Qualcomm's Snapdragon 768G will make 5G phones affordable for the rest of us

Qualcomm Snapdragon 768G
(Image credit: Future)

Qualcomm's Snapdragon 765G processor has only started appearing in a handful of phones so far this year. But there's already a sequel on the way.

Qualcomm today (May 11) took the wraps off the Snapdragon 768G, a new entry to its 7 Series line of chips aimed at phones that aren't quite flagship devices. The G at the end of the 768's name denotes that this is a gaming-optimized chip, with the Adreno 620 GPU on the chipset delivering a 15% performance increase over the Snapdragon 765G introduced at the end of last year. Since the 765G already promised faster graphics compared to the standard 765 system-on-chip, that's a big boost to graphics in a short amount of time.

Faster graphics aren't the only change with the Snapdragon 768G. Qualcomm also boosted the clock speed on the prime core of the chipet's Kryo 475 CPU to 2.8GHz. (It was 2.4GHz on the Snapdragon 765G.) The new chipset also supports Adreno updatable GPU drivers, a feature introduced with the top-of-the-line Snapdragon 865 that can download GPU update drivers directly from app stores for an optimized gaming experience.

If you're not that familiar with the Snapdragon 765 family, it only recently started appearing in mobile devices. The standard Snapdragon 765 will power newly announced phones like the LG Velvet and Motorola Edge, while you'll find the Snapdragon 765G inside the Nokia 8.3 and TCL 10 5G, among other devices.

Both the Snapdragon 765 and 768G may not be as powerful as the Snapdragon 865 found in flagship devices like the Galaxy S20 and OnePlus 8, but both 7 Series chipsets include a built-in 5G modem. That's allowed phone makers to develop 5G handsets without the $1,000 or so price tags you'll find on Snapdragon 865-powered devices.

That Qualcomm is eager to get another lower cost 5G-capable processor reflects the stage that 5G adoption may be at right now. While early adopters may have been willing to pay up for a 5G-ready phone in the new networking standards early days, having more affordable 5G phones out there will increase usage among a greater percentage of smartphone shoppers. (Having a 5G-ready iPhone available will help in that regard, too, but the iPhone 12 isn't arriving until the fall.) We're about to see 5G phones that cost around $500, and the Snapdragon 765 and later the Snapdragon 768G are a big reason why.

Qualcomm's decision to roll out a gaming-optimized chip isn't a surprise either, given the emergence of mobile gaming. In a report earlier this year, NPD Group said that are 214 million mobile gamers in the U.S., and that they spent $11.82 billion on games last year, a 24% increase over the year before. Clearly, Qualcomm and mobile device makers are counting on the fact that people are going to need phones capable of making the most of those games.

Qualcomm didn't say when to expect more Snapdragon 768G-powered devices, but at the same time the company was announcing its new chipset, Chinese phone maker Xiaomi announced the Redmi K30 5G Racing Edition. That will be the first commercially available phone with a Snapdragon 768G, but it likely won't be the last.

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.