Qualcomm is inside most of the flagship phones released each year with its Snapdragon 888 as the top-end CPU de jour for Android flagships. However, the company's name and branding aren't found on these devices.
Not so for the newly announced "Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders" that Asus built in partnership with Qualcomm. This phone is designed to showcase everything that the Qualcomm Snapdragon platform has to offer for the slightly eye-watering sum of $1,500 (via PC Mag).
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Before you go sprinting out your door on the way to Best Buy to scoop one up, this phone is exclusively available to Snapdragon Insiders and isn't actually up for sale just yet. You can sign up to be a Snapdragon Insider and be notified when they do go on sale.
So other than the prominent Snapdragon branding on the back of the phone, what does the Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders have to offer?
With a couple of notable exceptions, the phone offers top-of-the-line specs with a Snapdragon 888 processor, 16GB of RAM, 512GB of storage, and a 6.8-inch FHD+ Samsung AMOLED display with a 144Hz refresh rate. If that collection of specs sounds familiar, it's a dead ringer for the Asus ROG Phone 5, specifically the Pro model. Not exactly shocking as Qualcomm wants to make it clear that it has no aspirations to compete with its OEMs and that this is merely a showcase for Snapdragon.
Manufacturers often skip some of the Snapdragon-specific features, while this phone of course leans into them as hard as possible. This includes the 65W QuickCharge 5 wired charging, similar to what we see on the OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 9 Pro with WarpCharge 65. Snapdragon Sound is also onboard with a pair of Snapdragon-branded Master & Dynamic MW08 wireless earbuds to help show off the 24-bit, 96kHz audio.
On the back of the phone, you have a Qualcomm ultrasonic fingerprint sensor, which is getting rarer as most phones turn to in-display fingerprint readers and/or facial recognition. Finally, that 144Hz display also benefits from a 20% faster touch response courtesy of Qualcomm Game Quick Touch.
Qualcomm has also rolled out the red carpet when it comes to connectivity on this device with every flavor of 5G band on the planet, Wi-Fi 6E, and dual 5G SIM slots.
That mostly all sounds great, but there are some definite disappointments. The first is the battery at 4,000mAh. Given the screen size, refresh rate, and performance of this phone that is worryingly small. I'll refer you again to the ROG Phone 5 which managed a solid 10 hours and 27 minutes in our battery test at 144Hz, but that was with a 6,000 mAh battery.
The cameras are another point of concern. The primary sensor is the Sony IMX 686 64MP wide-angle, which is the same primary in the ROG Phone 5 and photography was the biggest weakness for that phone. Its second and third lenses are an upgrade with the Sony IMX363 12MP ultra-wide and an 8MP telephoto with 3x optical zoom. It should outperform the ROG Phone 5 in this area, but that's a low hurdle.
The biggest disappointment of all is the lack of any promised major OS updates. The device will launch with Android 11 and Qualcomm indicated it will receive four years of security updates. By the time this phone ships. Android 12 will likely be weeks away from release and as far as we know you will never get it. That's just completely unacceptable for a $1,500 phone.
I'll close on that point, even with the bundled 65W charger, cables, Master & Dynamic headphones, and bumper case the $1,500 asking price is just too high. Unless you are one of the diehard Qualcomm fans and happen to need a pair of true wireless ANC earbuds there are better options for less like the Galaxy S21 Ultra. Or if you love the specs of this phone and don't particularly care about your camera experience the ROG Phone 5 is an awesome phone for content consumption and gaming and you can get it for under $1,000.