Qualcomm is bringing 5G connectivity to sub-$250 phones in 2021

Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 with 5G
Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 with 5G (Image credit: Qualcomm)

What you need to know

  • Qualcomm will deliver 5G connectivity to the entry-level Snapdragon 400 series in 2021.
  • The chipset will be available in devices that cost under $250, lowering the barrier to entry for 5G.
  • Motorola, OPPO, and Xiaomi have committed to phones based on the 5G-enabled Snapdragon 400 chipset.

Qualcomm's push for mainstream 5G coverage will get a big boost in the first quarter of 2021. The company now offers 5G connectivity in the Snapdragon 800, 700, and 600 series chipsets, and it has revealed that it will do the same with the entry-level Snapdragon 400 series early next year.

This is what it takes to make 5G accessible to everyone.

Qualcomm didn't share further details of the upcoming platform — we didn't even get a name — but what we do know at this point is that the chipset will be available in phones that will retail for $125 to $250.

That means that you will see 5G-enabled budget phones next year that will debut for $250. Motorola, OPPO, and Xiaomi have committed to introducing phones powered by the upcoming 5G-enabled Snapdragon 400 chipset, and we should be seeing the first wave of devices in the first quarter of 2021.

While we don't have a lot of details at this point, the fact that sub-$250 phones will get 5G connectivity is a big deal. Over 80 carriers around the world have rolled out 5G service, but right now, the barrier to entry is pricing — most 5G-enabled phones cost $500 or above. So by introducing budget phones with 5G modems, Qualcomm is lowering that barrier significantly. There are plenty of great budget phones available today, and 5G connectivity will make them even better.

The fact that Motorola is onboard suggests we'll get at least one phone in the U.S. that features the 5G-enabled Snapdragon 400 series chipset. That said, Qualcomm is obviously targeting emerging markets like India with the upcoming chipset, with the company noting that the expansion will address "3.5 billion smartphone users."

Qualcomm is essentially making sure that when 5G networks go live in these markets, there is a decent selection of budget phones with built-in 5G modems. Qualcomm is predicting that 1 billion customers will sign up for 5G service by 2023, with that number going up to 2.8 billion by 2025.

In other Snapdragon news, Qualcomm has confirmed that the first wave of devices powered by the 5G-enabled Snapdragon 690 should be announced shortly, with Xiaomi and Realme leading the charge.

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Harish Jonnalagadda
Senior Editor - Asia

Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor overseeing Asia at Android Central. He leads the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, contributing to reviews, features, and buying guides. He also writes about storage servers, audio products, and the semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.