Qualcomm is firmly in control of the mid-range and high-end mobile SoC market, but it’s doing less stellar when it comes to cheap SoCs, which is the segment that is growing the fastest right now. MediaTek is leading in this area, but Qualcomm is plotting to undercut it with new LTE-capable chips destined for phones that cost less than $100 unlocked.
While the world was busy watching Apple’s announcement yesterday, Qualcomm introduced the new Snapdragon 210 chip, which brings LTE-Advanced capabilities to a market where 3G has been the norm until now.
Snapdragon 210 won’t win any performance contests, but that doesn’t matter where this chip is going. The CPU is a 28nm quad-core Cortex A7 setup clocked at speeds of up 1.1 GHz. Just for reference, the Snapdragon 400 in the new Moto G and many current mid-rangers features four Cortex A7 cores clocked at up to 1.4GHz.
Qualcomm matched the CPU with an Adreno 304 GPU, Bluetooth 4.1, 802.11n WiFi, optional NFC, and support for displays of up to 720p and cameras of up to 8MP.
The special thing about the Snapdragon 210 is that it supports LTE, a first for budget Qualcomm chips and a testament of the growing importance of LTE around the world. That’s possible thanks to an integrated 4G LTE-Advanced World Mode modem, with support for LTE FDD, LTE TDD, WCDMA (3C-HSDPA, DC-HSUPA), CDMA1x, EV-DO Rev. B, TD-SCDMA and GSM/EDGE.
The modest Snapdragon 210 can even do (some) LTE-Advanced, thanks to support for 2×10 MHz carrier aggregation, which enables speeds of up to 150Mbps. Unsurprisingly for a budget chip, the 210 supports dual-SIM.
The first phones with Snapdragon 210 will be coming by the middle of 2015, even if Qualcomm is helping speed things along by offering reference designs. That means Snapdragon 210 will come too late for the first batch of cheap Android One devices, that Google is pushing in developing markets together with local partners. These devices, which should cost $100-$150 when they hit the market in a few weeks, are all powered by MediaTek chips. If Qualcomm plays its cards right, however, a year from now there could be some Snapdragon versions as well.