Budget 5G phones are coming this year as Qualcomm unveils the Snapdragon 690 5G. The cheapest 5G chipset yet is expected to power sub-$500 phones from the likes of Nokia and Motorola in the second half of 2020.

Qualcomm has so far limited 5G support to its flagship 8-series and mid-range 7-series chipsets, and the 690 5G is the first 6-series chip to handle 5G connections, along with support for 4K HDR video recording, 120Hz refresh rate displays, and 192Mp photo capture.

The company estimates that phones powered by the Snapdragon 690 will cost between $300 and $500, and manufacturers already committed to using the chip include Nokia, Motorola, LG, Sharp, and TCL. The first phones should arrive in the second half of the year.

“5G is truly redefining how consumers interact with their devices,” said Dr. In-Kyung Kim, senior vice president of 5G and network technology and strategy at LG Electronics. “LG is supportive of bringing this enabling technology down to lower priced products through its integration of the Snapdragon 690 Mobile Platform.”

The cheapest 5G phone in Europe so far is the £399 Oppo Find X2 Lite, which is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 765G chip, but most 5G phones still sit comfortably above the £500/$500 line for now.

Qualcomm’s rival MediaTek is also trying to produce more affordable 5G chipsets, but its cheapest - the Dimensity 800 - is closer in price to the Snapdragon 7-series, and so far none of the phones powered by it have launched in the West. That makes the 690 5G the best hope for the first wave of budget-friendly 5G handsets.

“We’re committed to expand 5G into our portfolio and we will rely on the new Snapdragon 690 Mobile Platform to continue to do it,” said Sergio Buniac, president, Motorola Mobility. “It’s incredibly important, especially now, for us to make 5G accessible to even more consumers around the world. As networks expand, so are our offerings.”

Qualcomm promises support for global 5G bands in the Snapdragon 690, including both standalone and non-standalone networks and multi-SIM support.

Getting into the tech specs, it’s an 8nm chip that uses the octa-core Kryo 560 CPU, Adreno 619 GPU, Hexagon 692 DSP, Spectra 355L ISP, and X51 5G modem. That means up to 20% better CPU performance, up to 60% faster graphics rendering, and a 75% improvement in AI processing - all according to Qualcomm’s internal tests, of course. 

In more practical terms, it will handle 4K HDR video recording at 30fps and supports photo capture up to 192Mp, with AI-driven automatic exposure, focus, and white balance. 120Hz refresh rate displays will be supported for the first time on the 6-series, at up to FHD+ resolutions.

If you don't want to wait a few months for your next handset, check out our pick of the best 5G phone deals to get existing devices at a better price.

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