Home >Technology >News >NextGen smartphone chips are about more than just 5G

2020 has long been earmarked as the year when the 5G revolution begins, and it’s no surprise that smartphone companies are preparing for that. At its Snapdragon Tech Summit held in Hawaii last week, Qualcomm Inc. announced its newest chipsets for smartphones with support for 5G connectivity.

The company isn’t the only one getting ready for 2020 though. Taiwanese chipmaker MediaTek and Korea’s Samsung have also unveiled chips that support 5G connectivity.

However, while 5G connectivity is indeed a huge part of what next-generation chips will bring to the fore, there are other benefits, too.

Better cameras

The Snapdragon 865, which is Qualcomm’s flagship chipset for next year, supports camera sensors up to 200MP resolution. In fact, at its keynote in Hawaii, the company said it expects such high resolution cameras on smartphones in 2020.

Companies like Xiaomi have already started selling phones with 108MP cameras. But with support for high-resolution cameras on the processor itself, smartphone makers can take full advantage of such sensors and enable new features.

Even Samsung’s Exynos 990 chipset supports cameras up to 108MP resolution, while Huawei’s Kirin 990 chipset focuses on other features like noise reduction in photos.

Another big addition in the Snapdragon 865 is the chipset’s ability to record videos in 8K resolution. That doubles the resolution in which smartphone cameras can record videos today.

More AI apps

While AI performance of a chipset is somewhat difficult to quantify, almost every chipset maker has touted this performance over the past couple of years. In 2020, Samsung’s and Qualcomm’s premier chips support 10 and 15 trillion operations per second, while Huawei has also claimed improvements in AI processing capabilities of the company’s Kirin 990 chip.

“AI and other deep-tech are disrupting the entire chip industry as well. Not just adding more power of compute to chips, folks are researching new chipset architecture as well, which is significant," said Faisal Kawoosa, founder of techARC.

More importantly though, is that what this means for you is that more AI applications can be used on phones. For instance, Qualcomm showed a live demo of speech being transcribed in two languages in real time by its chipset. That doesn’t just require high AI performance, but also efficient processing so as to not use too much power.

“With advanced SoC (security operations centre)-level AI capabilities, smartphones will be able to perform a variety of tasks such as processing natural languages, including real-time translation; helping users to take better photos by intelligently identifying objects and adjusting camera settings accordingly. But this is just the start. Machine learning will make smartphones understand user behaviour in an unprecedented manner. Analysing user behaviour patterns, devices will be able to make decisions and perform tasks that will reduce physical interaction time between the user and the device," said Tarun Pathak, associate director, Counterpoint Research.

New applications through 5G

That 5G connectivity will be supported in smartphones in 2020 is no surprise. However, 5G means much more for smartphones than just faster internet. According to Qualcomm, 5G is key for new form factors in smartphones as well.

“Like every generation of wireless, devices are going to change. I also believe we will have other devices once 5G is deployed, like eyeglasses," said Cristiano Amon, president of Qualcomm.

Further, 2020 will also see 5G come down to more affordable smartphones. Qualcomm announced the Snapdragon 765 and 765G chipsets with 5G support, which are meant for slightly more affordable phones. The company also announced that it will be bringing 5G support down to its Snapdragon 600 series, which is meant for even cheaper phones, by the end of 2020.

“Qualcomm’s goal is to drive ‘real 5G’ down the price curve in all markets. By real 5G, Qualcomm believes Sub6, mmWave, DSS (Dynamic Spectrum Sharing), and SA (Standalone) all needs to be supported," wrote Jeff Fieldhack, research director at Counterpoint Research in his blog post about Qualcomm’s announcements.

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