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Samsung Galaxy S23 in line to get a super-fast modem next year

Snapdragon X70 modem graphic showing mmWave Module, RF Transceiver and more details
(Image credit: Qualcomm)

When the Samsung Galaxy S23 arrives next year, it's likely to feature Qualcomm's Snapdragon X70 modem under the hood. And that modem is going to arrive with a few more tricks up its sleeve than we first realized.

Qualcomm unveiled the X70 modem back at Mobile World Congress in February, when the leading headline was the inclusion of a 5G AI processor — the first instance of such a component appearing as part of a modem-RF system. 

With its own AI chip, the Snapdragon X70 can tap into artificial intelligence to optimize a phone's antennas and better manage 5G beams heading to and from your handset. The result, Qualcomm says, should be faster speeds, lower latency and better performance on X70-equipped devices.

All that was before the announcement today (May 10) at Qualcomm's 5G summit in San Diego, where the chip maker announced additional features coming to the Snapdragon X70 via the modem's upgradeable architecture. Qualcomm says the X70 will support a new-generation of the company's Smart Transmit technology for optimized upload speeds, and that it's also gaining standalone mmWave 5G.

With SmartTransmit 3.0, Qualcomm is integrating Bluetooth and Wi-Fi into its smart transmit architecture that already supports 2G through 5G along with millimeter wave. The end result should be improved connectivity, with extended 5G coverage and improved uplink speeds.

Qualcomm Smart Transmit 3.0 graphic

(Image credit: Qualcomm)

Standalone mmWave is a feature that should appeal to network operators, as it will allow them to deploy that super-fast version of 5G without requiring any sub-6Ghz spectrum. Previously, operators needed to anchor their mmWave coverage on sub-6GHz, so Qualcomm says this should bolster flexibility for providing wireless fiber broadband access with low latency and multi-Gigabit speeds.

Qualcomm hasn't announced which of its customers plans to use the X70 modem, but it's a safe bet that Samsung would be among the clientele. The Galaxy S22 lineup released earlier this year runs on the X65 modem, so it's natural to assume the next-generation modem from Qualcomm will find its way to the next version of the Galaxy S lineup.

The timing would certainly work out for the Galaxy S23 to feature this X70 modem. Qualcomm says to expect mobile devices using the X70 to appear in late 2022. The Galaxy S23 is likely to show up early on in 2023, so that makes it a prime candidate to rely on this particular component.

Just as interesting would be which flagship phones won't feature the X70. Apple's iPhone 14, for example, is expected to ship in the fall, which would not leave enough time to include the X70.

Then again, it's fairly typical for the Galaxy S phone to offer a more advanced modem than the latest iPhone, given when those two devices traditionally appear. And that's allowed Samsung phones to enjoy an edge over the iPhone when it comes to connectivity.

Take Ookla's recent quarterly network performance report, which also included a breakout on the best 5G phones in terms of speed. The Galaxy S22 Ultra topped the list thanks to its median download speed of 116.3 Mbps. The iPhone 13 Pro Max, equipped with an older Snapdragon modem, finished third with a 99.5 Mbps average.

Assuming the Galaxy S23 features the Snapdragon X70 when it arrives next year and that the iPhone 14 includes the X65 — both solid assumptions at this point — that's not a gap that's likely to narrow any time soon.

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.