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Qualcomm is reportedly developing a Switch-like Android gaming device

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Qualcomm is reportedly working on an Android-powered, handheld gaming console that’s similar to a Nintendo Switch, according to Android Police and XDA’s editor-in-chief Mishaal Rahman. The device would be powered by Qualcomm’s silicon, and could hit store shelves by next year — if it ends up being a real product at all.

According to the article, which cites images seen by Android Police, the device would feature detachable, Joy-Con-like controllers, an SD card slot, Android 12, and (of course) 5G. Also noted, and corroborated by Rahman, is a huge 6,000mAh battery. While the physical dimensions aren’t clear, Rahman tweeted that the screen could be 6.65-inches, with a resolution of at least 1080p (the Switch’s screen is 6.2-inches and runs at 720p). He also indicated that it could have a fan.

In other words, the device sounds like a big smartphone with attached controllers and active cooling, though that may not be a bad thing — the Switch kind of looks like a giant phone too. But it also has a library of great games that only it can play, which is its biggest draw. While there are plenty of good gaming experiences to be had on Android, from retro emulators to games like Fortnite and Genshin Impact, Qualcomm would have to give customers a reason why they should play those games on a separate device, rather than on their Qualcomm Snapdragon-powered gaming phones with built-in buttons or controller accessories (or on their regular phones).

Asus ROG Phone 5 UltimatePhoto by Cameron Faulkner / The Verge
The ROG Phone 5 Ultimate with a controller accessory.

Or at least, it will if it’s trying to sell the device to people — the Android Police article indicates that Qualcomm does want it to be commercially available, potentially at carrier retail stores. It also says that the price target for the device is $300, the same as a full-sized Switch. Currently, the cheapest phone I found with Qualcomm’s flagship 888 processor, the Realme GT 5G, costs roughly $430 (and is only sold in China).

However, Rahman notes that his source believed the product was closer to a reference design than something that would ever see store shelves. Chipmakers, including Qualcomm, often build sample devices to help other manufacturers design around their SOCs or radios. Sometimes, these reference products even end up being sold by other companies under different brands, known as whitelabeling.

It is worth noting that the disagreement between the sources could be due to uncertainty from Qualcomm itself — AP believes this project is almost a year from being finished, so the company may not yet know for sure what it wants this to become.

Whether the device ends up as a product or not (it could easily get canceled before it makes a public appearance), it seems like Qualcomm is actually designing and building a dedicated Android gaming device. It’s understandable why the company would be eying the handheld gaming market: it’s been heating up since Nvidia’s handheld Shield idea turned into the Nintendo Switch, with high-powered gaming phones, Windows PCs with Switch-like form factors, and a variety of mods, classic handheld redesigns, and novelty pocket gaming systems.

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