Qualcomm's three new phone chips skip 5G for a good reason

There may be a lot of hype trailing the roll out of 5G here in the US, but we're going to be waiting a long time before it becomes the new global standard for mobile internet. With that in mind, today Qualcomm introduced three new mobile processors centered around 4G: the Snapdragon 720G, 662, and 460. While we expect to see these new mobile processors to feature in phones all over the world, it seems that a major area of focus will be India, where Qualcomm says it'll be supporting 4G well into the future.

That focus on India is also evident in some of the features these new chips are touting. Specifically, all three of these mobile platforms support Navigation with Indian Constellation – a first for Qualcomm's CPUs. The 720G, 662, and 460 can all tap into the seven satellites used by the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System, with Qualcomm promising improved location services as a result.

Obviously, the Snapdragon 720G is the high-end processor of the bunch, with Qualcomm saying that it supports HDR gameplay and video, with support for 4K video capture and up to 192MP sensors. Also shipping on the 720G is Qualcomm's 5th-gen AI engine and the X15 LTE modem, which supports 3-carrier aggregation, 4x4 MIMO and download speeds of up to 800Mbps. The processor also supports Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1, and it's built using Qualcomm's 8nm process.

Compared to the 720G, the Snapdragon 662 is more of a mid-range CPU, but Qualcomm says that it still comes with "astonishing camera and AI capabilities," which are firsts for the 6-series. The built-in Spectra 340T will support triple camera configurations, while the platform's 3rd-gen AI Engine (a noticeable step down from the 5th-gen engine in the 720G) will lend itself to improved night photography, the creation of user avatars, and face and voice authentication.

Like the 720G, the 662 will support Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1, but it won't have quite the same mobile networking prowess as its bigger brother. Using the X11 modem, Qualcomm says that the 662 will be capable of download speeds up to 390Mbps through 2-carrier aggregation and 2x2 MIMO.

Finally, we come to the Snapdragon 460. Though this is the low-end processor of this trio, Qualcomm is positioning it as a big leap in capability for the 4-series. It shares a number of features with the 662, such as support for the 3rd-gen AI Engine and the X11 LTE modem. With the Spectra 340 ISP working in tandem with the AI engine, we'll likely see much of the same support for AI-assisted photography and voice recognition as well.

It isn't much of a secret why Qualcomm is rolling out three new 4G processors at a time when 5G seems to dominate the mobile networking discussion: price. While 5G is exciting, it isn't very widespread at the moment and phones supporting it tend to be on the expensive side. Both of those factors are keeping 5G out of the mainstream for now, so it's little surprise that Qualcomm is continuing to push lower-cost 4G SoCs while the 5G build out continues.

In any case, the company says that we should see the first phones using the Snapdragon 720G to launch at some point in Q1 2020, while devices built on the 662 and 460 will launch closer to the end of the year.