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

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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Becky Roberts

Becky is the managing editor of What Hi-Fi? and, since her recent move to Melbourne, also the editor of Australian Hi-Fi magazine. During her 10+ years in the hi-fi industry, she has reviewed all manner of audio gear, from budget amplifiers to high-end speakers, and particularly specialises in headphones and head-fi devices. In her spare time, Becky can often be found running, watching Liverpool FC and horror movies, and hunting for gluten-free cake.