Qualcomm Paves Way for Sub-$100 4G Phones

Qualcomm has entered the low-end LTE market with the launch of a new chipset aimed at putting sub-$100 4G phones onto the market.

Citing industry forecasts of growth shifting sharply to developing economies, it announced its Snapdragon 210 processor in Hong Kong Wednesday, and also pitched its ability to deliver key technologies in the emerging auto, connected home and IoT segments.

However, executives avoided being drawn on the anti-trust probe into Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM)'s licensing practices now underway in Beijing. (See Qualcomm Looks to Soften China Antitrust Blow .)

Cristiano Amon, co-president of Qualcomm Technologies, said the new chipset was the first to "bring LTE to the 3G entry level price level." He expects the first devices to be on the market in the first half of 2015.

The processor offers seven different LTE bands, VoLTE, carrier aggregation, LTE Broadcast and HEVC video. In a nod to developing markets, it also supports multi-SIM.

Amon said the developing world accounted for 46% of smartphones shipped last year and was expected to absorb 80% of shipments in 2018.

Despite the strong sales, just 17% of the population in those markets own a smartphone today. "We just know that that's going to go to 100%," he said in a speech at a company event.

He argues that the transition to 4G is occurring much faster than the shift to 3G a decade ago. He said operators were reporting 4G users were typically consuming at least three or four times more data than on 3G, even on the same price plan. "LTE is completely rebooting the mobile landscape," he noted.

Want to know more about 4G LTE? Check out our dedicated 4G LTE content channel here on Light Reading.

Murthy Renduchintala, the other co-president of Qualcomm Technologies, also brought some impressive forecasts, such as the number of 3G and 4G connections, expected to quintuple to 5.2 billion by 2018.

"There's clearly a hell of a lot of growth," which would "drive new user experiences and new technologies," Renduchintala said.

He said the automobile would likely become "the next frontier for connected platforms," with 60% of vehicles by 2017 connecting through mobile technologies.

Within the car, a brace of wireless technologies would be required. Besides an LTE mobile hotspot, location, multimedia, wireless charging, WiFi, Bluetooth and power management tech would be deployed.

Pointing to the emergence of the smart home and IoT, he said success would require mastery of a multitude of radio technologies as well as the ability to handle the "increasingly close integration of licensed and unlicensed spectrum."

Qualcomm is looking at services and architectures that would enable seamless transition from home to outdoor, he said. "We're going to put WiFi into things that have never had any connectivity."

Asked about the anti-monopoly investigation, Amon said this was an issue for the parent company, which manages Qualcomm's licensing business.

He declined to comment on how the issue had affected Qualcomm's OEM relationships in China, but he noted that China's OEM system had recorded "very impressive" growth and that Qualcomm was "very, very happy to be a part of this very vibrant ecosystem."

— Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

COMMENTS Add Comment
MikeP688 9/30/2014 | 4:17:12 PM
An Implicit Indictment of the Cell Phone Market :-) As I saw this discourse, I could not help but see an implicit indictment because there is a realization truly that not all have the ability to pay $ 799+ for a phone no matter what the "bell and whistles" are.   However, What Dylan Tweeney Noted for me was in this spirit as the market continues to evolve...

Never a dull moment..that's for sure :-)

Dylan's Desk: 21 reasons why I'm not buying an iPhone 6

By Dylan Tweney, Editor-in-Chief

I'm not buying an iPhone 6 because I'm cheap. I don't want to lock myself into a two-year contract, and I'm unwilling to spend $650 or more for an off-contract phone that I'll probably want to replace in a year, or at the most two years, anyway.

I'm not buying an iPhone 6 because it will bend when I put it in the back pocket of my skinny jeans.

I'm not buying an iPhone 6 because the latest version of the iPhone operating system, iOS 8.0.1, makes it so TouchID doesn't work on some phones and stops cellular service from working on others.

I'm not buying an iPhone 6 because the previous version, iOS 8.0, had bugs in HealthKit, preventing fitness and health apps from communicating with Apple's new cloud-based health data interchange service.

I'm not buying an iPhone 6 because I don't want to be a beta tester.

I'm not buying an iPhone 6 because Android has had features like swipe-to-delete on email messages and customizable keyboards for, what, four years now?

I'm not buying an iPhone 6 because I'm opposed to the closed system that Apple enforces, making it so you can only use its Continuity feature with OS X.

I'm not buying an iPhone 6 because I have so many more choices with Android.

I'm not buying an iPhone 6 because in the future, anyone who wants to have an Apple Watch will also need an iPhone because the watch won't work by itself. Just like the Samsung Galaxy Gear watch. And you know I'm dorky enough to wear an iPod nano on my wrist, so I'll probably wind up wearing an Apple Watch too. But I don't have to like it!

I'm not buying an iPhone 6 because Android is winning the market share battle, and that trend isn't going to change any time soon.

I'm not buying an iPhone 6 because I don't want to stand in line. Plus, I heard those lines were filled with peoplebuying phones for the "Chinese mafia." (Not true, by the way, but I'm still not waiting in line, even if those are just regular people.)

I'm not buying an iPhone 6 because my iPhone 4 works just fine. And you should use a phone until it wears out, not buy a new one every year. I'm also waiting to upgrade my 2001 Honda Accord until it stops running.

I'm not buying an iPhone 6 because if you're a really good customer on AT&T, the company rewards you by not letting you buy the new model until late next year. What other business works that way?

I'm not buying an iPhone 6 because it doesn't feel like as big of a leap as the iPhone 5S last year.

I'm not buying an iPhone 6 because the new models are just too big and dorky and uncomfortable in my delicate lady hands. And that camera on the 6 Plus sticks out of the back.

I'm not buying an iPhone 6 because Tim Cook will never live up to the legacy of his old boss, the late Steve Jobs.

I'm not buying an iPhone 6 because Apple is a huge polluter. Despite the fact that it has eliminated lots of toxic chemicals and is taking steps to make its stores and its new headquarters as green as possible, it still runs data centers that use coal-powered electricity, and its manufacturing facilities in China are probably big polluters too, who knows.

I'm not buying an iPhone 6 because I'm not one of the sheeple.

I'm not buying an iPhone 6 because I kind of like feeling superior, standing on the outside and looking in at a party that I don't really want to join anyway.

I'm not buying an iPhone 6 because I don't trust Apple's security, since the NSA has a program designed to make the iPhone completely accessible to its secret agents. Even if it is turned off. Android? Windows Phone? BlackBerry? I'm pretty sure those are safe from the NSA.

I'm not buying an iPhone 6 because for me, phones are basically tools to get a job done, and that job is staying in touch with my reporters and my editors and my boss and the news. And while I appreciate a well-crafted, well-designed product as much as the next gadget geek, I'm not in a rush to get the latest gadget just for its own sake, particularly when the one I've got now is doing that job just fine.

Thanks to John D., Alex L., Jason W., Julie P., Chris O'B., Rachel S., Don T.
MikeP688 9/30/2014 | 4:13:48 PM
Re: Sub-$100 One of the near has-been's, Sony, seems to be betting on its' version of the Glass though..although it seems to me (having tested out the Google Glass) there is not "Much there".     
Mitch Wagner 9/15/2014 | 8:24:48 PM
Re: Sub-$100 SachinEE - Smart glasses are the Google Glass vision. So far that seems to be a solution in search of a problem. I'm more enthusiastic about improved voice and audio interfaces. 
SachinEE 9/13/2014 | 2:41:33 PM
Re: Sub-$100 @Mitch: I wonder what will be called "smart" then? We may be looking at a transparent display phone or a heads up display phone which will enable us to carry our phones in our glasses/contact lenses. Carrying a phone and losing one is such a headache.
R Clark 9/11/2014 | 9:27:32 PM
Re: Sub-$100 Amazong how fast the feature phone has become a museum piece.
Mitch Wagner 9/11/2014 | 2:38:04 PM
Sub-$100 Pretty soon smartphones will just be phones. 
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