With Snapdragon 480 5G, Qualcomm paves way for cheaper, faster Android

Qualcomm is aiming to nudge 5G further down into the mass-market, with the new Snapdragon 480 5G Mobile Platform paving the way for more affordable Android phones that don't sacrifice support for fifth-generation mobile networks. Latest in the Snapdragon 4-Series, the new chipset has the potential to bring 5G within reach of sub-$200 devices, if manufacturers are of a mind.

Though not the cheapest chipsets in the Snapdragon range, the 4-Series is inside some of the most affordable Android smartphones currently available in the US. The Nokia 3.4 announced last September, for example, uses the Snapdragon 460 chipset – which this new Snapdragon 480 succeeds – and clocks in at $180 unlocked. What it lacks, though, is 5G.

The Snapdragon 480 5G will correct that, with the Snapdragon X51 5G Modem-RF system. It'll support not only the more pervasive Sub-6 GHz 5G flavor of 5G networks, which are more ubiquitous but also not the fastest type, but also mmWave. There's support for features that until now we've only seen on Qualcomm's more expensive chipsets, like Standalone (SA) and Non-standalone (NSA) modes, TDD and FDD capabilities, and Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS). Qualcomm says phones could see up to 2.5 Gbps downloads and 660 Mbps uploads, network-depending.

In addition there's the Qualcomm FastConnect 6200 with some – though not necessarily all – of the WiFi 6 feature set. That includes 8x8 sounding with multi-user MIMO. Bluetooth 5.1 and dual-frequency GPS are also included. In short, while more expensive Android phones in 2021 may have faster 5G and WiFi, devices based on the Snapdragon 480 5G will still undoubtedly be quicker than what their users had before.

Indeed, compared to the Snapdragon 460, the new chipset should deliver up to a 100-percent improvement in both CPU and GPU performance, Qualcomm says. That's down to the Kryo 460 CPU running at up to 2.0 GHz, and the Adreno 619 GPU. AI performance is up to 70-percent faster, with the Hexagon 686 Processor.

In addition to 5G joining the 4-Series for the first time, the Snapdragon 480 also includes Quick Charge 4+ as a new addition to the range. The Spectra 345 ISP brings the 4-Series' first triple ISP, able to capture from three 13-megapixel sensors simultaneously. That could mean getting shots from wide, ultra-wide, and telephoto lenses at the same time, or three streams of up to 720p HD video at the same time.

Finally, there's support for 120fps FHD+ displays and Qualcomm aptX audio. Qualcomm says the first devices to use the new Snapdragon 480 5G will be announced early this year, though it'll be down to individual OEMs to fill in those exact details. Still, with Nokia-making HMD Global, OnePlus, OPPO, and Vivo all announcing their support today, it seems like those in the market for a more affordable route into 5G won't be short on options.