The company that makes the processors that power many of the world’s smartphones is now launching its own phone. The new Qualcomm Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders is designed and manufactured by Asus, but it’s designed to show off the best of Qualcomm’s technologies and the phone is marketed at members of the company’s Snapdragon Insiders community.

It’s a premium device with a high-quality display, support for fast charging, and more memory and storage than you’d get from an entry-level MacBook Pro. But it also has a premium price tag – Qualcomm’s first phone will sell for $1499 when it goes on sale in August.

That makes the phone, which has the model number EXP21, one of the most expensive smartphones around, and it doesn’t even have a foldable display or a gold-covered body. What the phone does have are some high-end specs including an AMOLED display with a 144 Hz refresh rate, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor, 16GB of LPDDR5 memory, 512GB of UFS 3.1 storage, a 4,000 mAh battery and support for 65W fast charging.

It has three rear cameras and a 24MP front-facing camera, support for recording 8K video, stereo speakers, and support for WiFi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2, NFC, and 5G. The EXP21 smartphone also comes with a pair of “Premium Earbuds” with a wireless charging case and a smartphone case.

In terms of Qualcomm-specific features, the phone has:

  • Qualcomm aptX adaptive sound and Snapdragon Sound
  • Qualcomm Quick Charge 5.0
  • Qualcomm 3D Sonic Sensor Gen 2 (rear fingerprint sensor)
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon Elite Gaming (performance, battery life, and display tweaks)
  • Qualcomm Game Quick Touch (up to 20% improved in-game responsiveness)

While it’s a little unusual for a company that sells its processors to others to sell its own first-party hardware, it’s not exactly unheard of. Intel sells its own small form-factor desktop computers under the NUC brand. NVIDIA sells a line of Android TV devices under its Shield brand. And while Google doesn’t sell processors, it does make the Android software used by most of the world’s phones, but that hasn’t stopped Google from selling its own Pixel phones.

If anything though, Qualcomm’s partnership with Asus reminds me more of Google’s past efforts to sell phones. The company’s discontinued Nexus line of devices were all produced by hardware partners including Samsung, LG, HTC, and NVIDIA. They provided Google with a way to showcase the company’s vision for a high-quality mid-range or premium device with the company’s own software experience, but since Google was working with hardware partners rather than competing with them, the company didn’t tick off those companies enough to make them look elsewhere for their software needs.

It’s unclear what kind of demand there will be for a $1499 Qualcomm Snapdragon-branded phone manufactured by Asus. But if you want to know more about the hardware you can check out the spec sheet below or visit the Snapdragon Insiders website for more details.

Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders
2448 x 1080 (20.4:9)
144 Hz
Delta-E < 1
800 nits outdoor-readable brightness
1,200 nits peak brightness
HDR10 and HDR10+ certified
111.23% DCI-P3, 106.87% NTSC, 150.89% sRGB color gamut coverage
Corning Gorilla Glass Victus
Supports Always-On display
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G
Storage512GB UFS 3.1
Cameras (rear)
  • 64MP Sony IMX686 primary 1/1.73″ image sensor, f/1.8, 26.6mm equivalent, 4-axis optical image stabilization
  • 12MP Sony IMX363 dual pixel 1/2.55″ image ultrawide f/2.2, 14.3mm equivalent, 4cm macro shot support
  • 8MP 3X telephoto w/4-axis optical image stabilization, 80mm equivalent
Camera (front)24MP, 27mm equivalent
PortsUSB Type-C
Battery & charging4,000 mAh
65W fast charging (wired)
Qualcomm Quickk Charge 5.0
SecurityFingerprint sensor (rear)
WirelessWiFi 6E
Bluetooth 5.2
AudioDual Stereo Speakers, Smart AMP (WDA8835)

  • AAC SLS0916A-04 Front Firing Speaker
  • AAC 1216SLS Side Firing Speaker

4 mics

SoftwareAndroid 11
Dimensions173.15 x 77.25 x 9.55mm
Weight210 grams
Price$1499/£1099 (UK/€1299/₹111,990

A lot of the specs look similar to those for the Asus ROG Phone 5, a gaming smartphone that launched earlier this year. The EXP21 and ROG Phone 5 both seem to have the same display, processor, fast charging, and primary and selfie cameras, for example.

But the Qualcomm-branded version of the phone has a smaller battery, a smaller body, and lacks some gaming-centric features like airtrigger buttons and a second USB port. It also lacks a headphone jack, something that’s available on the ROG Phone 5.

One thing that might set the Qualcomm phone apart though? The company says it will receive security updates for 4 years.

press release

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8 replies on “Qualcomm’s first self-branded smartphone is an enthusiast-class flagship (that’s made by Asus)”

  1. I had one of the Kyocera QCom candybar phones, it had voice recognition for contact dialing and everything!
    Now, I just got this beast. It’s neat, the speaker is loud, but a little pitchy. YouTube 4K 60fps looks amazing.
    Nice that it comes with case and earbuds, but I can’t find a screen protector yet.
    Super super disappointed by the lack of wireless charging, I have them in every room of the house. 5 in the kitchen for every family member. I haven’t plugged one my phones in since Moto Droid 4!

  2. If you asked me to tell you what an “enthusiast-class flagship” would be like, I’d say it’d be a SystemReady-compliant, feature-complete remake of a Galaxy S5, but with modern silicon, modern cameras, pen support, and video out over USB-C. That would be really maxing out what you could cram in a phone, really pushing the limits of your reference design to show off the present limits of collective human ability.
    But on the surface, this seems…just like every other phone. An oversized, one port, glass sandwich, with a processor nobody can make the most of.

  3. I wouldnt really pay that for an Asus phone unless its as established as ROG phone.

    1. Another fun fact: Qualcomm’s mobile-phone division was sold off to Kyocera, and that’s what spawned Kyocera’s Palm-OS smartphone lineup.

  4. This could be cool, probably won’t but the potential seems to be there.
    Like, get a proper desktop mode, plug in a dock and have a desktop on the go? or maybe get ideas like the hp lapdock or razer project linda going again and have a phone laptop combo?

    The possibilities are there, will anything happen? probably not 🙁

  5. With that price and those specs, I’d expect more than 2-3 years of updates.

    1. Whoops, my bad. That was a copy/paste from another table. Qualcomm hasn’t actually made any statements about updates that I’ve seen – so we just know that it’ll ship with Android 11.

Comments are closed.