Qualcomm Snapdragon 690 Will Enable Mid-Tier 5G Phones

Qualcomm unveiled its next step towards widespread availability of 5G-enabled smartphones. The Snapdragon 690 is a more economical mobile platform with 5G connectivity, and support for cameras with up to 192-megapixel photos and 30-frame-per-second 4K HDR videos, the latter two based on AI chip enhancements for high bitrates. Snapdragon 690 incorporates the X51 modem, which offers global 5G band and global multi-SIM support, although it’s only capable of connecting to sub-6GHz 5G networks, excluding millimeter wave.

VentureBeat reports that the lack of support for millimeter wave 5G networks “means that the 690 is initially likely to appear in devices targeted at non-U.S. markets.” According to Qualcomm, “the Snapdragon 690 will enable 5G to come to smartphones priced to be affordable to over 2 billion users across the world.”

The Snapdragon 690, in comparison with Qualcomm’s earlier Snapdragon 675, relies on a Kryo 560 CPU, which “promises up to 20 percent better performance, graphics rendering that’s as much as 60 percent faster, and support for 120Hz displays.”

Also integrated in the Snapdragon 690 is Qualcomm’s fifth generation AI Engine, which will create a “70 percent improvement in AI tasks compared with the 675, enabling camera improvements such as smooth transitions between ultrawide, regular, and telephoto lenses.” For the first time with the 6-series, Qualcomm is integrating its Hexagon Tensor Accelerator, for “high-speed, artifact-free real-time AR photo filters.”

OEMs, however, will make the decision as to “whether to make full use of the 690’s camera capabilities by incorporating third-party imaging sensors and lenses.” The Snapdragon-enabled phones are expected to be priced in the $300 to $400 range.

OEMs are expected to announce these phones in the second half of 2020. LG, Motorola, Nokia, Sharp, TCL and Wingtech are likely to be among the brands that release them. Qualcomm also noted that its latest 7-series Snapdragon chips (765/765G), delayed by COVID-19, are now “imminent.”

Business Insider reports that the Snapdragon 690-enabled 5G phones will be slow to sell for three reasons. First is the relative unavailability of 5G networks. The Ericsson Mobility Report for June 2020 stated that, “only 5 percent of the global population lived in areas where they could receive 5G service,” mainly in large cities in the U.S., China, South Korea and Switzerland.

Second, AT&T and Verizon in the U.S. are building their 5G networks with millimeter wave, which excludes the Snapdragon 690 phones. Third, due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, shopping for consumer electronics will be down 30 percent to 49 percent, said a McKinsey survey that spoke with consumers in the U.S., Brazil, the U.K., France, Spain and India.

“Consumers within a flagship segment often choose to slow upgrade cycles or turn to payment plans rather than purchasing a less premium device,” says BI.

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