Qualcomm Unveils Snapdragon 888 5G Mobile Platform For Major Performance Leap In Flagship Phones

Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
Qualcomm is kicking off its Snapdragon Tech Summit today, a two-day event to talk about all things Snapdragon, and the company's plans for keeping the pedal firmly pushed to the metal in mobile hardware designs and features. In the more immediate future, those plans include the Snapdragon 888 5G mobile platform.

Why call it "888," you might be wondering? Qualcomm understandably has a special fondness for that particular digit, because "for over a decade, the number eight has stood for premium."  Indeed, the Snapdragon 800 series has typically been best-in-class, powering generations of flagship smartphones and other hardware devices.

What's interesting about the path forward is that it is no longer simply about raw compute power and graphics, but also 5G connectivity. Technically, 5G has arrived, with all of the major wireless carriers touting 5G coverage in the United States. Realistically, however, the true benefits of 5G have yet to be realized on a large scale—it takes time for mass adoption on the hardware side, and faster 5G networks have their limitations.

This is underscored by Verizon's 5G speeds going from first to worst when it flipped the switch on low-band 5G connections. Low-band and mid-band 5G can travel further and penetrate objects better than millimeter wave (mmWave), but they are slower. It's a sobering reminder that 5G is not quite where we need it be yet. That is not stopping companies like Qualcomm from making preparations.

"Operators will unleash the full 5G capacity with mmWave… providing a critical competitive advantage within the next few years to address massive increases in mobile data demand," Qualcomm says.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 Phone

Qualcomm has already commercialized its 5G Snapdragon platforms across its roadmap (8, 7, and 6 series), and in September the company confirmed it will ship its 5G-enabled 4 series for affordable 5G devices in early 2021. The company also estimates that some 175-225 million 5G handsets will ship by the end of this year, and it expects that number to balloon to 450-550 million in 2021, representing a 150 percent increase (Qualcomm also plans to launch its own premium Snapdragon branded phones).

The upcoming Snapdragon 888 5G mobile platform will play a role in this. Paired with Qualcomm's Snapdragon X60 5G modem-RF system, the company will position itself to offer mmWave and sub-6GHz across all major bands around the globe, as well support for 5G aggregation, global multi-SIM, and dynamic spectrum sharing.

"Creating premium experiences takes a relentless focus on innovation. It takes long term commitment, even in the face of immense uncertainty," said Cristiano Amon, president, Qualcomm Incorporated. "It takes an organization that’s focused on tomorrow, to continue to deliver the technologies that redefine premium experiences."

Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 RC Car

Qualcomm points out that it builds foundational technologies for smartphones first, then extends them into broader markets, like extended reality (XR), edge and cloud AI products, and even remote controlled cars connected to 5G mmWave, the latter of which it is showing off at its event today.

Several partners are on board with the continued evolution of the Snapdragon platform. That includes Verizon, which worked with Ericsson to demonstrate the 5G connected RC car using a Snapdragon 888 reference design with the Snapdragon X60 modem.

As for the specifics of the Snapdragon 888 chipset, stay tuned—those details will be shared tomorrow on the second and final day of the tech summit.