New Qualcomm chips tease CD-quality audio for your earbuds and faster 5G

Qualcomm is using Mobile World Congress to show off some new technology that should improve 5G connectivity and wireless audio. These new capabilities — and the chips that make them possible — are likely to land in the next generation of earbuds and high-end Android phones starting in the second half of this year.

The Snapdragon X70 5G modem-RF system attempts to improve your phone’s 5G connection with the help of an AI processor. This helps it maximize 5G signal for better coverage — particularly important for mmWave signals which are short-range compared to the broader coverage of low and mid-band frequencies. Qualcomm says this improvement is limited to situations like stadiums and city blocks, and that it doesn’t address one of mmWave’s key weaknesses: the signal’s inability to travel from outdoors to indoors. But where there’s no mmWave signal, the new AI processor should boost sub-6GHz coverage and speeds, too.

The new audio features, wrapped up in a platform called Snapdragon Sound, include a feature teased last year: wireless earbud support for 16-bit “CD-quality” lossless audio over Bluetooth. There’s also a gaming mode with 68ms latency — 25 percent lower than Qualcomm’s current technology. Another addition is the ability to record in stereo through a pair of earbuds. The company’s latest adaptive active noise cancellation technology is also included.

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