Latest chip from Qualcomm

HAWAII: Chipmaker Qualcomm Technologies has revealed the latest version of its Snapdragon mobile chip for smartphones and new ultrasonic fingerprint solution for sensors that can sit under the display.

According to Alex Katouzian, senior vice president and general manager of mobile for Qualcomm Technologies, the new chip -- Snapdragon 855 -- will support multi-gigabit data speeds over the 5G networks that wireless carriers and governments in many countries are racing to install. 

Mr Katouzian said the Snapdragon 855 will ship with an updated neural engine for AI-related tasks and improved gaming capabilities, adding that the new chip, which has an ultra-efficient 7-nanometer design, will also ship with an LTE modem on board. Device makers who want to add 5G capability can then pair the Snapdragon with a 5G modem to enable 5G speeds. 

He said that the full chip systems will be able to switch between 4G and 5G and will support both millimetre-wave and sub-6 gigahertz bands, the two frequency spectrums used by 5G networks.

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon platform now powers most high-end Android smartphones, including Samsung’s flagship phones. It is expected that Samsung’s next Galaxy smartphone will include this chip when it’s announced in February next year, and so Galaxy owners with access to 5G networks will be able to take advantage of the speeds promised by the next-gen wireless technology.

Speaking on the first day of the company's three-day Tech Summit in Maui, Hawaii, Qualcomm president Cristiano Amon said 5G would bring in a “new era of wireless communications” and be one of the “most significant transitions we’ll have” in technology in the coming years. While the rollout of 4G greatly impacted component makers, network operators and technology companies, Amon said that with 5G “basically every other industry understands that this technology will modify their business”.

Alongside the announcement of the new chipset, Qualcomm also debuted its new in-display fingerprint technology that is already available to manufacturers and will be launched in commercial phones in 2019. 

Unlike the current crop of in-display fingerprint sensors, this new technology uses ultrasonic waves from under the display to read a fingerprint.

The new sensor tech, officially called the "Qualcomm 3D Sonic Sensor", provides appreciable benefits over the current optical scanner technology. Qualcomm claims the ultrasonic tech can accurately detect fingerprints despite the presence of various contaminants on fingers, because it isn't easily blocked in the way the light used for an optical sensor can be. 

Qualcomm also claimed that this ultrasonic solution has higher levels of security and accuracy at the same time -- the real holy grail of fingerprint sensors.

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