Tuesday, 05 January 2021 21:20

Qualcomm brings 5G to Snapdragon 480, an affordable platform for lower-end smartphones


Qualcomm's 888 SoC is its flagship processor for flagship smartphones, with the 7-series for high-end models ,the 6-series for mid-range devices, the 4-series for low-end smartphones and the 2-series for the entry-level, so with 5G now on the new 480, 5G is sure to spread far and wide in 2021.

It won't be long before you won't be able to buy very many 3G and 4G-only smartphones anymore, with 5G's reach spreading ever wider with every passing day.

To take advantage of 5G, you need a 5G-equipped smartphone, and with the technology now spreading into even low-end devices, the chances your next smartphone will have 5G are high, unless you're buying a refurbished or second-hand smartphone from most of 2020 or earlier.

Of course, what were once high-end technologies once seen only in ultra-premium flagship processors like the new 888 effectively always end-up being commoditised, so it's no surprise to see Qualcomm state its new Snapdragon 480 5G mobile platform will not only accelerate global 5G commercialisation, but also delivers "series-defying" features to the "mass-volume smartphone segment to power in-demand productivity and entertainment experiences".

Now it has to be said that Apple works in a different way with its processors - only its flagship models have 5G at the moment, but while Apple might create a 5G-equipped iPhone SE 2021 model, and this year will see iPhone 13 models with 5G, which will mean current iPhone 12 flagships fall in price, an iPhone of any kind running the latest iOS could well be more important than a cheap Android with 5G, at least for iPhone fans.

Apple doesn't do cheap, as its own earlier models fulfil that role, and with 4G still more than fast enough for most everyday uses, as well as being more widely available, along with fast Wi-Fi connected to fast NBN or other high-speed broadband connections in the home or office, not having 5G can be outweighed by having an iPhone instead of an Android.

However for Android lovers used to inexpensive smartphones, the 5G choices will be greater than ever in 2021, and the Qualcomm Snapdragon 480 is a great sign of that - and a sign your next Android smartphone, if brand new, will probably have 5G this year, and certainly next.

Kedar Kondap, the VP of Product Management at Qualcomm said: "Qualcomm Technologies continues to accelerate 5G commercialisation globally to make 5G smartphones more accessible, especially as people worldwide continue to connect remotely.

“The Snapdragon 480 5G Mobile Platform will exceed OEM’s and consumer’s expectations in delivering high- and mid-tier features at an affordable price.”

So, what does the Snapdragon 480 5G Mobile Platform offer?

We're told we'll find "the most advanced 4-series capabilities to date", which include:

5G and Connectivity:

"Snapdragon 480 features the Snapdragon X51 5G Modem-RF System to support mmWave and Sub-6 GHz 5G; Standalone (SA) and Non-standalone(NSA) modes; Time Division Duplexing (TDD), Frequency Division Duplexing (FDD),and Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS) for top mobile performance and connectivity. The Snapdragon X51 enables multi-gigabit 5G connections for near instantaneous uploads and downloads and supports multiple frequencies for flexibility and accessibility".

With Qualcomm FastConnect 6200, we're told that Snapdragon 480 "also offers 2x2 Wi-Fi (dual Wi-Fi antennas) with a set of key Wi-Fi 6 features, such as 8x8 sounding with multi-user MIMO, for significant range and performance improvements, in addition to Bluetooth 5.1 and advanced wireless audio capabilities. Snapdragon 480 features additional trailblazing wireless technologies such as support for Dual-frequency GPS and NavIC for accurate location positioning".

Performance and Battery:

"Snapdragon 480 allows smartphone users to stay productive longer and recharge faster. The platform, based on 8nm process, features the Qualcomm® Kryo 460 CPU with up to 2.0 GHz, Qualcomm Adreno 619 GPU, and Qualcomm Hexagon 686 Processor to deliver up to 100% performance improvement in CPU and GPU, and up to 70% AI performance improvement compared to the previous generation. Snapdragon 480 also supports Qualcomm® Quick Charge 4+ technology, a first in a 4-series".


"Capture stunning photos and videos with Qualcomm Spectra 345 ISP – the first triple ISP in a 4 series. Capture from all three cameras simultaneously. Triple 13MP photo capture can deliver an image from the ultrawide, wide and telephoto camera all at once or capture triple 720p videos simultaneously".


"The Snapdragon 480 upgrades streaming and gaming user experiences. The 120fps FHD+ display support provides incredible content clarity and quick, smooth graphics rendering. The platform offers fully immersive entertainment with Qualcomm aptX audio, optimised gaming experiences across popular titles, seamless streaming for HD content, and faster application load times".

What Qualcomm's partners have to say:

Adam Ferguson, global head of product marketing at HMD Global, the home of Nokia phones said: “Democratising technology is at the heart of what we do at HMD Global. Our close collaboration with Qualcomm Technologies is allowing us to bring fantastic technology to all. We introduced our first 5G smartphone (the Nokia 8.3 5G) less than a year ago and the new Snapdragon 480 5G Mobile Platform is a huge step towards global 5G access. We’re excited about the opportunities it will bring to our users.

“Congratulations to the team at Qualcomm Technologies – we look forward to showing the world what powerful chipsets, combined with quality hardware and secure software can do!”

Brenda, who didn't have a second name listed, and who is a "product manager" at OPPO, said: "“We are excited to leverage the new Snapdragon 480 5G Mobile Platform to scale consumer access to and use of 5G globally.

“We look forward to continuing our collaboration to bring consumers a wider selection of affordable smartphone choices with enhanced mobile experiences.”

Heliang Liu, the product director at vivo said: "We share Qualcomm Technologies’ commitment to bring accessible 5G mobile devices to more people around the world.

“We are excited that with the new Snapdragon 480 5G Mobile Platform will be able to deliver 5G connectivity, low power capabilities, and new entertainment features on smartphones devices at scale.”

When will the first Qualcomm Snapdragon 480 devices with 5G arrive?

The first commercial devices powered by the Snapdragon 480 5G Mobile Platform are expected to be announced early this year. 

The 480-series product brief PDF is here.

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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