This week, Qualcomm is introducing three new Snapdragon systems-on-a-chip (SoCs) on the South Asian subcontinent. While there is nothing unusual about cascading products from more to less developed markets over time, this introduction is tailored rather specifically.
The main positioning of this Snapdragon suite is to bring advanced features to a market unlikely to swing over to 5G cellular anytime soon. A prime example of such a feature is WiFi6. All the products, which fall in the middle of Qualcomm’s overall 4G lineup, have the ability to transmit and receive WiFi6, the latest version of the wireless LAN technology. WiFi6 can be adopted piecemeal — as it involves no infrastructure investment, only a WiFi6 router and enabled devices — and is therefore likely to come on stream in India much sooner than 5G. For higher capacity and throughput, the new parts include support for more WiFi antennas (eight, up from four) and a more efficient way to manage multiple client devices. For better security, they can use WPA3, the latest protocol. Also, something called target wake-up time lets phones power down unless it’s their designated moment to transmit or receive.
Kedar Kondap, vice president of Snapdragon product management, told a group of analysts that of the 8 billion connections all over the globe, half of them are 4G, providing a solid base for further 4G development. Thus, recent updates to 4G technologies have been packed into the new parts.
For example, all three SoCs have updated graphics processing units and faster central processing units as well as a vector processing unit and related software that enable artificial intelligence (AI) operations. Also, an enhanced image signal processor serves to improve photo and video quality. In addition, Qualcomm has brought its low-power sensing hub into the new lineup to manage information coming from smartphone sensors efficiently.
Other advanced features include carrier aggregation (the ability to gang multiple base frequencies together to increase data rates), dual SIM/dual VoLTE capabilities (to keep, for example, personal and work identities separate), and higher quality audio for voice calls.
What makes this set of products specifically Indian, though, is the integration of support for NavIC, the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System, which was only recently put into full service. NavIC operates within India’s borders and for a few hundred miles beyond them.
The parts themselves, then, are named Snapdragon 460, 662, and 720G, in order from bottom to top. The 460 is positioned as an entry-level mobile platform with greatly enhanced performance over previous SoCs at a similar price point. The 662 is designed for AI operations and advanced camera functions. The 720G is seen as a mobile gaming platform.
The Indian introductions, with their specificity for that market, are only the latest in specialized spins that Qualcomm has taken on its basic mobile SoC. Increasingly, the company is designing parts better tailored to particular applications. This principle lets the company more closely match its products to the requirements of individual markets, which enhances its competitive position. Helping out, silicon manufacturing processes have advanced to the point where layout tweaks can be done more efficiently, making shorter runs of more diverse parts more economic.
Snapdragons 460, 662, and 720G could easily be used in developing markets other than India, and even in the United States, where there’s still plenty of 4G connections up and running. Although no other region uses NavIC, at least for now, the parts also support the satellite positioning systems of Galileo (Europe), GLONASS (Russia), QZSS (Japan), GPS (United States), and BeiDou (China). So, really, these Snapdragons could serve anywhere users want more advanced features but don’t yet (and won’t for at least several years) have 5G available to them.