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Qualcomm's Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders is a $1,500 superphone

Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders
(Image credit: Qualcomm)
Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders Specs

Starting price: $1,499
Screen size: 6.78-inch AMOLED (2248 x 1080; 144Hz)
CPU: Snapdragon 888
RAM: 16GB
Storage: 512GB
Rear cameras: 64MP main (f/1.8), 12MP ultrawide (f/2.2), 8MP telephoto with 3x optical zoom
Front camera: 24MP
Battery size: 4,000 mAh
Charging speed: Qualcomm QuickCharge 5.0
Size: 6.8 x 3 x 0.38 inches

Qualcomm has made a name for itself building the silicon that powers some of the best Android phones you can buy. Now the chip maker is throwing its weight behind a phone of its own intended to show off what a top-of-the-line Snapdragon chipset is capable of doing.

The plainly named Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders made its debut today (July 8), boasting a Snapdragon 888 system-on-chip, extensive 5G connectivity, and the kinds of experiences you'd expect from a premium smartphone. Built by Asus, the phone goes on sale in August.

Qualcomm insists it's not getting into the phone business with the launch of Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders, a position the phone makers who rely on its chips will be happy to hear. Instead, this phone is designed specifically for Qualcomm's Snapdragon Insider program, a community of mobile enthusiasts launched by the company earlier this year. Qualcomm is hoping to use its phone to get feedback on the kind of experiences mobile users want out of Snapdragon-powered devices.

The Snapdragon Insider program is free to join, but the Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders is decidedly not free. It costs $1,499, which is $300 more than the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra (which also happens to be powered a Snapdragon 888 chipset). Of course, that $1,499 is buying you more than just a phone — Qualcomm is including a pair of noise-cancelling wireless earbuds from Master & Dynamic, a 65W charger, braided cables for charging both the earbud case and the phone, and a custom rubber bumper.

As for the phone itself, it'd be wrong to thing of the Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders as a glorified reference device. While design is clearly not the primary focus of this phone, it looks solid enough with a midnight blue color and red accents around the rear camera array and side buttons. You get a 6.78-inch OLED display protected by Gorilla Glass Victus up front and a fingerprint sensor on the rear.

Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders

(Image credit: Qualcomm)

The star of the show is the Snapdragon 888, which is augmented by 16GB of RAM along with 512GB of storage. The Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders arrives just as Qualcomm is rolling out the improved Snapdragon 888 Plus chipset, which wasn't an available option for Asus when it came time to design this handset.

Still, the Snapdragon 888 is no slouch when it comes to performance, and Qualcomm hopes that this phone can highlight the various components that included as part of this silicon. For example, the Snapdragon 888 features the Spectra 580 image signal processor, a triple ISP capable of capturing images from three different cameras at the same time. Not coincidentally, the Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders features three rear lenses — a 64MP main shooter, 12MP ultrawide camera and 8MP telephoto lens that can deliver a 3x optical zoom. Qualcomm says the phone can shoot both 8K and 4K video.

Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders

(Image credit: Qualcomm)

That OLED screen features a 144Hz refresh rate and to make things even more appealing for gamers, the phone supports Qualcomm's Quick Touch for a 20% boost in screen responsiveness. The phone also supports the Variable Rate Shading as part of Qualcomm's Snapdragon Elite Gaming features that look to deliver console-style experiences to mobile devices.

The Snapdragon 888 features Qualcomm's 6th-gen AI Engine that's capable of 26 trillion operations per second (TOPS). Addition, this Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders is the among the first handsets to support Snapdragon Sound, a new technology that promises 24-bit 96kHz music streaming. Snapdragon Audio also supports super wideband voice to improve your sound on phone calls.

Because Qualcomm is so heavily invested in the growth of 5G networks, it's also making 5G connectivity a top feature of the Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders. The phone comes equipped with a Snapdragon X60 modem along with extensive support for both sub0-6GHz and mmWave-based 5G bands. Qualcomm's promising the world's fastest available 5G speeds for this phone, which also supports Wi-Fi6 and Wi-Fi 6e.

Qualcomm says 1.6 million people have joined the Snapdragon Insider program since it launched in March. While not every one of those members will have $1,499 lying around for a new phone, Qualcomm is hoping to get enough interest in its Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders to learn more about the features people are looking for in their next mobile device.

Philip Michaels
Philip Michaels is a senior editor at Tom's Guide. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics and old movies. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.