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Qualcomm is making a Nintendo Switch clone of its own

Updated Oct 10th, 2021 8:06AM EDT
Qualcomm Nintendo Switch
Image: Kyodo/Newscom/The Mega Agency

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The PS5 and Xbox Series X were two of the most highly anticipated products of 2020, but Nintendo won the console wars last year. The Switch sold better than the PlayStation and Xbox last year, with the novel coronavirus helping drive sales, as lockdowns forced people to find new ways to get entertained at home. The PS5 and new Xbox arrived only in late 2020, and the supply was nowhere near close to meeting demand, so the two new entrants weren’t able to put too much of a fight.

The Switch is so popular with gamers that several companies have tried to clone its success. The newest addition to that list is Qualcomm, which is reportedly readying its own Android-based Switch alternative for a Q1 2022 launch.

Qualcomm manufactures several of the chips you’d find in an Android smartphone, like the Snapdragon system-on-chip platform that powers phones like the Galaxy S and OnePlus handsets. It also makes 4G and 5G modems that go into the same phones and sensors, like the under-display fingerprint sensor in the Galaxy S21 phones. But Qualcomm doesn’t make consumer electronics.

According to information obtained by Android Police, Qualcomm is actively developing a Switch knockoff that would launch early next year.

The device would look like a bigger phone, although it would not work as a phone. It’ll be more like a 5G-ready tablet, featuring a 6.65-inch screen and a thicker body. The device would house a large 6,000 mAh battery with Quick Charge support. The extra thickness should also help with heat dissipation, allowing Qualcomm to bump up gaming performance without worrying about overheating. It’s unclear, however, whether the device will feature a top-of-the-line Qualcomm SoC, but the hardware will include 2022 Snapdragon processors.

The Qualcomm Switch will also feature Joy-con-like detachable controllers on the left and right, just like Nintendo’s console. Qualcomm is supposedly using a premium supplier in the controller space to design and manufacture the gamepads.

Also, like the Switch, the nameless Qualcomm console will support display-out capabilities, allowing gamers to connect to TV sets and external monitors. It’s unclear whether the console will feature a mini HDMI port or whether the USB-C charging port will be used to connect to a larger screen. The report notes that the console would support expandable storage.

Android 12 will run the show, with a custom launcher on top. The console will feature the full Android experience as seen on devices running Google’s version of Android. That means full support for Play apps and services. But Qualcomm also wants to support Epic’s Play store alternative and possibly create its own content portal.

That entire package would sell for around $300, assuming Qualcomm goes forward with the plans. It’s unclear when the console would be announced, but xda-developers says it can independently confirm that Qualcomm has been working on a Switch-like device.

The problem with any Switch clone, whether it runs Windows 10 or Android, is that it lacks the Nintendo magic. The Switch is so popular because Nintendo has all that original content that fans adore. That’s why the Switch works. The device has entry-level specs that don’t really allow it to compete against the PlayStation or Xbox. And the Switch isn’t exactly a tablet that would rival the iPad or Android devices. But the Switch does one thing nobody else can. It runs Mario and all the other Nintendo properties that nobody else can touch.

A $300 Qualcomm “Switch” can never be as exciting. For starters, that price point indicates that Qualcomm might have to compromise on specs. But, unlike Nintendo, it doesn’t have a considerable IP catalog to leverage. And let’s not forget that Android-based gaming phones do exist. They feature spectacular specs, especially the 2021 models, and they’re somewhat affordable. Many of them can be transformed into Switch-like devices with the addition of special controllers. But they remain a gimmick in the industry.

Nintendo, meanwhile, is working on a Switch Pro sequel that will probably sell like hotcakes

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.