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Qualcomm sees 5G as answer to its problems

Qualcomm President Cristiano Amon. Photo: Qualcomm

It's been quite the rough patch for Qualcomm, what with having to deal with a hostile takeover bid, a protracted legal battle with major customer Apple, a host of antitrust fights around the globe, plus the slowing of its key market in smartphones.

But, but, but: The looming arrival of 5G offers the potential for the smartphone market to eventually return to double digit growth, president Cristiano Amon told Axios in an interview Monday.

Amon describes some reasons why Qualcomm is optimistic:

1. Transitions are good times for the market leader, and Qualcomm expects to be head of rivals. Device makers often look to secondary suppliers and homegrown alternatives as technologies become more mature, while turning to the first to market in the early part of a transition.

2. Head start: The first 5G phones should hit the market by next April, with a number of flagship Android devices supporting 5G throughout the year. The transition could also offer a chance for Android to make inroads against Apple, given that Apple tends to wait until cellular technology is more mature before bringing over the iPhone.

  • Competitive shifts could also help Qualcomm, with Chinese players such as Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo using the dawn of 5G combined with Qualcomm chips to make inroads in Europe and elsewhere.

3. From phones to computers: Qualcomm has long hoped to crack the market for chips that power PCs. Historically, customers haven't wanted the tradeoffs that come with using a non-Intel processor and have been loath to sign up for another data plan. With its ultra-low-latency and high data speeds, 5G could change that.

4. No standards war. In past cellular generations, there have been multiple competing efforts with different carriers or markets using different technologies. With 5G, Amon said all signs point to a single global standard.

Yes, but: Transitions can also be messy times. The first 4G phones, such as the HTC Thunderbolt, were buggy and had terrible battery life. Amon says the industry knows that it needs to be able to deliver all-day battery life if it wants to include 5G in next year's flagship phones.

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