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Snapdragon 865 phones won't be available in 4G-only flavor

The Snapdragon 865 and its 5G modem are apparently a package deal, which means no 4G version.

The Snapdragon 865 is Qualcomm’s top-end processor for 2020, coming with an external modem for 5G connectivity. In fact, Qualcomm has reportedly confirmed that devices will have to include 5G if they use the new processor.

The US chip designer told The Verge that brands can’t opt for the flagship processor without the X55 modem. That means a manufacturer can’t simply use an older 4G modem if they want to produce a Snapdragon 865 phone without 5G. They’ll need to stick with the X55 modem, which supports 4G anyway.

So what does this mean for consumers, then? Well, it sounds like an OEM wanting to launch a Snapdragon 865 phone in a 4G-only region will need to carry 5G hardware anyway. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because it theoretically means that these phones would be 5G-compatible when networks in a 4G-only region switch to 5G. This decision could definitely help grow 5G adoption at a much faster rate than the transition from 3G to 4G.

It definitely raises the issue of pricing though, as you’d have to assume that the X55 5G modem is more expensive than a 4G external modem. And if this is the case, then that means a higher bill of materials for Snapdragon 865 phones compared to Snapdragon 855 devices, which could potentially be passed on to consumers.

We’ve asked Qualcomm to confirm the 5G requirement, and to clarify what this means for Snapdragon 865 phones in 4G-only regions (such as the possibility of brands disabling 5G connectivity in these markets). We’ll update the article when the company gets back to us.

Nevertheless, it sounds like whether you like it or not, you’ll be getting a 5G phone if you upgrade to a Snapdragon 865 device next year.

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