24 May 2019
Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 855 chip will add fuel to the 5G race in the global smartphone industry. Photo: Bloomberg
Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 855 chip will add fuel to the 5G race in the global smartphone industry. Photo: Bloomberg

What to expect in 2019 flagship smartphones

Chipmaker Qualcomm has unveiled new mobile phone processor chips as it aims to cater to the needs of leading global smartphone makers which are preparing for the 5G era.

The Snapdragon 855 chip, showcased at a company event in Hawaii on Tuesday, is expected to be widely adopted in the first wave of 5G handsets that will come into the market as soon as 2019.

Featuring a processor and a modem to connect to wireless networks, Snapdragon 855 will enable data speeds that are in an altogether different league compared to the current 4G devices.

Customers will be able to enjoy the new technology as early as the first half next year.

Qualcomm, which has taken the lead in 5G mobile technology development, has named several smartphone makers that it says will use the 855 platforms on their smartphones next year.

The list includes Chinese brands such as Xiaomi, ZTE, vivo and OPPO, Taiwan’s HTC, Japan’s Fujitsu and Sony, and Finland’s Nokia. The most important partner, however, is the Korean tech giant Samsung Electronics.

At the Hawaii event, Samsung was invited to the stage to make an announcement that the company will release a 5G smartphone powered by Snapdragon 855 in the first half of 2019.

Industry watchers speculate the first such Samsung product could be the Galaxy S10 series, which, according to latest rumors, will bear a full curve screen, a dual front camera beneath the display panel and triple-camera system at the back of the phone.

Snapdragon 855 features Qualcomm’s 4th-generation, multi-core AI engine to deliver up to 3 times the AI performance of last year’s chip. This should allow for more efficient and powerful on-device machine learning to power the next set of smart features, tech news website 9to5google noted.

The 855 bears a Computer Vision feature to enable cutting-edge computational photography and video capture. Phones will be able to recognize objects and faces better, and support a new fingerprint sensor that can read a user’s fingerprint through the glass screen of a mobile device.

The chip will also have augmented reality, with Qualcomm touting “immersive extended reality” experiences. In other features, there is the promise of a “next level gaming experiences”.

With so many new features in the new chip, Qualcomm claimed a 45 percent improvement in general performance compared to the Snapdragon 845. Meanwhile, graphics performance is said to be boosted around 20 percent compared to the previous chipset generation.

Among other claims, Qualcomm says the 855 consumes 30 percent less power while playing 4K/60fps streaming video content when compared to the 845.

Looking at the overall specifications and features, tech analysts have remarked that if Qualcomm’s testing numbers are true, the phones could last hours longer than previous generation, which would be a pretty significant upgrade.

One of the selling points for 855 smartphones in the future could be their capability to shoot portrait mode video with the background blurred while keeping the subject in focus. 855 is the first to put portrait mode into a 4K HDR video, as tech news platform cnet noted.

The 855 will be the first mobile chip supporting 5G mobile technology. Qualcomm appears to be running ahead of Apple and Huawei on the front.

It would be interesting to see whether the two can catch up soon in the 5G race, given the fact that 5G will be the only thing that many users would deem reason enough to upgrade from their existing high-end devices.

There has been some speculation that Apple will postpone the launch of 5G iPhone to 2020. There is talk that Apple is reluctant to bet on “immature technology” just yet, as it wants to avoid potential risks to its user experience.

If that is true, it would mean the Android camp will be taking the lead in offering 5G smartphones in the mass market for at least 12 months. 

Many people agree that smartphone development in the past few years has been lacking of surprise in terms of new features and functions. If the 855 chipsets deliver as promised and Qualcomm keeps making further enhancements, it will surely prove good news for the mobile phone industry as well as consumers.

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EJ Insight writer

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