modem was not. This year, Qualcomm "fixed" that power discrepancy by making 4G as bad as 5G and pulled both modems off the main chip. So the iQoo 3 comes in both a 5G version—which, again, cannot possibly be used in the country—and a 4G version. The 4G version comes in two configurations: 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage for Rs 36,990 ($515) or 8GB and 256GB of storage for Rs 39,990 ($557). The highest-end SKU—12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage for Rs 44990 ($626)—gets to keep the 5G functionality for... bragging rights? International travel? If the 5G chip has to be in the phone anyway, why disable it at all? Does Qualcomm charge less if you buy a 5G chip from the company and then disable it? Does iQoo view the "5G" label on the high-end version as some kind of market segmentation, even though it is completely irrelevant in India? Assuming there is some kind of financial incentive behind disabling 5G on cheaper Snapdragon 865 phones, we will probably see this from more devices. India is the world's second-largest smartphone market (behind China) and is a major battleground for the smartphone manufacturers. If manufacturers want to build a smartphone with the best specs—and they definitely do—Qualcomm hasn't given them a way to do that without also including 5G. There is no standalone 4G-only modem to pair with the Snapdragon 865—it only works with the Snapdragon X55 5G/4G Modem. iQoo is the latest brand launched by BBK, which is a company you can be forgiven for never having heard of. But if you combined the company's various operations, BBK is the world's second or third-biggest smartphone manufacturer. BBK is basically the General Motors of the smartphone world—a company that owns a million sub-brands targeted at various market segments and countries. You won't find a phone branded "BBK" in the market, but you've probably heard of OnePlus, Oppo, Vivo, and/or Realme, which are all brands in the BBK stable. Just like with GM, it's not uncommon for the brands to share technology, parts, and designs. With iQoo going the "disable 5G route," the other BBK sub-brands might find it an appropriate strategy for some devices, too. Another BBK brand, Realme, also took the odd step of launching a 5G phone (the Realme X50 Pro) in India this week. Listing image by iQoo Thanks, Qualcomm: Mandatory 5G means phones now ship with disabled 5G modem (Ars Technica) (To view the article's image gallery, please visit the above link)
  2. Snapdragon 865: phones list, specs and 5G capabilities The Snapdragon 865 is here with high-performance 5G connections and advanced gaming. (Image credit: Future) Update: We've got more information on all the phones that are set to include the Snapdragon 865 chipset. And, we've already gone hands on with Samsung's Galaxy S20 family of smartphones, which all include the chip. The Snapdragon 865 chipset is 'loaded with 5G,' according to chip maker Qualcomm, and it's ready to power the next round of flagship-level Android smartphones starting with the recently released Samsung Galaxy S20 family. The official Snapdragon 865 phones list is slowly growing, with phones from Samsung, Sony, and many more showing up. We also expect many unconfirmed devices to join the party with the likes of a Galaxy Note 20, LG G9, OnePlus 8, Google Pixel 5 and so on. Samsung leads the pack, and though we missed out on many other launches as a result of MWC 2020's cancellation, there are still many Snapdragon 865 phones in tow. Qualcomm's 5G-capable chipset, unveiled at its annual Snapdragon Tech Summit in Hawaii late last year, foreshadows what to expect from your next phone. It'll be in the majority of the best phones – basically everything except Huawei phones and Apple iPhones. But even iPhone owners should pay attention to the new Snapdragon 865 features. Qualcomm's roadmap often shapes where the mobile devices industry goes, and we know Qualcomm's modems are going to start being used in a 5G iPhone, likely one or more versions of the iPhone 12. And even if you don't intend to buy a premium Android phone, some of the features, including 5G, do trickle down to mid-range chipsets, like the simultaneously announced Snapdragon 765. Though, high prices of these devices may leave some room for Qualcomm-competitor MediaTek to grow with its Dimensity 800 and 1000 series chipsets. Snapdragon 865 features are primarily focused on expanding 5G speeds, doubling down on gaming performance, and improving photo and video quality on the many, many cameras employed by smartphones these days. Snapdragon 865 phones list The biggest Snapdragon 865 question we've gotten is: which phones will use the Snapdragon 865 chipset? That's easy to speculate about, but much hard to answer with 100% certainty. Fortunately, we already know a few phones for sure that have gotten or will get the new chipset. Here are the confirmed Snapdragon 865 phones so far: (Image credit: Qualcomm) With the exception of the Samsung devices in that list, all of these phones come with the Qualcomm FastConnect 6800 subsystem, which supports Wi-Fi 6 and improvements to Bluetooth connectivity both downstream and, most notably, upstream. There are still plenty of devices we're not sure about yet, though. Here's a list of rumored Snadpdragon 865 phones: LG G9 LG V60 OnePlus 8 and 8T Moto Z5 (will probably have a different name) Asus Zenfone 7 Samsung Galaxy Fold 2 Samsung Galaxy Note 20 and Note 20 Plus Google Pixel 5 and Pixel 5 XL Asus ROG Phone 3 Nokia 10 There are surely more Snapdragon 865 phones from companies like Xioami, Oppo, and Meizu, though it's harder to draw successors to their current lineups. Rest assured, we expect most flagship Android phones to run this chipset. And when it comes to Moto, its flagship phone could use the 865 chip, but we don't know if there'll ever be a 'Moto Z5'. Motorola's aging Moto Mod idea has limited the company's ability to offer a redesign, as the mods are all backward compatible. After four years of much of the same, we expect a full fresh and perhaps a new name. Snapdragon 865 specs Qualcomm is touting new architecture among its Snapdragon 865 specs, made up of a Kryo 585 CPU, Adreno 650 GPU, Spectra 480 ISP, Hexagon 698 processor and sensing hub. All of them will play a key part in deciding what your next phone is capable of doing. Its CPU can run up to 2.84GHz, according to Qualcomm, and the GPU is supposed to offer 20% faster graphics rendering. We'll be running Snapdragon 865 benchmark tests soon to confirm these numbers. The standout in the Snapdragon 865 specs sheet, however, is the 35% increase in the power efficiency for intense tasks, like gaming. As powerful as GPUs have become in smartphones, we know peak performance only lasts so long before throttling sets in. Qualcomm says it wants to go the distance with the new 865 chip. Snapdragon 865 has 5G, but without integration The Snapdragon 865 is driving 5G in two ways: it'll offer faster download speeds – up to 7.5Gbps – and be found in more smartphones you actually want in 2020. Qualcomm's Snapdragon X55 5G modem achieves these peak download speeds via mmWave and sub-6 standards, the backbone of 5G. But it also employs tricks like Dynamic Spectrum Sharing, which combines 5G and 4G spectrum for faster throughput. Upload speeds are also set to improve, reaching 3Gbps in ideal 5G conditions. That's something we really haven't seen from carriers in our 5G speed tests in the US, as the hype around uplink speeds has long trailed good download speed performance. Interestingly, the Snapdragon 865 is being coupled with the Snapdragon X55 5G modem as a separate chip. This means the modem isn't actually integrated into the mobile chipset, but you also won't be able to get a Snapdragon 865 phone without the 5G chip. They're a couple, so don't expect new 865 phones to be 4G-only. That's more of a concern for smartphone manufacturers, which have to account for the modem within the confines of their devices and find ways to power the modem separately. But these concerns could affect the size and battery consumption of the next smartphones. Snapdragon 865 is ready for 200MP photos, 8K video Besides 5G, the most consumer-facing perks of the Snapdragon 865 chipset are the camera improvements. You'll notice an uptick in both photo and video quality. Specifically, the Qualcomm Spectra 480 Image Signal Processor boosts the megapixel count to 200MP. Note: it's really up to phone manufacturers to use these grandiose capabilities, so you may not actually see 200MP smartphones yet. Case in point: the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra only went up to 108MP. Similarly, two years ago, we saw Samsung ditch HDR video capture when it was employed by the 845. This was reportedly done to keep parity with its Exynos chip, which didn't have HDR video capture capabilities and went into Galaxy S9 and Note 9 in some regions. The Galaxy S10 ended up being Samsung's first to capture HDR video. When it comes to video for phones poised to use the Snapdragon 865 chipset, we're going to see 8K resolution video, one billion shades of color and support for the HGL format and Dolby Vision captured in real time. Dolby Vision capture is going to be important simply because other phones out there right now have high-end screens that support seeing Dolby Vision. But capturing it is going to be limited to 2020's Android phones – meaning your friends will see you amazing footage on their phone screens and have instant camera phone envy. Slow motion video can be fun, but in 2019 it was fairly limited – super slo mo modes at 960fps often cut out after ten seconds. That's changing in 2020 with unlimited super slow motion video. You'll also see slo mo at 4K 120fps. Goodbye 720p slo mo video. Desktop-class gaming on a mobile phone Qualcomm talked about mobile gaming with the Snapdragon 865 chip – a lot. And every time it did, the chip team kept referencing 'desktop-class gaming'. It sounds like marketing bluster, but there's something to that with the Adreno 650 GPU. Desktop Forward Rendering is the first thing highlighted in Snapdragon 865 demos, and we did see a difference. It brings new lighting and post-processing effects closer to those that we see on PCs and consoles. In the demo, there was a marble rolling around a simple puzzle/platform environment and it had superior multi-angle reflections and shadows. Game Color Plus had the same impact when we demoed a hack-and-slash strategy game. It looked noticeably more vibrant and saturated, which normally isn't a big feat. But Qualcomm says Game Color Plus does more than raise the saturation slide bar, it smartly boosts saturation and tone mapping, as to not totally blanket saturate everything including skin tones. Okay, now that's important. We're unlikely to see many or any smartphones with a 144Hz display refresh rate in 2020, but that's the new ceiling for the Snapdragon 865 chipset. Most phones have a 60Hz refresh rate, though the OnePlus 7 Pro and its successors brought 90Hz to their popular lineup and Sony's Xperia 1 II will get a 90Hz display while the Samsung Galaxy S20 family has leapt up to a 120Hz refresh rate. One more desktop-class thing, according to Qualcomm. Adreno 650 graphics chip is set up to receive updated drivers over time, much like you'd experience from a GPU on a gaming PC. It sounds simple enough – updates happen through an app store – but phone manufacturers using the Snapdragon 865 play a critical role in issuing the updates, and we all know that they're slow with Android operating system updates. We'll have more specs and benchmarking information after the Snapdragon Tech Summit and update this page when we get the results. Source: Snapdragon 865: phones list, specs and 5G capabilities (TechRadar)
  3. Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 865 flagship is here — without integrated 5G The new Snapdragon 865 and 765 will force phone makers to choose between flagship specs and integrated 5G Qualcomm has officially announced its next-generation flagship processor for phones — the Snapdragon 865 — but it’ll still need a separate 5G modem to enable 5G instead of an integrated 5G modem built right into the chipset. Traditionally, that means more expensive, power-hungry phones than an integrated solution. Announced alongside the 865 is Qualcomm’s other new processor, the Snapdragon 765, which will feature integrated 5G. However, it’ll be part of a less powerful processor than the 865, which will likely power the next wave of Android flagships in 2020. Qualcomm has been teasing that it would offer Snapdragon chips with integrated 5G modems since February. It even confirmed at IFA 2019 that it would be offering a 700-series processor with integrated 5G. But it’s still odd that Qualcomm would choose the less powerful chip to serve as its initial integrated 5G product, leaving the next-generation mobile standard as a separate (albeit mandatory) component for its top-of-the-line flagship 865 model. Instead, the Snapdragon 865 will offer 5G support in a similar manner as the current-generation 855, by requiring a separate 5G modem (in this case, the second-generation X55 model). In fact, if manufacturers want to use the new Snapdragon 865, they’ll have to support 5G — Qualcomm tells The Verge that the 865 and X55 are a package deal, there’s no modem on board the 865 at all, and you can’t just make a 4G phone with the 865 by using a different 4G modem. Taken together, it’s a somewhat mixed bag for the still early days of the 5G rollout. With the 765 offering integrated 5G right out of the box, it means that we’ll start to finally see some midrange 5G phones (not just ultra high-end ones). On the other hand, it means that phone manufacturers like Samsung will still have to factor in a separate modem to add 5G to their best phones, with the additional space and power requirements that the extra chip requires. We will still have to wait for truly integrated 5G solutions. As has become tradition for Qualcomm’s annual Snapdragon Tech Summit, the hard details on the two new processors won’t come until the keynote on December 4th, but the announcement of new Qualcomm processors is a big deal. Nearly every major Android phone uses Qualcomm’s 800-series processors, which means that whatever Qualcomm announces for the 865 will also be a preview of what to expect from 2020 phones like the Galaxy S11, OnePlus 8, Pixel 5, Galaxy Note 11, LG G9, and more. We’ll have additional details on the Snapdragon 865 and 765 tomorrow as the Snapdragon Tech Summit continues, so check back for more information soon. Correction, 6:58PM ET: Qualcomm has confirmed to The Verge that the Snapdragon 865 will be exclusive for 5G phones and will require the companion X55 modem. This article originally stated that manufacturers would be able to offer 4G-only devices using the Snapdragon 865. We regret the error. Source: Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 865 flagship is here — without integrated 5G Source: (The Verge)
  4. 2020 is not looking good — The Snapdragon 865 will make phones worse in 2020, thanks to mandatory 5G Qualcomm is so obsessed with 5G, it's hurting 4G performance to spur adoption. Enlarge / A more accurately labeled Snapdragon 865. Qualcomm/Ron Amadeo Qualcomm recently took the wraps off its flagship SoC for 2020, the Snapdragon 865. As usual, we can expect this chip in all the high-end Android smartphones in 2020, and it's 25 percent faster than last year, with fancy new camera features and AI-accelerating co-processors. What's unusual is the way Qualcomm designed the LTE modem in the Snapdragon 865: it doesn't have one. This means nearly every flagship Android phone will be a 5G phone in 2020, and putting the 5G and 4G on a giant extra chip means smartphones are going to use way more power, no matter which cell network you're connected to. When 5G networks are only going to be in their infancy in 2020, this sounds like an across-the-board downgrade to me. In 2019, 4G had a big power and size advantage over 5G thanks to the all-in-one SoC with an integrated modem solution. In 2020, Qualcomm is so desperate to make 5G a thing that it's making 4G worse. More power-hungry modems for everyone Enlarge / 2019's Snapdragon 855 offers 4G connectivity in a single, simple package. 2020's Snapdragon 865 has no onboard modem, and it needs an extra chip. Ron Amadeo We've spent the past year railing against early 5G hardware from Qualcomm because 1) the networks it supports barely exist and 2) the hardware requires significant compromise in your smartphone design, even if you never use 5G. The whole reason a modern smartphone works so well is due to the SoC, the System on a Chip. This combines every major computing component onto a single chip, which you can see in the diagram above. There's a CPU, GPU, an "ISP" for camera functionality, a Qualcomm "Hexagon" co-processor, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and—in every flagship SoC released in the last seven years except for the Snapdragon 865—an onboard cellular modem. Mashing everything into a single chip saves power, and it saves space, which means room for a bigger battery. We've already seen what happens when Android phones ship with separate modems. The first 4G phones with separate modems, like the HTC Thunderbolt, were legendary disasters. The Thunderbolt was a hot, slow, buggy mess, and it had a battery life of only a few hours. It was so bad that one HTC employee even apologized for releasing it. Qualcomm's 2019 5G package was the Snapdragon 855 with a separate X50 modem, and those were fireballs, too. jump to endpage 1 of 3 PCMag's Sascha Segan has been on the road testing 5G networks, and he wrote that heat was a constant issue: On a hot Las Vegas morning, my two Galaxy S10 5G phones kept overheating and dropping to 4G. This behavior is happening with all of the millimeter-wave, first-generation Qualcomm X50-based phones when temperatures hit or exceed 85 degrees. We saw it with T-Mobile in New York, with Verizon in Providence, and now with AT&T in Las Vegas. It's happened on Samsung and LG phones, with Samsung, Ericsson, and Nokia network hardware. While this has so far only been an issue with 5G phones, the Snapdragon's 865 could make it an issue with all flagship phones, even when using 4G LTE. We can let Qualcomm explain the disadvantages of a separate modem in its own words, if we go back to this 2012 press release. That's when the company talks up the single-chip LTE solution it debuted in the Snapdragon S4. "Typically, the more chips that are involved in building a device, the more challenging it is to conserve battery life while maintaining performance," Qualcomm wrote then. "Consolidation means good things for your battery." Qualcomm threw all that out the window with the Snapdragon 865. At least with the 2019 5G design—with its onboard 4G modem and the extra 5G chip—you could turn off the extra 5G chip and just use the SoC's onboard modem with the usual power savings. Now, with no onboard modem at all, even in 4G-only mode you'll be using more power by needing to light up that second chip. Smartphone manufacturers have spent the past few years aggressively protecting the space used by components. How many manufacturers have we seen remove headphone jacks, telling us they need the space to simplify the design and free up more space for batteries? And a 3.5mm headphone jack is useful. When 5G networks remain so limited, who would want to waste so much extra internal space on 5G hardware that might never be used? So far, the industry's response to 5G's bigger space requirements has been to make smartphones even larger. Consider the Galaxy S10 as a data point: you can get 4G versions like the 6.1-inch Galaxy S10 and the 6.4-inch Galaxy S10+, but if you want 5G, you will have to pick up the ultra-huge 6.7-inch Galaxy S10 5G, which is basically a new S10++ sku. For the Galaxy S11's 2020 release (which, remember, has to have 5G in every model), rumors point to across-the-board size increases for every model. Financially, it's easy to see why Qualcomm made this decision. The company is probably going to make a ton of money on the Snapdragon 865, since every phone manufacturer using the 865 has to also purchase a separate modem. Qualcomm gets to sell double the amount of chips compared to last year! Since Qualcomm, according to the Federal Trade Commission, has a monopoly on high-end smartphone chips, no one can do much about this. Instead, the public will pony up for this design change in the form of more expensive devices. We already have some data points for what the increased size, additional chips, and greater complexity mean for the cost of 5G phones. A year ago, OnePlus CEO Pete Lau told The Verge that 5G would raise the price of phones by $200 to $300, and that's about what we've seen in the market. The 5G version of the OnePlus 7T Pro costs $900 in the United States, while a similarly configured 4G OnePlus 7 Pro was $750. A Galaxy S10+ is $1,000, while a Galaxy S10 5G is $1,300. Plus, don't forget some carriers will charge extra every month for 5G—on Verizon, your bill will increase $10 a month. Pick your poison: Sub-6GHz or mmWave 5G 5G will be a requirement for any phone with a Snapdragon 865, but there are two kinds of 5G that manufacturers can choose to implement. So first—some definitions. "5G" with no other qualifiers doesn't mean a lot because, as in the early days of 4G, the cell carriers are shameless about misleading the general public and will label anything with the "5G" stamp if they think it will help sales. The biggest abuser is AT&T, which one day just decided to label its entire 4G LTE network as "5G," with no technical upgrades made. In the United States, honest uses of "5G" over the last year have mostly meant "mmWave," which uses a big chunk of higher-frequency spectrum (24GHz and above) for big speed increases. This spectrum is available because it's actually not that great at hosting a radio signal, and it comes at a cost of greatly reduced range, reduced signal penetration, and more complicated, power-hungry mmWave hardware. Implementing mmWave is a technical nightmare. When corporations talk about how 5G will revolutionize the way you watch cat videos or whatever, they're talking about mmWave. mmWave runs from 24GHz up to 100GHz, while 4G and sub-6GHz 5G are below 6GHz. Qualcomm The other kind of 5G is "sub-6GHz" 5G, which lives in the lower bands and offers only modest speed increases. In the US, carriers have started rolling out sub-6GHz, but the reason they focus so much on mmWave is because that 24GHz-and-above frequency is available in the US, while sub-6GHz frequencies are quite limited. The implementation of sub-6GHz is considerably more doable than mmWave, with less extra handset hardware and a longer range. International mentions of "5G" in 2019 almost always meant "sub-6GHz." Other countries have auctioned off sub-6GHz frequencies for 5G, but the US has not. Verizon's first public mmWave speed test hit an outrageously fast 760Mbps down. This was done under ideal conditions—right next to the mmWave tower and with no other traffic to contend with, but it's still a staggering speed for a mobile network. Sub-6GHz 5G was recently launched by T-Mobile, and the results are markedly less dramatic—the company says to expect 20 percent speed increases. PCMag's hands-on testing of T-Mobile's sub-6GHz 5G peaked at 297Mbps—but in some locations it dropped to 51Mbps, slower than 4G networks in the area. Back to Qualcomm's chip packaging decisions. Snapdragon 865 phones will all support some form of 5G, but which one will be used is up to the manufacturer. The mandatory X55 modem supports both sub-6GHz and mmWave, so it sounds like all phones will at least come with sub-6GHz support. If you want mmWave, that takes more work, and it will be something you have to design the entire phone around. MmWave penetration is so poor that your hand can block the signal. Qualcomm's solution to this problem is to buy more chips from Qualcomm, in the form of multiple QTM525 mmWave antenna modules, which can be placed all around the phone. By putting these mmWave antennas into the phone, allowing for reception at the top, bottom, and sides of the device, you can hopefully prevent the "you're holding it wrong" scenario, allowing for 5G reception in any orientation. Again, though, this just contributes to 5G's big problems: these antenna modules are sizable chips, and you'll have an even bigger, more expensive, more complicated phone. Qualcomm is rushing 5G, just like it rushed 64-bit Assuming the Snapdragon 865 turns out to be as big of a regression in practice as it looks now on paper, this won't be the first time Qualcomm has totally borked the smartphone upgrade cycle for the entire year. Toward the end of 2013, Apple unveiled the world's first 64-bit smartphone, the iPhone 5S, and it wasn't running a Qualcomm chip. Apple completely shocked Qualcomm by beating it to a 64-bit mobile SoC—one report even quoted a Qualcomm insider as saying it set off a "panic" inside the company. Qualcomm set about rushing a 64-bit flagship SoC out the door, and just over a year later, the Snapdragon 810 was born. The Snapdragon 810 is infamous for being Qualcomm's worst yearly upgrade ever. The fast turnaround time resulted in a chip that was extremely hot. It throttled constantly, to the point that it was hard to see the SoC ever hit its 2GHz rating. When it was warm, it turned in benchmark scores that were lower than the previous year's Snapdragon 801, and the battery life was terrible. Samsung actually dumped the chip from the Galaxy S6, citing overheating concerns, and shipped it worldwide with its own Exynos SoCs instead. No one else really got out of 2015 unscathed, and it was a bad year for Android phones. That Qualcomm insider mentioned above even admitted there was no technical reason to be in such a rush with 64-bit. "It's not that big a performance difference right now, since most current software won’t benefit," the insider said. "But in Spinal Tap terms, it's like '32 more,' and now everyone wants it." This is the way Qualcomm thinks about designing and marketing its SoCs. "Make the best chip you possibly can" doesn't always look like the guiding criterion. "What can we sell as the next big upgrade?" often seems like a higher priority. The company has openly admitted to this line of thinking in the past, saying it started making eight-core chips not because they were technically useful but because customers in China liked having the bigger number on spec sheets. This is the Qualcomm I think we're getting in 2020—a Qualcomm where marketing concerns force a feature out the door before it's ready, and every flagship smartphone suffers because of it. The move to separate modems will bring bigger, hotter, more expensive hardware, all for the sake of getting 5G in your smartphone, and you'll be lucky to actually connect to a 5G network. 5G networks aren't ready for primetime. MmWave is sounding more and more like it's not a nationwide answer for 5G coverage. The limited range, low penetration, and need for dense tower distribution led T-Mobile's CTO to declare that mmWave would "never materially scale beyond small pockets of 5G hotspots in dense urban environments." For companies like Verizon, which are trying to roll out mmWave, their own coverage maps reveal that mmWave is limited to specific addresses, rather than whole cities or sections of cities. US carriers are starting to turn to sub-6GHz for a more scalable form of 5G, but again, this lacks the huge speed increase of mmWave and (in the US, at least) has limited spectrum. Android phones are not long-term investments—manufacturers typically only support phones with major updates for one or two years, after which you're expected to buy a new one. With such a short lifespan, investing in a 5G device when 5G networks are not immediately available in your area doesn't make a ton of sense. You'll be upgrading again in a year or two anyway, so just hold off on the expense of 5G for a bit longer. Just as I didn't think anyone should buy a 5G phone in 2019, I doubt 2020 is the year of 5G, either. The carriers still need to get their networks together, and by 2021 we should be able to get a flagship device with an integrated, single-chip 5G SoC. The big problem is that Qualcomm turned "Don't buy a 5G phone in 2020" into "Don't buy any flagship Android phone in 2020." Forget 2020, wait for 5G in 2021 A bad flagship chip from Qualcomm doesn't leave a lot of other options for high-end smartphones in 2020. The one ray of hope for 5G phones is the Snapdragon 765G, which was also introduced last week. This is Qualcomm's first-ever chip with a 5G modem integrated into the SoC, and it should do plenty for 5G's battery consumption. Enlarge / The Snapdragon 765G block diagram. Note the juicy "connectivity" block at the top, denoting the integrated 4G/5G modem. Qualcomm One downside to getting the 765, though, is that it's slower than a Snapdragon 865. Another is the limited phone selection of this chip. For instance, if you wanted a Galaxy S11, you probably won't be able to get one with a 765. We actually have no idea what the distribution of this chip will be like. In the past, the 7-series chips have been hard to find in US devices, and they have been more popular in China and India. The good news is that the 765 shows us that Qualcomm is working on integrated 5G; integrated 5G is just not ready for flagships this year. This first chip is a good signal that 2021 will see a flagship SoC with integrated 5G. Until then, things could be rough. If you really need a new smartphone, may I suggest one of the fine 2019 devices that are still available for purchase? The best Android phones of 2019 are easily the OnePlus 7 Pro and 7T, and the 7 Pro can be had for $150 off, making it $550. If you need a good camera, the Pixel 3a has one of the best out there, and it costs just $400. As for 2020, it's not looking like a great year for smartphones. We still have to wait for actual devices to come out to confirm all of this, but I'm not optimistic. We'll have larger, more expensive devices with worse battery life, and none of those things should make you want to "upgrade." Source: The Snapdragon 865 will make phones worse in 2020, thanks to mandatory 5G (Ars Technica)
  5. Samsung Galaxy S11 will almost certainly be powered by this Snapdragon 865 5G chip Four ways this tiny 7nm chip could shape the Galaxy S11 (Image credit: Future) All signs are pointing to the Samsung Galaxy S11 being a 5G phone without requiring users to buy a separate, more expensive 5G variant of the forthcoming handset. We can now say this with confidence because Qualcomm announced its Snapdragon 865 chipset, which will be coupled with a 5G modem. Because the Galaxy S10 used the Snapdragon 855, the Galaxy S9 had the Snapdragon 845 and so on, the 865 will almost certainly be found in the Galaxy S11. That means two things if this trend continues. First, the Galaxy S11 is going to be the first 5G smartphone for a lot of people – 5G is going to have its mainstream moment. Second, the specs of the chip strongly foreshadow features of Samsung's next big phone. Here are the top things the Snapdragon 865 tells us about the Samsung Galaxy S11. (Image credit: Future) The Galaxy S11 will be a 5G from the outset The Samsung Galaxy S11 is poised to fix the major pain point we've had with almost all 5G phones in 2019: you had to buy a pricey variant of the mainstream phone. This happened with Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, Note 10 Plus 5G, and OnePlus 7T Pro 5G to name a few. With the Moto Z3 and Moto Z4, you had to buy a 5G mod add-on. Qualcomm made it clear that using the Snapdragon 865 chipset is a package deal: it comes with a Snapdragon X55 5G modem, even if the two aren't physically fused together in one chipset. If a phone has the 865, it has a 5G chip. Phone manufacturers could market the 4G LTE speeds in regions where 5G isn't bountiful, but executives we talked to at Qualcomm were quick to point out that no phone maker that they had talked to expressed interest in doing that. So the Samsung Galaxy S11 and Galaxy S11 Plus, and maybe even the Galaxy S11e if it continues to use a flagship tier chip (like the S10e did last year), should get 5G speeds out of the box. And that's good news for 5G adoption. (Image credit: Future) The S11 release date lines up with the 865 debut The Samsung Galaxy S11 is rumored to launch at the end of February – traditionally it comes out right before or at MWC. We don't suspect this will change. That's also when the Snapdragon 865 is schedule to make its way into smartphones. The official statement from Qualcomm notes: "Devices based on Snapdragon 865 are expected to be commercially available in the first quarter of 2020." Samsung has helped Qualcomm fabricate its chips over the last three years, so first dibs on the Snapdragon 865 – and what may end up being the first mainstream 5G phone – only makes sense in early 2020. See you at MWC 2020. (Image credit: Future) The camera is going to be superior This has been one of the bigger highlights of Snapdragon 865, as the chipset has a souped-up image signal processor capable of processing 2 gigapixels per second. That means the Galaxy S11 could capture 8K video, 64MP screen grabs from video (they're an inferior 8MP on many of today's phones), and super slow-motion video at 960fps without limits – not the 0.8 seconds we're used to seeing from the very few current phones that can even do such high-frame-rate capture. Samsung's next phone could breath new life into photos, too, with over one billion shades of color and massive 200MP pictures. No, you don't seriously need that many megapixels in a single photo, and you probably won't get all of them. Galaxy S11 rumors point to a still-astounding 108MP sensor. But Qualcomm made sure to point out that 200MP makes sense when taking a wide photo, say at a concert (the given example), and wanting to crop in later on. You can punch into a scene without a tremendous loss of detail. It's the same reason why we sometimes shoot TechRadar videos in 4K even if we're going to upload in 1080p. Of course, in photos, as megapixels increase, pixel sizes (microns) tend to get smaller, so a dark concert may not be the best choice. There is one caveat to all of this exciting camera information: using the specs of the Snapdragon 865 is up to Samsung and other manufacturers of individual phones. Case in point, we were hyped for 4K HDR video capture when the Snapdragon 845 debuted two years ago, only to find out the feature wasn't coming to the Galaxy S9 in the end (Samsung's Exynos chipset, which goes into phones outside the US, didn't have the feature, so it was disabled to create feature parity). (Image credit: Future) Mobile gaming gets an new way to upgrade The Samsung Galaxy S11 is likely to continue in the tradition of past Galaxy S phones by pushing its mobile gaming prowess. The Snapdragon 865 chipset just gave us a preview of what to expect. Qualcomm is claiming 'desktop-quality gaming' with new tools that Samsung can use in conjunction with the Adreno 650 GPU. Desktop Forward Rendering brings desktop quality lighting and post-processing effects, while Game Color Plus smartly boosts saturation and tone mapping (without blanket saturating everything like skin tones). Most impressive, the Snapdragon 865 supports 144Hz display refresh rates. It lines up with recent leaks that point to the Galaxy S11 having 120Hz refresh rates. Like the 200 camera megapixel support, we don't expect all 865-using phone makers to go to 144Hz, at least not in 2020. But we'll likely see a lot more 90Hz and 120Hz screens. What we're eager to see, but equally skeptical about, is the ability for the Adreno 650 graphics chip to receive updated drivers (again, like a desktop gaming PC) through an app store. It's built into Android operating system and the 865 chipset, but still up to phone manufacturers to make the drivers available, and we know Samsung has been slow to get regular Android updates out to its consumers. (Image credit: Future) More Samsung Galaxy S11 news Everything we've heard about the still-unannounced Samsung Galaxy S11 lines up with the capabilities and release time frame of the Snapdragon 865 chipset. It's pushing 5G speeds, megapixel-loaded camera performance, and gaming capabilities that take cues from desktops and consoles. We have more than two months before the suspected Galaxy S11 launch, so there's more time for leaks and rumors to further our understanding of Samsung's new smartphone. However, at this time, the Snapdragon 865, gives us some of the most concrete details on where Samsung and other phone makes will head in 2020. Source: Samsung Galaxy S11 will almost certainly be powered by this Snapdragon 865 5G chip (TechRadar)
  6. Reports: Google, LG, don’t want Qualcomm’s super-expensive Snapdragon 865 Smartphones are too expensive, so some are opting for cheaper chips. Enlarge / The Snapdragon 865. Qualcomm 45 with 37 posters participating Qualcomm really threw a wrench into the flagship SoC market for 2020 with the Snapdragon 865. The new chip was a big departure from previous years thanks to Qualcomm's aggressive push for 5G, which comes with design requirements that make phones bigger, hotter, and more expensive than previous years. While we've already seen Samsung and many Chinese OEMs step up with 865-powered super-flagships that are more expensive than ever, for some OEMs, it seems like the cost is just too high. A pair of recent reports indicated that both Google and LG are skipping out on the Snapdragon 865 this year, opting instead for a cheaper chip. For Google's next flagship smartphone, the Pixel 5, a few signs have popped up indicating it won't use the Snapdragon 865. Pixel phones always pop-up in the Android code repository with fishy codenames before release, and in January, XDA Developers spotted three devices codenamed "Sunfish," "Redfin," and "Bramble." A recent teardown of the Google camera app gave us definitions for each of these codenames. "Sunfish" was labeled as "photo_pixel_2020_midrange_config," aka the Pixel 4a, while Bramble and Redfin were labeled "photo_pixel_2020_config," which should be the Pixel 5 and Pixel 5 XL. As reported by XDA in January, the Pixel 5 and 5 XL don't actually use Qualcomm's flagship Snapdragon 865. In the Android code base, both are running the Snapdragon 765G, a chip that's one step down from the 865 in Qualcomm's lineup. There isn't actually a Snapdragon 865 Google phone in the Android repository. Korean site Naver reports that LG is taking a similar approach to its 2020 flagship, the LG G9 ThinQ: instead of shipping the 865, the company is also opting for the cheaper 765G. HMD did the same thing recently with the launch of the Nokia 8.3. The cost of smartphones is too damn high! There haven't been many yet, but the Snapdragon 865 flagships we've seen so far have been more expensive than ever. The Samsung Galaxy S20 starts at $1,000 for the smallest version and tops out at $1,400 for the S20 Ultra. Last year, the Galaxy S10e started at $750, the S10 was $900, and the S10+ was $1,000. Sony's Xperia 1 II costs €1,199 ($1,287) in Europe, while the Sony Xperia 1 from 2019 was only €799 ($857). There are several reasons for the higher price. First, the Snapdragon 865 has taken a step backward in terms of SoC integration from previous years. The SoC has no onboard modem—instead, it offloads the 4G and 5G connectivity to a separate chip called the X55 Modem. Qualcomm mandates that the 865 must be bundled with the X55 modem, making 5G a requirement for any Snapdragon 865 phone. The extra chip takes up more space in the phone, it costs more, and it needs a more complicated motherboard design. If OEMs want to deliver on the speed promises of 5G, they need mmWave, which requires several extra RF modules to be placed around the phone. mmWave functionality is optional, and for the relatively cheaper or smaller 5G phones, like the base model Galaxy S20, mmWave is left out. It's not just the extra Snapdragon 865 hardware that is leading to higher phone costs. The space and power requirements push OEMs toward making phones even bigger than last year, which encourages bigger screens and bigger batteries. In many cases, you can't make an apples-to-apples comparison of the price of 5G, because everything else has gotten bigger, too. So the cost of the 865 isn't just the cost of the chip package itself—it's also the bigger, more power-hungry phones. Both Google and LG are reportedly opting for the Snapdragon 765G, a chip that is one step below the Snapdragon 865. Instead of being slightly worse in every way, the Snapdragon 765G actually one-ups the 865 in one area: it's Qualcomm's first SoC with an integrated 5G modem. Instead of the two-chip design of the 865, everything on the 765G comes in a neat, single-chip package. This design lets OEMs keep the simpler one-chip SoC solutions that were common in 4G phones in 2019, and in addition to directly being cheaper, this design should also help reduce costs with a smaller footprint and less power usage. The 765G is a bit slower than the 865, but not dramatically so. The 865 is a 7nm, eight-core SoC with four A77 cores and four A55 cores. The 765G uses two older A76 cores and six A55 cores. For companies like Google, with heavy software optimization, you might not even notice. If you've been looking for a phone upgrade this year and the outrageous prices of 2020 flagships have been putting you off, cheaper phones might be on the way later this year. Source: Reports: Google, LG, don’t want Qualcomm’s super-expensive Snapdragon 865 (Ars Technica)
  7. With the 2019 flagships out of the way, it's time to look forward to the 2020 flagships. One of the first rumors surrounding the Galaxy S11 is in. Аlthough, most of it is already expected. For starters, the S11 family is expected to come with Snapdragon 865 and Exynos 9830 depending on the market. But that's hardly of anyone's surprise. Perhaps the usual market arrangements will be at hand - Snapdragon 865 for China and the US and Exynos 9830 for the rest of the world. The lines of code that were discovered in Samsung's One UI 2.0 beta also suggest that the phone will have a face unlock feature, which isn't a new thing again, but confirms we are not getting an elevating selfie camera and Samsung is likely sticking with the punch hole design. Hardware-wise, the code reveals LPDDR5 memory, UFS 3.0 storage and 5G support. It's unknown, however, whether there will be a 4G version or all will have 5G support. Source: Samsung Galaxy S11 to come with Exynos 9830/SD 865 and LPDDR5 RAM (via GSMArena)
  8. The new Snapdragon 865 Plus packs Wi-Fi 6E, 10% higher clocks Qualcomm's flagship SoC gets a midcycle upgrade with the latest Wi-Fi standard. Enlarge Qualcomm 53 with 28 posters participating Qualcomm is announcing its midcycle chip upgrade today: the Snapdragon 865 Plus. Like always, these "Plus" chips are higher-clocked versions of the major designs that were released earlier in the year, but new for the 865 Plus specifically is Wi-Fi 6E compatibility. First, the speed increases: Qualcomm is promising a 10-percent faster CPU and GPU, thanks to faster clock rates. The CPU is officially up to 3.1Ghz now, and since the GPU on the Snapdragon 865 runs at 600MHz, the Plus version should be up around 660MHz. The big news, though, is the addition of Qualcomm's "FastConnect 6900" connectivity chip, which, along with peak speeds of up to 3.6 Gbps, will bring Wi-Fi 6E to smartphones. Currently, Wi-Fi works in the 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies, but 6E will extend Wi-Fi into the 6GHz spectrum. Theoretical top speeds won't increase, but the extra spectrum will help Wi-Fi work better in crowded areas. You can only fit so many bits into the current 2.4GHz and 5GHz airways, and if you and all your neighbors are filling the airwaves and causing a traffic jam, everyone will have to slow down. Six gigahertz Wi-Fi will add more lanes for traffic. In the United States, Wi-Fi 6E will actually support a lot more lanes of traffic. The FCC allocated 70MHz of total spectrum for 2.4GHz and 500MHz of spectrum for 5GHz Wi-Fi. The new 6GHz Wi-Fi 6E is approved for an additional 1.2GHz of spectrum, so in total, Wi-Fi 6E users will have access to three times the available spectrum that exists today. Users who upgrade to 6E will have much more spectrum, and users who don't upgrade will face less competition for the older 2.4 and 5GHz spectrum. You need a new Wi-Fi 6E access point and a Wi-Fi 6E device in order to use Wi-Fi 6E. In the US, the new standard was only ratified by the FCC in April, so there are no consumer 6E access points yet. We've got to start somewhere, though, and it looks like smartphones will make the jump first. Qualcomm's press release mentions that one of the first phones to launch with the Snapdragon 865 Plus (and presumably Wi-Fi 6E) will be the Asus ROG Phone 3, which will be unveiled July 22. The new Snapdragon 865 Plus packs Wi-Fi 6E, 10% higher clocks
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