The Snapdragon 215 Could Make Cheap Phones Less Terrible

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You’d never expect a sub-$ 100 phone to be as fast as a flagship device like the Pixel 3 or Galaxy S10, but they can still be unreasonably slow sometimes. The bargain-priced Qualcomm Snapdragon 200-series chips have offered bare minimum performance in the past, but the company’s new Snapdragon 215 system-on-a-chip (SoC) could make ultra-cheap phones much more usable with better performance, higher resolutions, and more. 

The Snapdragon 215 replaces the 210, which has been a bottom-tier chip for Qualcomm since 2014. You’d see the 210 most often in ultra-cheap unlocked phones from white label manufacturers. Those are the sort of phones no one necessarily wants to use but plenty of people still do. The 215 SoC is a quantum leap over the 210 — Qualcomm says it’s 50 percent faster across the board. Like the old 210, the SD215 has a quad-core CPU. However, it has Cortex A53 cores instead of the aging A7 CPUs. These 64-bit cores are considerably faster and more efficient than the old 32-bit A7s. 

Cheap phones are slowly moving toward tall display ratios like 18:9, and the Snapdragon 215 will support that up to HD+ at 720×1560 (19.9:9). The more powerful Adreno 308 GPU can also decode video and render games more easily. It’s 28 percent faster than the 210’s GPU while offering better video battery life. 

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Qualcomm’s new chip will also help budget phones

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compete on the camera front with its dual ISP (image signal processors). The 215 supports dual camera setups for enhanced depth sensing and portrait effects. Camera resolution also gets a boost to 13MP from 8MP on the 210. The new Hexagon DSP allows for about five days of music playback on an average phone, and apps that use sensors like GPS won’t drain the battery as much. 

The new SoC has more wireless capabilities, too. There’s NFC support for the first time on a 200-series chip. It was understandable to omit that in 2014, but mobile payments are much more common now. There’s also dual-SIM support with VoLTE on both cards. The updated 802.11ac Wi-Fi radio also means faster speeds, up to 433Mbps down. However, LTE still tops out at 150Mbps like the 210 (it has the same old X5 LTE modem). 

The first devices with the Snapdragon 215 will launch later in 2019. While it supports more features, there’s no guarantee device makers will utilize all the technologies offered by the Snapdragon 215. Phones with this SoC will cost well under $ 100, so there’s not going to be room for all the bells and whistles. 

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