Qualcomm may have the lion’s share of the smartphone processor market but there is still one segment that it doesn’t have a firm grasp on. On the lower and budget tiers, MediaTek’s processors are often the go-to solutions, often because of their affordability rather than their features. With MediaTek aggressively pushing its 5G-capable Dimensity processors on high and middle tiers, Qualcomm is now trying to hit where it hurts by promising a 5G Snapdragon 400 series chip next year.
MediaTek actually already has three tiers of 5G Dimensity chips covering high-end and mid-range smartphones. Qualcomm has similar coverage, with the Snapdragon 690 announced last June as its mid-range “global 5G” chip solution. Now it’s aiming even lower, though it doesn’t yet have a concrete name or date for this “mainstream 5G” silicon.
Although not exactly entry-level, a distinction Qualcomm reserves for its Snapdragon 200 series, the Snapdragon 4-series chips are almost as low as you’d want to get for a comfortable smartphone experience. It often carries the stigma of being a cheap, underpowered processor for cheap, underpowered phones and Qualcomm thinks that slapping 5G on it would raise its profile.
Showing advancements in 5G technology as well as showing off its own prowess, Qualcomm will be packaging 5G modems with a new Snapdragon 4-series chip that will be announced later this year. It says that we’ll see phones using that chip in the first quarter of 2021 and, judging by the press release, Xiaomi and OPPO are already onboard.
The chipmaker says that this system-on-chip will help address the problem of 5G adoption in regions like Africa, Asia, and South America, among others. That, however, is only one-third of the problem. Another problem is the actual expansion of networks and cell sites that support 5G and another, perhaps more importantly, is the higher cost that consumers will have to pay both for a 5G service as well as a 5G-capable phone.