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Even low-end smartphones can have LTE thanks to the Snapdragon 210

While Qualcomm has focused its attention on the mid-tier and the high-end segments, MediaTek has managed to grab a significant chunk of the market share in the entry-level market. With the introduction of the LTE-enabled Snapdragon 210, Qualcomm is looking to remedy that and take the fight to MediaTek in the budget smartphone segment. The highlight of the Snapdragon 210 is LTE Category 4 connectivity, along with dual-LTE connectivity for dual-SIM handsets. The SoC features a quad CPU along with an Adreno 304 GPU, and supports 1080p displays with hardware HEVC. The chip also supports up to 8 MP imaging sensors with Zero Shutter Lag, HDR, autofocus, auto white balance and auto exposure.

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 2×10 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.

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