Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 855 smartphone platform paves way for 5G, 4K HDR and wireless audio

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Ten years since the first commercial implementation of 4G, 5G has (very nearly) arrived. 2019 will be the year of 5G – as we've known for some time – and now we have details on the world’s first commercial 5G mobile platform that will see several premium-tier smartphones capable of faster-than-ever data cellular speeds.

At its Snapdragon Tech Summit event in Hawaii, Qualcomm has unveiled its next-gen chip, the Snapdragon 855 Mobile Platform, which supports 5G NR mmWave (which Qualcomm says can offer 20x faster speeds over 4G) as well as multi-gigabit 4G connectivity for unprecedented 4G speeds.

The processor brings a claimed 45 per cent and 20 per cent improvement in CPU and GPU performance respectively, while a new Hexagon 690 processor has been developed for AI, supposedly bringing improvements to voice-assistant capabilities and features, such as Elevoc’s noise cancellation for clearer phone calls. Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 4+ technology promises to half-fill a smartphone’s battery in only 15 minutes, too.

But arguably one of the most interesting features of the Snapdragon 855 is its camera-powered processor, which promises ‘better than ever’ 4K HDR playback. It enables 4K HDR video capture in portrait mode and HDR10+ support (another two ‘world first’ claims). Power consumption for video shooting has been improved by around 30 percent compared to what its previous-generation chip is capable of, too.

As we learned in August, the Snapdragon 855 also supports Qualcomm’s aptX Adaptive Bluetooth codec, which has been designed to improve robustness and deliver a ‘glitch-free’ experience, and could be the codec that eventually sees Bluetooth surpass 48KHz transmission.

We can expect several 2019 flagship (and perhaps near-flagship) handsets to be powered by Snapdragon 855, but who will be first? OnePlus announced its next flagship would be, but it has since been confirmed that that was a miscommunication. The race, therefore, is on.

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