Qualcomm's new audio chip uses Wi-Fi to massively extend headphone range

Listeners can apparently walk around their house or building while remaining connected to their phone.

Mike Blake / reuters

In addition to the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 and the Snapdragon X Elite, Qualcomm has also introduced the S7 and S7 Pro Gen 1 at the Snapdragon Summit in Hawaii. The company said its new chips deliver six times the compute power of their predecessor's, along with on-device AI capabilities. More intriguing, perhaps, is the S7 Pro's micro-power Wi-Fi connectivity, which will apparently allow users to "walk around a home, building or campus while listening to music or making calls."

As The Verge notes, the chip uses Qualcomm's Expanded Personal Area Network (XPAN) technology that can automatically switch a device's connection. When a user strays too far from their phone while their earbuds are connected to it via Bluetooth, for instance, XPAN switches the connection to a Wi-Fi access point. It can deliver 96kHz lossless audio via earbuds, Qualcomm's Dino Bekis told the publication, and it works with 2.4, 5 and 6GHz bands. Bekis also said that users only have to click on a prompt once to connect their earbuds powered by the chip to their Wi-Fi.

Outside of the S7 Pro's Wi-Fi connectivity, the platforms' on-board AI enable better responsiveness to the listener's environment if they want to hear ambient sounds. But if they want to block out their environment completely, the chips are supposed to be capable of Qualcomm's "strongest ever ANC performance" regardless of earbud fit.

These features will only be enabled when headsets, earbuds and speakers powered by the S7 and S7 Pro are paired with devices equipped with the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 mobile platform and Snapdragon X Elite, though. That means we won't be seeing products with the new sound chips on the market anytime soon. When they do come out, they'll most likely be meant for Android devices, seeing as Apple has its own ecosystem.