Qualcomm kickstarted its MWC 2022 presence with a keynote address presented by CEO Cristiano Amon. With its main phone processor for 2022 already unveiled at the end of last year, the stars of the show were the new Snapdragon X70 modem, the FastConnect 7800 connectivity processor with Wi-Fi 7 support, and its initiatives beyond smartphones.
- Snapdragon X70 promises more efficiency with a new AI core.
- FastConnect 7800 brings Wi-Fi 7 and Bluetooth 5.3.
- Components should reach the market in the second half of 2022.
The company also highlighted its efforts in the always-connected PCs (ACPC), AR/XR - which Qualcomm tied to the current “metaverse” buzzword, and the very lucrative automotive and industrial applications for processors and network solutions.
Snapdragon X70 - the last Snapdragon for the iPhone?
Successor to the Snapdragon X65 modem — found in the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 SoC — the Snapdragon X70 is the new generation of 5G modems from Qualcomm. With the same spectrum support and theoretical maximum speeds of 10 Gigabits per second, the new X70 modem differentiates itself with a new AI core.
According to Qualcomm, the 5G AI processor brings more efficient resource usage, optimizing beam management — useful for lower energy consumption —, smart network selection, and antenna tuning. The results are “double digits improvements”, paired with the 3rd generation Qualcomm 5G PowerSave feature.
One thing that Qualcomm wouldn’t mention, is that the Snapdragon X70 may be the last third-party modem to equip the iPhone line. Apple is expected to start using its own 5G modems in its phone range, with IP and technologies bought from Intel in 2019.
The company expects to supply only 20% of Apple’s modems by 2023, indicating the imminent launch of the first Cupertino-designed modem. Another possibility is that while the iPhone 2022 debuts Apple’s modem, Snapdragon components will keep equipping the current models, like the X60 modem inside the iPhone 13.
Speculations aside, the Snapdragon X70 modem is expected to start sampling in the second half of 2022, with commercial devices in stores “before the end of the year”.
FastConnect 7800 brings Wi-Fi 7 and BT 5.3
On another side of the connectivity spectrum, Qualcomm also announced its FastConnect 7800 controller. The company touted the component as the “world’s first announced Wi-Fi 7 product”.
Wi-Fi 7 brings a four times increase in theoretical downlink speeds, using techniques like multi-link operation — MLO, which aggregates channels from different frequencies, similar to carrier aggregation (CA) in cellular networks. MediaTek tried to steal the spotlight doing live demos for the technology in CES 2022 but didn’t announce a product at the time.
Wi-Fi 7 will be backward compatible with the current Wi-Fi 6(E rel.2) standard, using the 2.4, 5, and 6 GHz frequency bands. With MLO, speeds can reach up to 40 Gbps link speeds (theoretical, of course), which manufacturers advertise as ideal for AR/VR applications.
The new FastConnect 7800 controller also promises lower latencies — “less than 2ms”, according to Qualcomm — and brings support for Bluetooth 5.3, including dual Bluetooth compatibility for faster pairing and longer range. The component is expected to reach the market in the second half of 2022.
It is important to note, however, that the Wi-Fi 7 is not even in draft status, which it is currently expected to reach in November 2022, with ratification only in 2024.
“Metaverse”, certifications and more
Qualcomm also announced the Snapdragon Connect, a badge/certification program for devices using a combination of Snapdragon SoCs, modems, and Wi-Fi and Bluetooth features for smartphones, PCs, XR/AR, automotive, and wearable devices, not unlike initiatives like Intel’s Centrino & Evo programs.
To not be left behind the metaverse bandwagon, Qualcomm repurposed its AR/XR initiatives under the hyped buzzword. The company didn’t announce new components, but reinforced its new XR Labs in Europe, six R&D spaces for technologies and engineering announced in the beginning of the month.
In the ARM-computing side of the business, Lenovo announced the first PC equipped with the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 SoC. The ThinkPad X13s is the culmination of a partnership announced in 2019, aimed to bring always-connected PCs (ACPC) to market, that just barely missed the attention that Apple brought to ARM cores on PC, but may still be on time to satiate the impressive market demand for connected devices for work away from office spaces.
The business laptop will pack a 5G modem, as well as the Microsoft Pluton security processor. It is worth noting that the 8cxGen3 is still powered by ARM-design Cortex cores, not the new Nuvia cores, expected to be sampling by the end of the year.
On (even) more lucrative fields, Qualcomm announced partnerships for the industrial IoT space, as well as the Snapdragon Digital Chassis platform, the initiative was announced in the previous Qualcomm Tech Summit, but we still have no estimate on when it will come to market.
The Digital Chassis pairs Snapdragon hardware with connected (cloud) services “to support enhanced safety and immersive digital experiences that are updateable throughout the lifetime of next-generation vehicles”, hopefully, those will receive updates for longer than the usual 2 or 3 years we see on current smartphones…
What do you think of Qualcomm’s announcements? Were you expecting an update to the mid-range Snapdragon SoCs? Share your thoughts in the comments below.