While Qualcomm's dominating the premium and mid-range smartphone space, MediaTek's been taking care of the other end of the spectrum until it launched its premium LTE octa-core chipset recently. In China alone, 40 percent of the smartphones shipped in 2014 Q3 are powered by MediaTek, versus 27 percent by Qualcomm, according to IDC (NVIDIA and Intel each had less than one percent share). Of course, emerging markets are where the money's at these days, so it's no surprise that Qualcomm's striking back by offering an LTE-enabled SoC, the Snapdragon 210, for the entry-level market. Better yet, Co-president Cristiano Amon told us in Hong Kong that Qualcomm's specifically aiming at the off-contract sub-$100 smartphones.
As you'd expect, this 28nm low-power Snapdragon 210 isn't quite the powerhouse you get in your typical flagship phone, but it's still a complete package. You get up to 1.1 GHz quad-core Cortex-A7 CPUs, Adreno 304 GPU, Bluetooth 4.1 and 802.11n WiFi, along with support for display resolutions of up to 720p, up to 8-megapixel cameras (1080p video capture and playback; H.265 codec supported to cut bandwidth by half) and QuickCharge 2.0 (separate chip required). More importantly, on the cellular radio side, this chip supports multi-mode 3G as well as dual-mode LTE (up to Cat 4 at 150 Mbps with 2x10 MHz Carrier Aggregation) and dual-SIM. Amon expressed that with this being the first chipset to offer LTE Advanced in the sub-$100 device category, he's not too worried about the competition.
Of course, it'll all depend on the device manufacturers to hit that sub-$100 spot using this new chip, though Qualcomm will also be lending a hand with its upcoming Snapdragon 210 smartphone and tablet reference designs. The problem is that these devices won't launch until some time in the first half of 2015, so it'll be interesting to see how Qualcomm's competitors will react as the LTE race heats up.
Updated: We've since heard from two independent sources who confirmed that the "sub-$100" figure was very conservative. In fact, the Snapdragon 210 is expected to power smartphones that cost between just $50 and $75 off-contract!