5G phones are about to get much cheaper

Oppo Find X2 Lite, one of the cheapest 5G phones right now
Oppo Find X2 Lite, one of the cheapest 5G phones right now (Image credit: Future)

Even the cheapest 5G phones cost quite a bit compared to the most affordable 4G phones, but that's set to change soon, as one of the biggest smartphone chipset manufacturers has just unveiled a new processor that could enable a new generation of budget 5G phones.

At Qualcomm's keynote conference at IFA 2020 it announced a number of new processors for all different kinds of tech, including the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 for computers, and also a new 5G smartphone chipset that sits far below its existing ones.

This new chipset will be in the Snapdragon 400 series - that's the company's lowest-end series, with the 800-series being the top-end, and 600- and 700- series being mid-rangers. All those other series of processors already have 5G entries, but the 400 doesn't, so this new chipset brings 5G to a new part of the phone market.

Qualcomm's 400-series chipsets tend to show up in affordable phones like the Moto E7 Plus, Nokia 3.4 and apparently the rumored OnePlus Nord Lite.

The chipsets are the least powerful in Qualcomm's range, as they're designed for people who don't need loads of processing grunt - but soon these devices will be able to take advantage of super-fast 5G internet speeds.

So while there are a few cheap 5G phones on the market right now like the OnePlus Nord, Moto G 5G Plus and Oppo Find X2 Lite, soon there will be many more, and at lower prices.

Which cheap 5G phones will we see first?

Qualcomm said its new 400-series 5G chipset will start appearing in phones from 2021, but we have a clue which handsets will have it first.

At Qualcomm's IFA presentation, after the new processor was unveiled, two guests came on to talk about it some more - Tony Chen, the founder and CEO of Oppo, then Lei Jun, the co-founder and chairman of Xiaomi.

While neither named any of their handsets which would have this new chipset, Jun confirmed Xiaomi would have one of the first smartphones using it, and the language used by Chen implied Oppo would be using it very soon too.

Both Xiaomi and Oppo have popular series of affordable phones, the Xiaomi Redmi and Oppo A lines respectively, neither of which has a 5G entry at time of writing. With this new announcement, it seems 2021 could bring a 5G phone to one or both lines.

Qualcomm also name-dropped Motorola and Samsung at its conference, not as companies using the chipset, but as ones breaking into the cheap 5G phone market, so we could also see Moto E and Samsung Galaxy A phones with super-low prices and 5G connectivity in 2021.

Right now we can't say for certain what the first cheap 5G phones will be, but thanks to this news, we definitely know such handsets are coming.

IFA 2020 is Europe's biggest tech show (although much smaller this year due to global restrictions), and TechRadar will bring you all the breaking news and first impressions of new TVs, wearables and other devices as they're announced.

Tom Bedford

Tom Bedford was deputy phones editor on TechRadar until late 2022, having worked his way up from staff writer. Though he specialized in phones and tablets, he also took on other tech like electric scooters, smartwatches, fitness, mobile gaming and more. He is based in London, UK and now works for the entertainment site What To Watch.

He graduated in American Literature and Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. Prior to working on TechRadar, he freelanced in tech, gaming and entertainment, and also spent many years working as a mixologist. He also currently works in film as a screenwriter, director and producer.