Snapdragon 888 devices could get a lot cheaper soon

The Snapdragon 888 has powered most of the high-end Android smartphones this year, bringing significant upgrades across the board. But, those upgrades also made the chipset an expensive component to offer. It seems like Qualcomm has received the memo as a new leak suggests that cheaper SKUs are on the way.

Announced in December of 2020, the Snapdragon 888 is currently the top-of-the-line smartphone chipset from Qualcomm. It is built on the 5nm process with eight cores and a peak frequency of 2.84GHz. More importantly, its Snapdragon X60 modem enables it to be theoretically future-proof across the world when 5G networks become more mainstream.

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However, that itself has been the issue for many OEMs — having to splurge on 5G components even when most users or countries are far from getting a chance to try it. A makeshift workaround includes not licensing every 5G band from Qualcomm and having only some of them enabled on the Snapdragon 888. Phones from Xiaomi and OnePlus, which usually try to be competitive with their prices, are known to resort to such steps. A smartphone maker can decide which bands to prioritise and offer, but there’s no guarantee that the chosen spectrum will be the one that the country decides to operate in.

A new leak will bring a sigh of relief to such brands, as it seems like Qualcomm has new variants of the Snapdragon 888 in the pipeline. Leakster Digital Chat Station states that three new versions of the chipset will be announced soon: the Snapdragon 888 4G, the Snapdragon 888 Wi-Fi and a Snapdragon 888 Pro. 

(Image credit: Srivatsa Ramesh)

While the source shared no other information about these models, we can make some educated guesses. The Snapdragon 888 4G should be the same platform sans any 5G components such as the modem. This should not only bring the costs down but also potentially improve the running efficiency and reduce the physical space taken by the SoC. Similarly, the Snapdragon 888 Wi-Fi could take things a step further by not offering any cellular connectivity at all, solely relying on wireless networks. It could be useful for devices such as tablets or gaming consoles that need the processing power but can do without the connectivity. 

Lastly, the Snapdragon 888 Pro (or Plus) seems to be an overclocked variant of its non-Pro counterpart, with the Prime core being clocked at 3GHz up from the usual 2.84GHz. It is expected to debut on smartphones in the third quarter of this year and compete with the best offerings from Samsung and Apple. It remains to be seen how it will deal with thermal performance, as the Snapdragon 888 is already quite prone to overheating.

There’s no official information on the existence of either of these processor packages. If the report does end up being true, it will be the first time that Qualcomm will give OEM partners so many options to choose from — potentially allowing them to avoid the higher costs and achieve lower price points. With the platform being 6 months old now, economies of scale are also likely to kick in.

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