Qualcomm Announces Speedy Snapdragon 636 Chip, Successful 5G Tests

The vendor says its Snapdragon 636 platform will drive 40 performance gains in mobile devices while it also touts a successful test in the 5G space.

Qualcomm 5G Progress

Qualcomm officials are introducing its latest mobile chip platform while at the same time talking about the gains the company’s made in the fast-approaching 5G wireless world.

The company Oct. 17 unveiled its Snapdragon 636 processors, which promise as much as a 40 percent performance improvement in devices and a 10 percent increase in gaming and browsing performance over what its predecessor, the Snapdragon 630 could deliver.

The Snapdragon 636 also supports such device features as ultra-wide FHD+ displays and Assertive Display, which makes mobile device displays more visible in all lighting conditions.

In a separate announcement, company executives also announced that it had successfully completed a test of a 5G connection on a mobile device and the rollout of its first 5G smartphone reference design.

Both announcements are a welcome change for Qualcomm, which in recent weeks has generated more attention for its continuing regulatory challenges around the world and its ongoing legal dispute with Apple than for its mobile technology achievements.

Most recently, Taiwan regulators fined Qualcomm $773 million for antitrust violations and Qualcomm reportedly this week has requested that China ban the manufacturing and sale of Apple’s iPhone, the latest move in the battle between the two companies over patents, licensing fees and claims of monopolistic market tactics.

With the new Snapdragon 636 chip set, Qualcomm officials said they are building out the company’s product portfolio for top-tier mobile devices. The platform includes the chip maker’s Kyro 260 CPU, with 40 percent more performance than the Snapdragon 630, and the Adreno 509 GPU for 10 percent better performance over its predecessor.

It includes Qualcomm’s TruPalette and EcoPix features integrated into the Adreno Visual Processing Subsystem for improved viewing capabilities, the Snapdragon X12 LTE modem, the 14-bit Spectra 160 image signal processor (ISP) and the Aqstic audio codec.

Qualcomm will start shipping the 14-nanometer platform to customers in November. It is pin- and software-compatible with the Snapdragon 660 and 630 offerings, which will make it easier for device makers to add the 636 to their product lines.

“Manufacturers can use the same modem and camera architecture to enable fast and efficient testing and calibration, cutting down on significant resources or time normally required when developing products on brand new platforms,” Kedar Kondap, vice president of product management for Qualcomm, said in a statement.

Company officials also said that Qualcomm is making strides in its efforts in the evolving 5G space. At the Qualcomm 4G/5G Summit, they announced they had gotten a 5G data connect on the company’s X50 5G modem chipset, which was introduced a year ago.

According to Qualcomm, the modem chipset delivered gigabit speeds and a data connection in the 28GHz mmWave (millimeter wave) radio frequency band. In addition, officials previewed its first 5G smartphone reference design for testing and optimization of 5G network technology within a smartphone form factor.

The successful 5G test was a significant step toward delivering mobile devices that work with the upcoming cellular standard, according to Sherif Hanna, staff manager for technical marketing for Qualcomm.

“Not only were we able to establish a 5G connection with greater than gigabit per second download speeds using multiple 5G carriers, we were also able to establish an over-the-air connection using our tiny 28 GHz mmWave antenna module,” Hanna wrote in a post on the company blog.

Qualcomm and other vendors are making a significant push into the 5G space even though standards for the next generation of cellular connectivity aren't expected before 2020 and the transition from 3G to 4G is still in its early days.

But with cloud computing, the internet of things, data analytics, artificial intelligence, self-driving cars and other emerging technologies, the increases in speed and capacity are significant. 5G promises as much as 10 to 100 times the speed of LTE, much more capacity and lower latency.

Qualcomm officials expect the lineup of Snapdragon X50 5G NR modems will support commercial launches of 5G smartphones and networks in the first half of 2019.