Qualcomm is ready to support foldable phones, and it won't require big chip changes

foldable phones

The future of smartphones is 5G with speeds that rival your current WiFi connection, but we're also hearing about the foldable phone trend coming in 2019.

The good news is that chipmaker Qualcomm says it's ready to support the foldable phone revolution. The company's new Snapdragon 855 chipset supports that idea, even though foldables haven't been a big topic at its Snapdragon Summit in Hawaii.

"We're ready for [foldable phones]," said Keith Kressin, Qualcomm's senior vice president of product management, in a response to a question from TechRadar. "And if an OEM wants to introduce a mobile with a Snapdragon 855, awesome."

However, Kressin was quick to point out that, "we're not going to talk a lot about it," noting that "we don't have specific features we would like to announce today." 5G has largely been the focus during this year's Snapdragon Summit.

Foldable phones would only require minor chip changes

Qualcomm, which has its Snapdragon chips at the heart of a majority of top Android phones, won't have to change much to support the advent of foldable phones. 

"There are changes required," said Kressin. "But instead of being processing focused, it's more like display subsystem changes, and some GPU changes."

In other words, only minor tweaks may be needed. He noted that any tweaks to the System on a Chip largely "depend on how the OEM wants to do the foldable." So far there's only one Qualcomm OEM partner showing a foldable phone prototype: Samsung.

Samsung demoed its 'Infinity Flex Display' technology at its developer conference in November. That technology may come to the rumored Galaxy X (or Galaxy F) in 2019. We could see more of this phone at CES 2019 or MWC 2019.

There's no guarantee that Samsung will use Qualcomm's Snapdragon 855 in its foldable phone – or any phone including the inevitable Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus.

But the two firms work closely together, with Samsung using Snapdragon chipsets in some of its flagship phones and actually manufacturing Qualcomm's chips through a strategic partnership.

When TechRadar asked Samsung to comment on the future of foldable phones, the company preferred to wait until its hardware is ready to be shown in full in 2019. By that time, the next Snapdragon Summit may hold chip surprises dedicated to foldables.

Matt Swider