Why it matters: Qualcomm has yet to include 5G connectivity in its flagship mobile platform, which means manufacturers like Samsung will have to continue to add that in upcoming flagships like the Galaxy S12. This requires some sacrifices in terms of added space for the separate modem chip and lower battery runtime.
At Qualcomm's Tech Summit in Maui, Hawaii, the company announced the launch of its two new mobile computing platforms, the Snapdragon 865 and the Snapdragon 765 5G, which are set to power next year's crop of smartphones and tablets.
Senior VP and general manager of mobile technologies at Qualcomm revealed the company's two-fold vision for 5G connectivity. It appears that device makers will have to make a choice between flagship performance and integrated 5G, as the Snapdragon 865 SoC will still be augmented by the Snapdragon X55 Modem in order to deliver "truly global 5G."
We don't yet know the full details about the Snapdragon 865 Mobile Platform, there's some indication that it features 8K video capture and a fifth-generation AI engine with natural language processing capabilities at up to 15 trillion operations per second.
The company told The Verge that it will only support 5G devices with the Snapdragon 865, meaning you either take the 865 SoC + X55 modem together, or you don't get the SoC. The lack of an integrated solution could leave an option for manufacturers to deliver flagship specs in 4G-only variants of the same mobile device, Qualcomm is not leaving that door open.
In any case, the decision to integrate 5G connectivity in the Snapdragon 765 and 765G means Qualcomm is banking on mid-range smartphones to drive 5G adoption. The company expects global shipments of 5G-ready smartphones to reach 450 million in 2021, but so far the rollout of upgraded infrastructure has been relatively slow.
The speed of 5G adoption will depend on various factors, like overcoming fears around the safety of the new technology, as well as reluctance to working with Chinese tech giants like Huawei to develop cheaper access, which is especially important for covering remote areas. Russia, for example, doesn't have a problem doing so, but the situation is much more complicated in places like the United States.