Qualcomm has collaborated with Asus to make its definition of the ultimate Android smartphone. It’s called the Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders, and as the clunky name suggests, it’s designed primarily as a perk for Qualcomm’s army of dedicated fans. To put it into better context, think of it like a Nexus smartphone commissioned by a chipmaker, rather than a software maker.
Like Google when it launched the Nexus range of hardware in 2011, Qualcomm is not a device manufacturer, hence it has worked with Asus to make the Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders. To be clear, this isn’t a Qualcomm phone, it’s an Asus phone, and it will sell the phone through its own online store. Although it’s made to appeal to the 1.6 million-strong team of Snapdragon Insiders, anyone with $1,499 to spare can buy one.
Yes, the Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders (from here on, I’ll refer to the phone as the SSI) costs $1,499, so what do you get? After all, this is more expensive than the most powerful phones available today, such as the Galaxy S21 Ultra, the iPhone 12 Pro Max, and Asus’ top ROG Phone 5, so it better be good. From Qualcomm’s perspective, the SSI is a showcase for the Snapdragon 888 processor, paired here with 5G and a massive 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage space.
The SSI provides a fast 5G connection using the third-generation X60 modem, with every key Sub-6 and mmWave band covered for true global 5G connectivity. If you have a 5G contract and a 5G signal is available, the SSI will be your best bet of making the most of 5G wherever you are in the world. It’s joined by a dual-SIM slot with 5G support for both, plus Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6e, Bluetooth 5.2, and NFC. Android 11 is installed without any additional apps or alterations to the user interface.
On the front is a 6.78-inch, Samsung-made AMOLED screen with a 2448 x 1080 pixel resolution, a 144Hz refresh rate, and HDR10+. It’s covered by Gorilla Glass Victus. Unusually, the fingerprint sensor is on the back of the phone, but it’s still Qualcomm’s second-generation 3D Sonic Sensor, and has been placed on the rear due to the AMOLED panel being rigid and not flexible, which makes it impossibele for the sensor to be set under the display.
There are three cameras on the back — the 64-megapixel Sony IMX686, a 12MP Sony IMX383 wide-angle, and an 8MP telephoto camera with a 3x optical zoom backing it up. Both the main and telephoto cameras have optical image stabilization. You can shoot 4K and 8K video, aa well as use an unusual new feature called AI Auto Zoom, where the camera locks onto your subject, zooms in, and tracks it.
Along with Qualcomm’s Elite Gaming features, its Spectra 580 Image Signal Processor, and Quick Charge 5 on the 4,000mAh battery for a 52-minute fast charge time, the phone also introduces Snapdragon Sound. Think of this like a Qualcomm stamp of approval for audio based around the use of key Qualcomm components. The SSI phone has dual stereo speakers, quad microphones, a WDA8835 amplifier, and a QCC5141 audio system-on-a-chip (SoC) with support for 24-bit files and 96kHz streaming, plus AptX Adaptive and AptX Voice.
So you can make the most of the audio on the phone, Qualcomm and Asus bundle a special pair of Master & Dynamic MW08 true wireless earbuds with the phone, which come in a matching color. A 65W Quick Charge 5 charger is also included, along with a bumper case and a pair of USB Type-C cables. Finally, we come to the design. It’s not the prettiest phone around, but the Qualcomm fireball logo on the back does light up to give it some character. It’s 9.55mm thick and 210 grams, so definitely not a thin, lightweight phone, and it comes in a single color, Midnight Blue.
Qualcomm says the phone is not a competitor to devices made by its other partners, and it’s not saying if this is the first in a series of similar phones either. It’s a special product designed for Insiders, or Insiders with quite a lot of money to spare at least. The Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders will launch in August for $1,499 through the Asus online store in the U.S., U.K., China, Japan, South Korea, and Germany, with India to follow in the future.