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Qualcomm Upgrades Low-End Phones

July 23, 2019

Author: Tom R. Halfhill

Premium smartphones costing $1,000 or more attract the lust and glory, but low-cost phones for emerging markets are selling faster. The majority of smartphones sold this year will retail for less than $200. To deliver more features at even lower prices—$75 to $125—Qualcomm is upgrading its 2xx-series chipset. For the first time, the company’s entry-level processors will have 64-bit CPUs, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and dual image signal processors (ISPs)—plus support for an HD+ display, full-HD video capture, a 13-megapixel camera (or dual 8MP cameras), and dual SIM cards.

The new Qualcomm 215 platform supersedes the four-year-old Snapdragon 212. (The company now drops the “Snapdragon” brand from its entry-level tier.) The foundation of both chipsets is an application processor with an integrated cellular modem. We expect the 215 to begin volume production this quarter, followed by the first phones within three months. Competitors have been shipping entry-level 64-bit processors for a year or more, so the 215 helps the company catch up in this price tier.

The new processor has four Arm Cortex-A53 CPUs operating at 1.3GHz, boosting performance by 50% over the 32-bit Cortex-A5 and Cortex-A7 CPUs in the Snapdragon 212. Long a staple of the midrange Snapdragon 4xx-series, the A53 brings 64-bit horsepower to the 2xx-series for the first time.

Twin ISPs allow a phone to mount one 13MP rear camera or two 8MP cameras. Previously, the 2xx-series enabled only one 8MP rear camera. To complement the higher resolution, the 215 brings additional new features to this line: video capture at 1,080x720 pixels and 30 frames per second and support for displays of up to 1,560x720 pixels. These capabilities give entry-level smartphones a bit more visual appeal, which is a strong selling point of higher-price phones.

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