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22nd of March 2017

Gadgets



Qualcomm Announces New Chips for LTE Feature Phones

Even cheap phones are going 4G. Qualcomm has a new chip to make that easier.

Qualcomm 205 Mobile Platform

The future of feature phones is 4G LTE. Yes, we're talking about feature phones: cheap flips and candy bars that are used mostly for talking and texting, not the web or apps. Today Qualcomm announced a new mobile phone foundation, the Qualcomm 205 Mobile Platform, to help in that transition.

The 205 combines a very low-end Snapdragon chipset with other internal components, including power management, RF, a speaker amplifier and software, to make it very easy for third parties to build inexpensive 4G feature phones.

It isn't just that the 2G and 3G networks that older feature phones rely on are dying, although that's also true. According to Qualcomm, feature phone users in developing countries are getting into things like mobile payments and video calling. Those become a lot better with high-bandwidth, low-latency LTE like the network Jio has been installing in India.

Make no mistake, this is a strategy for the developing world. We still have feature phones here in the US, but feature phones are 56 percent of India's billion or so mobile connections. That's a huge market.

"The Qualcomm 205 Mobile Platform is designed for OEMs and ODMs that service consumers who may otherwise be unable to gain access to high quality, affordable, reliable mobile devices. This includes emerging regions, such as those in India, Latin America, and Southeast Asia," the company said in a press release.

The 205 will be Qualcomm's lowest-end LTE system. Qualcomm 205-based phones will have up to 45 days of standby battery life, the company says. They'll have dual 3-megapixel cameras, dual SIMs, and VGA screens. They'll connect to LTE networks at up to 150Mbps. And they'll run an as-yet-unnamed "Linux-based OS." That may be the feature phone variant of Android I've been hearing whispers about for months now, or something else.

These kinds of feature phones are easy to make, so they'll appear later in Q2 of this year. But they're coming from manufacturers who focus on India and Southeast Asia, and so we're unlikely to see any 205-based devices here in the US. Of the 11 initial partners, the biggest names are Micromax, Nubia, and Reliance.

LTE feature phones for the US are likely to stick with the Snapdragon 210, a slightly higher-end part that's currently in the ZTE Z-320, a crippled-Android feature phone for T-Mobile. The 210 has a quad-core processor to the 205's dual-core, and it supports up to 8-megapixel cameras.

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