Qualcomm's X55 modem will help make 5G phones a practical reality

It promises slicker devices and a wider range of 5G standards.

The first batch of 5G phones is right around the corner, but Qualcomm is already preparing for the follow-up. It's introducing a Snapdragon X55 modem that should make 5G more viable in the real world. Unlike the X50, the new chipset will support "all major frequency bands" for (millimeter wave or lower), different operation modes and network deployments (including 4G/5G spectrum sharing), effectively supporting most any 5G rollout on the horizon. You'll be more likely to get coverage beyond your home network, and shouldn't be left behind if there's a coverage upgrade.

The X55 is fast, too, promising 7Gbps peak download speeds and 3Gbps uploads in ideal conditions.

Crucially, it should lead to slicker devices. The 7-nanometer manufacturing should help with the X55's power efficiency from the get-go, but it's also using tricks like 100MHz envelope tracking and adaptive antenna tuning to minimize the electricity draw when you're on a 5G network. You shouldn't need a large handset or a bulky add-on just to enjoy better-than-LTE speeds.

Device makers already have samples of the X55, and the modem is poised to reach shipping hardware sometime in late 2019. In essence, Qualcomm is giving you a clue as to when 5G will become truly practical. The X55 should usher in a second wave of 5G phones that don't have to make extensive compromises in the name of speed.