The Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 is coming in the Galaxy S9, but at least someone’s looking forward to the Snapdragon 850. But what is it?
We haven’t even seen the first Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 phone yet. That’s probably going to be the Samsung Galaxy S9, being announced at Mobile World Congress later this month. But I’m already hearing about yet another 2018 chipset coming from Qualcomm: the Snapdragon 850.
All I’ve heard about the Snapdragon 850 is that it’s probably coming this year, not next year, and that it’ll probably appear first in Qualcomm’s Windows always-connected PCs.
So what is the Snapdragon 850? Qualcomm has not been bumping its processor numbers by five recently. The Snapdragon 820 was followed by the 835, which was followed by the 845. Smaller increments tell a tale of smaller improvements: the 821 is a slight improvement on the 820, and the 650 was followed by the 652 and the 653.
I’m going to make a bold guess and say that the “50” in “850” has to do with Qualcomm’s X50 modem, the first consumer 5G modem. Wireless carriers have been speeding up their 5G timelines, with AT&T recently saying it will launch mobile 5G by the end of this year. Because no 5G phones will be available yet, AT&T’s system will launch with a “puck,” or mobile 5G hotspot.
But what if the “Snapdragon 850” is a Snapdragon 845 with an X50 modem added on? Qualcomm may not be able to fit the 845 plus the X50 modem into a smartphone-sized package yet, but there’s a lot more room to play in PCs and tablets. So the 850 could enable laptops around the end of this year to connect to the first 5G networks; it would be followed in early to mid-2019 by the 855, which would be the first 5G smartphone chipset.
I’m way out on a limb here with speculation. But I think Qualcomm still wants to get a jump on Intel, whose XMM8060 5G modem will be ready in mid-2019. Relying on the typical mid-year Snapdragon cycle could put Qualcomm too close to Intel’s launch, but soldering an X50 to an 845 and calling it an 850, for Christmas, would keep Qualcomm in the lead.
Yes, I know it’s more than just soldering. Creative license. But as I said, all I know is that it’s called the Snapdragon 850, and it’s coming. What do you think it is?