Have mid-range chips become good enough for flagship phones?

Snapdragon 730
Snapdragon 730 (Image credit: Android Central)

Phone hardware has come a long way in the past couple of years. If you step into the Wayback machine, you can remember that it wasn't so long ago that we were all wowed by a mobile chip that ran at 1GHz or had multiple cores, and it all pales in comparison to the bare minimum in phone hardware that we see in 2020.

But have the things we want to do changed enough that we really need the most high-end chip Qualcomm has to offer in our phones? Especially when the company has moved the "mid-range" mark so high that it provides a fast, stable, and satisfying experience that includes great cameras, the latest wireless connectivity and even great gaming?

More: Qualcomm brings flagship features to the mid-range category

Qualcomm unveiled new CPUs that offer advanced features typically reserved for high-end phones, like AI processing and gaming enhancements. The Snapdragon 730, 730G and 665 are supposed to show up in (presumably cheaper-than-flagship) devices in 2020, meaning we may have a slate of budget-friendly handsets.

Qualcomm's 730 has a G series built for gaming, just like the 855 models did.

Qualcomm launched a gaming-specific version of a chipset alongside the regular one. The Snapdragon 730G, which has an enhanced Adreno 618 GPU to make it 15 percent faster than the one in the regular 730. This sounds a lot like the 855 versus the 855+.

We don't really see a big difference between the 855 and the 855+ in mobile gaming yet. There have been a growing number of gaming smartphones powered by the Snapdragon 855+, though, which at least shows that people want it and phone makers want to use it.

Qualcomm 730

Source: Qualcomm (Image credit: Source: Qualcomm)

Qualcomm also launched the "regular" Snapdragon 730 which features a fourth-generation AI processor and a new image signal processor.

What that means is the Snapdragon 730 is capable of running AI processes twice as fast as the Snapdragon 710 did. It'll also use less power when doing it, so your phone will last longer. Qualcomm claims the Snapdragon 730 offers "up to four times the power savings in computer vision tasks" over the Snapdragon 710. Plus, the new ISP can apply portrait mode effects in real-time to 4K HDR video — typically a power-draining task reserved for flagship phones.

More: What you need to know about the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855+

The Snapdragon 730 series will also support features like triple-camera systems, high-resolution depth sensors, and saving photos and videos in the efficient HEIF format.

As long as you love how your phone works, do you really care about the specs?

These are the features people buying new phones are looking for. There will always be folks who want the very best in hardware, but most of us want things that work well and don't really care about what's beneath the glass as long as it works. That doesn't mean the companies selling us our phones want it, though. Margins are higher in the best flagship phones and that means the Verizons and AT&Ts of the world want to sell them. Don't expect to see very many Snapdragon 730-powered phones at the carrier store.

The new chips from Qualcomm can offer performance we could only find in the very best phone hardware just a few years ago, and now it's classified as "mid-range". Maybe our needs and wants aren't changing as fast as mobile hardware is, or maybe the new best hardware will bring along a new set of wants and needs.

No matter what the case, Qualcomm's 700 series chips rival the "best" hardware of just a few years ago, which we all praise and love. Don't snub a phone just because you see it being used because it looks to be more than capable. I'll take battery savings over higher model numbers every time as long as it works well.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.