Qualcomm's newest Snapdragon 865 chip is pretty great. It is the one you can use if you want your flagship phones to be sold on US carriers, and hooked up to their 5G networks, but these are not its only virtues.
The Snapdragon 865, however, is also an expensive and extensive uptake from a manufacturer's point of view. For starters, the 5G modem it is obligatory paired with, the X55, is not integrated into the chipset itself, but is rather a separate tack-on, with the respective effects on space inside the phone, memory and battery consumption. This is the same situation as the Snapdragon 855 with a X50
modem, and we all know how big, hot and expensive 5G flagships were last year.
Unlike the Snapdragon 855, however, that could be bought from Qualcomm as a standalone unit, the 865 is only bundled with the 5G modem. This requires retooling of the phone's insides, and, if you wanted the much-touted 5G speeds, you needed to additionally pay Qualcomm for adding mmWave filters, and outfit the handset with a lot more antennas all around, as millimeter waves like Verizon's 5G network, can't travel very far, or penetrate even your palm easily. They surely look good in speed tests, though.
Thus, while Samsung kitted every member of the S20 family with an 865 and a 5G modem, Verizon opted for exclusion of, say, the mmWave-less S20 from their roster
, until it builds out its 5G network in the lower bands.
Google Pixel 5 and LG G9 could be priced lower than Galaxy S20 by balking at Snapdragon 865
Other manufacturers are straight out balking at the cumbersome and expensive Snapdragon 865 + X55 modem kit altogether. ArsTechnica
's Ron Amadeo notes that there currently isn't a Google Pixel 5
referenced in the repositories with a Snapdragon 865 on board.
In the new Google Camera app version 7.3, code parsing found references to "sunfish," "redfin," and "bramble" referring to upcoming Pixel
models. The chipsets that will power Google's 2020 generation of Pixels were re-iterated as well. "Sunfish" is built around the lowly "sm7150" platform, or Snapdragon 730, and thus we'd wager to guess that it refers to a Pixel 4a
model without 5G connectivity.
"Redfin" and "bramble," however, will be based on the new Snapdragon 765
midrange chipset that has Qualcomm's first built-in 5G modem, so we may be looking at the two Pixel 5 models
running on a much cheaper alternative to Snapdragon 865. Ditto for LG, whose heretofore "flagship" G-series, will reportedly be retooled to use a Snapdragon 765 as well in the G9 ThinQ
Google has ditched plans for its I/O conference
that was supposed to take place on May 12-14, due to the coronavirus outbreak. There, we expected to see the announcement and release of the Pixel 4a and eventual 4a XL models, or whatever the team from Mountain View decides to name them in 2020. Hopefully, Google will now announce them sooner with a simple press release, and we'd know the chipset situation better.
When we say that Snapdragon 765 is cheaper, we don't mean just the chipset costs, but the price for the whole processor/graphics/modem/antennas kit which when coupled with Qualcomm's licensing fees and the internal design reinventions necessary, could add up significantly to the final assembly cost of the phone. Snapdragon 765, on the other hand, is the only integrated, shovel-ready 5G solution that can be used on US carriers so far.
Thus, phone makers may be determined to put a lid on the ever-increasing prices by opting for the next best alternative to Snapdragon 865. After all, the S20 series ranges from $999-$1599, and part of those tags are covering their futureproof 5G abilities that you won't be able to use to their full extent this year anyway.