Think a 3D fingerprint reader, killer speeds and portrait mode for your videos, not just your photos.
If the Galaxy S10 has super-fast 5G connectivity and an in-screen fingerprint reader, you can thank Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 855 processor. The world’s largest supplier of chipsets for mobile phones announced its latest processor that will come to major Android phones in 2019, likely including Samsung’s upcoming flagship devices.
At the Snapdragon Technology Summit that Qualcomm is hosting in Maui, Hawaii this week, partners like Samsung, OnePlus, Verizon and AT&T talked up their plans for 5G devices and networks in 2019. Samsung, for instance, said it will launch 5G phones in the US in the first half of 2019, and will work with AT&T and Verizon on a total of three models. OnePlus announced its first 5G phone, which will go to Europe.
The processor will likely provide the brains and network connectivity for most high-end Android smartphones hitting the market in 2019 (Huawei uses its own Kirin chip for phones). Nearly every major handset vendor works with Qualcomm, with one big exception: Apple designs its own chips to power its devices and now, amidst a licensing battle with Qualcomm, relies on Intel’s modems for connectivity.
For non-Apple high-end phones, the Snapdragon 855 has a lot to offer. It enables better camera processing capabilities, like being able to shoot videos in 4K HDR and detect who and what’s in front of the camera.
It’s the first chip to work with Qualcomm’s 3D Sonic Sensor, an ultrasonic fingerprint reader that’s embedded right into the display itself. And the Snapdragon 855 also is the first major processor to support 5G wireless connectivity — but notably, 5G isn’t embedded onto Snapdragon 855 itself.
And while the Snapdragon 855’s capabilities sound impressive, none of that matters if handset-makers using the 855 processor in their premium phones opt not to use all of Qualcomm’s features.
The Snapdragon 855 is the first chip to work with Qualcomm’s 3D Sonic Sensor, an ultrasonic fingerprint reader that’s embedded right into the display itself. As smartphone makers have stretched the screens of their devices across the entire front of the display, they’ve either ditched the home button entirely (Apple) or moved the fingerprint reader to the back of the device. The 3D Sonic Sensor will let them return the fingerprint reader to the front of the phone but still have a display that fills the entire front of the device.
Samsung is widely expected to roll out an in-screen fingerprint reader with the Galaxy S10 early next year. It’s likely many others will follow.
You know how portrait photos blur the background while keeping the subject in focus? Portrait mode for video promises to do the same in a moving clip. The Snapdragon 855 chip is the first to put portrait mode into a 4K HDR video.
The feature tracks the main subject, so you’ll can even swap out the background for something else, say a tropical island setting.

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