Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 690 chip means 5G phones are about to get much cheaper

Qualcomm has announced a new 6-series Snapdragon processor, the Snapdragon 690, destined for mid-range phones in the near future. Why should you care about it? Because it’s the first 6-series chip to support 5G, and that means the price of 5G phones is ready to tumble. By how much? For reference, the Nokia 5.3 has Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 665 inside, and can be purchased for 125 British pounds, or about $160, while the new Motorola Moto E has the Snapdragon 632 chipset and is yours for $149. Last year, Google used the Snapdragon 670 in the $399 Pixel 3a.

That’s a lot less than the entry level 5G phones we see now which use the Snapdragon 765G processor, including the 549 British pound, or about $690, Motorola Edge and the 399 British pound, or around $500, TCL 10 5G. The new wave of cheap 5G phones which use the Snapdragon 690 could potentially reduce this cost to $400 or much less, based on comparable phones today.

The octa-core, 2GHz Snapdragon 690 will use Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X51 modem, which is not integrated into the chipset, and connect to Sub-6 GHz 5G networks. While Sub-6 doesn’t deliver the headline speeds mmWave 5G connections can, there’s more coverage and is in far wider use around the world. In the U.S. T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T use Sub-6. Qualcomm has upgraded the chipset’s ability elsewhere too, adding support for 120Hz refresh rate screens, 4K HDR video, and the ability to use cameras with up to 192 megapixels.

Qualcomm’s not alone in targeting those who don’t want to spend $1,000 on a 5G phone now or in the future. MediaTek’s doing the same with its Dimensity range of 5G capable processors. The octa-core, 2GHz Dimensity 800, which also supports 120Hz refresh rate screens and 4K HDR video, is found in a small selection of phones available in Asia, including the approximately $270 Huawei Enjoy Z. MediaTek’s range continues with the higher spec Dimensity 820 and Dimensity 1000 5G chips.

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