Qualcomm will roll out sub-$50 feature phones with Category 4 LTE.

Qualcomm announced last week that it would move away from the Snapdragon branding for its lower-end platforms, and we're now getting a first look at what that entails.

At an event in New Delhi, Qualcomm has introduced its latest product, an entry-level SoC aimed at the feature phone segment in emerging markets. The Qualcomm 205 Mobile Platform is designed primarily to bring 4G connectivity to feature phones, with the SoC featuring the X5 Category 4 LTE modem with a download speed of 150Mbps.

Qualcomm 205 Mobile Platform

The platform also supports Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.1, VoLTE and VoWIFI, 720p video streaming at 30fps, and an ISP that can handle a front VGA camera and a 3MP rear camera. The chipset offers a dual-core CPU clocked at 1.1GHz and an Adreno 304 GPU, and supports eMMC 4.5 flash storage and LPDDR2/LPDDR3 RAM.

There's also dual-SIM connectivity, support for location services (GPS, GLONASS, and Beidou), and Qualcomm's hardware-based SecureMSM security platform.

Although sub-$100 smartphones have been on the rise in markets like India, there is still a considerable demand for feature phones in the country. The rise of affordable 4G services with the launch of Jio — which offers 1GB a day of LTE data and free calls for just ₹303 ($4.60) a month — has catalysed the entire market, drastically lowering the barrier to entry for 4G.

Jio has been offering its services for absolutely free to its customers for the last seven months, amassing 100 million customers in the process. The "Jio effect," as it's called, has led to incumbents Airtel and Vodafone making their own 4G plans more affordable to stay competitive while improving their quality of service.

Feature phones still account for a majority of handset sales in India.

The proliferation of 4G has also resulted in an increase in sales of 4G-enabled devices, with 70% of devices sold in India in Q3 2016 offering LTE. We've seen phones that offer great value for money in recent months, including the likes of the Xiaomi Redmi 3S and Lenovo's K6 Power. Although these phones cost under $150, their pricing puts them out of reach for millions of Indian customers, and that's where the Qualcomm 205 Mobile Platform comes in.

With the entry-level chipset, Qualcomm is paving the way for sub-$50 feature phones that offer 4G connectivity. Feature phones account for 56% of the handset segment in India, and there's continued demand for phones that offer dual-SIM connectivity and multi-day battery life. By throwing in a Category 4 LTE modem, Qualcomm is now making these devices make the switch from 2G to 4G. In addition to calls, feature phones will now be able to carry out "enhanced experiences" that include mobile payment solutions and access to music and video streaming apps.

Phones powered by the 205 platform will be available sometime next quarter, with Qualcomm partnering with the likes of Jio, Micromax, TCL, and others:

  • Borqs
  • CKT
  • Flex
  • FIH/Megafone
  • HiPad
  • Huiye
  • LYF
  • Micromax
  • Reliance Jio
  • TCL
  • TSM
  • Uniscope
  • Viroyal/Feixun