Qualcomm’s new flagship 5G chip embraced by major Chinese smartphone makers – except Huawei

Che Pan
·3-min read

When US 5G chip leader Qualcomm introduced its latest flagship offering for next-generation smartphones on Tuesday, one customer was conspicuous by its absence.

Qualcomm, whose chips are used in smartphones from the likes of Apple and Samsung Electronics, as well as Chinese vendors led by Huawei Technologies, Oppo and Xiaomi, launched the new Snapdragon 888 chip during a virtual event hosted by the US firm on Tuesday.

Senior executives at Chinese companies Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo and Realme said via videos played at the virtual event that they would soon launch smartphone products featuring the Snapdragon 888.

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“I’m glad that our new flagship smartphone Mi 11 will be one of the first devices with the Snapdragon 888,” Lei Jun, founder and CEO of Xiaomi, said.

Huawei, China’s No 1 smartphone vendor, was not among the Chinese Android smartphone vendors that showed support for Qualcomm’s new 5G chip. Under sanctions imposed by Washington, US chip suppliers are banned from selling products to Huawei without a licence.

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However, Qualcomm has confirmed that it was granted a licence to sell a number of products to Huawei, including some 4G products. The chip supplier did not say if it has received a licence to sell 5G products to the Chinese company.

At the virtual event, Qualcomm president Cristiano Amon said the company expects to work with Honor – the former Huawei sub-brand which was sold to a consortium of over 30 Huawei channel sellers on November 17 – and that cooperation is dependent on “future development”, according to a report by Chinese news outlet Paper.cn.

Qualcomm’s flagship 5G chip comes as more than 1 billion people globally, or 15 per cent of the world’s population, are projected to live in an area that will have 5G coverage by the end of the year, as adoption of the next-generation mobile system accelerates despite uncertainties amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Qualcomm said the new chip will not only power smartphones, but also other 5G-connected devices like personal computers and cloud-based artificial intelligence (AI) products, providing users with a more immersive and interactive experience when using gadgets such as mixed reality glasses.

The Snapdragon 888, which integrates Qualcomm’s third-generation 5G modem and Snapdragon X60 radio frequency system, supports major global millimetre wave and sub-6GHz frequency bands, and works with stand-alone (SA) and non-stand-alone (NSA) networking modes.

The chip is also optimised for photography and videos taken by smartphones, enabling users to capture videos at 120 frames per second, with each frame containing up to 12 million pixels.

Compared with previous-generation platforms, the new sixth-generation Qualcomm AI engine embedded in the 5G chipset delivers significant improvements in performance and energy efficiency, operating at 26 trillion operations per second, according to information provided by Qualcomm.

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