Snapdragon 888 with optional 5G could mean cheaper flagships

Qualcomm is arguably the king of smartphone processors, at least on the non-iPhone side of the mobile world. Premium flagships are more or less defined by how they carry the latest Snapdragon 8-series chip but that, in turn, also determines part of the cost that consumers will have to bear in the end. The past two generations, in particular, have been more expensive than usual because they already packaged a 5G modem, no questions asked. This year, however, Qualcomm might be taking a step back with a Snapdragon 888 that will give manufacturers the choice whether to go 5G or not.

Integrating 5G inside the SoC (System-on-Chip) is partly a strategy to push 5G adoption in the market. It is also a business strategy to ensure that more 5G modems are sold since one comes with every Snapdragon platform anyway. That said, Qualcomm's strategies may have partially backfired when many OEMs, Google included, opted for the lower tier Snapdragon 7-series that also came with 5G capabilities but at a lower price point.

According to prolific tipster Roland Quandt, Qualcomm might be mixing it up this year with a lower-end Snapdragon 888 derivative. Instead of the already available SM8350, this will have the model number SM8325. Although he doesn't talk about all the differences, he does note that there is no integrated Snapdragon 5G modem in the SM8325.

This could eventually lead to more affordable variants of premium phones, presuming manufacturers won't add anything to raise the costs higher in exchange. This is pretty much the situation two to three years ago when 5G modems had to be added explicitly in Snapdragon 845 and 855 phones.

This rumored chipset, however, might also have other implications beyond cheaper phones. One comment theorized that Huawei might be able to buy this Snapdragon 888, provided it gets an exception. This could also be used to power ARM-based laptops, though Qualcomm does have a different Compute Platform reserved for those.