Thursday, May 26

What Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 Tells Us About Next Year’s Android Phones

If you have 2022 circled on your calendar as the year to buy one of the premium Android phones expected to hit the market, last week brought some very good news. Qualcomm previewed the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, the latest version of its top-of-the-line silicon for mobile phones, and the features it chose to talk about made me very optimistic about what next year’s phones will be able to do.

To be fair, every company raves about every new product they reveal; that’s normal when it comes time to sell something. But what’s surprising about the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 reveal is what Qualcomm had chosen to emphasize. The Snapdragon 8 features that the chipmaker is talking about focus on tasks that increasingly define what people turn to smartphones for.

And that’s worth paying attention to if you have any interest in Android devices. Not all of the best Android phones that came out last year used the Snapdragon 888, the predecessor to the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 that Qualcomm showed off last week. But many key phones did, including Samsung’s Galaxy S21 line and its best folding phones, the OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 9 Pro, and many of the best gaming phones.

The things that Snapdragon’s 8-series chipsets allow tell us a lot about what’s to come with the next batch of Android flagship phones. This is what we have learned so far.

Android phone performance

Naturally, much of the interest in the build-up of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 presentation was focused on the kind of performance it enables. And the first leaks weren’t encouraging.

(Image credit: Qualcomm)

A leaked test using the Qualcomm chip that powers a Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 produced multicore scores on Geekbench 5 that lagged behind the Snapdragon 888. Another leaked Geekbench 5 result with an upcoming Samsung phone (probably next year’s Galaxy S22) it also showed an underpowered chip.

There were many reasons not to lose too much sleep over these early numbers. For one thing, the benchmarks only give a picture of how a chipset works, and the silicon used in the pre-release device isn’t always tuned for performance.

In fact, Qualcomm tells us that the Kryo CPU included in the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 should see a 20% increase in speed while consuming 30% less power. The Adreno GPU is in line for a 30% speed increase with a 25% improvement in power savings. Apply these percentages to the benchmark results we saw on Snapdragon 888-powered phones, and you’d expect performance gains that are very close to what the iPhone 13 and its best-in-class A15 Bionic chip can do.

That is certainly nice to imagine. But performance isn’t necessarily what makes me excited about what the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 brings to the table.

More powerful photography

Along with the CPU and GPU, there are other parts of Qualcomm’s system-on-chip. One of the big areas is Spectra ISP, the image signal processor that manages many of the camera functions on your smartphone.

(Image credit: Qualcomm)

The version of Spectra included in the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 potentially brings some powerful capabilities to your future Android phone. For starters, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 features an 18-bit ISP, an improvement over the 14-bit version of the Snapdragon 888. As a result, expect greater dynamic range, sharpness, and colors in the photos you take.

Another first for mobile devices is the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1’s support for 8K HDR video capture, a feature that Qualcomm says will allow people to record more than 1 billion color tones. The ISP is also faster, doubling the number of burst shots it captures in one second than the Snapdragon 888 could produce. An improved night mode now captures 5 times the number of images as the previous generation and fuses the best parts of all 30 images to create a better low-light photo.

Some features of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 will return from the Snapdragon 888, such as the triple ISP that Qualcomm introduced a year ago. That allows the phones to capture photos and videos from up to three different cameras at the same time.

It will be up to the phone manufacturers to decide how best to implement the imaging capabilities that the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 brings to the table. But given the importance of mobile photography to both consumers and the way companies make their smartphones stand out, hopefully any device maker turning to the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 will really stand out when it comes to. to camera functions.

Renders the OnePlus 10 Pro (Image credit: Zouton | OnLeaks)

Take OnePlus, which has already confirmed that the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 will power a future phone, likely the OnePlus 10. The phone maker has already been working with Hasselblad to improve the quality of its camera phones, so imagine OnePlus will. would do. Take the opportunity to take full advantage of what the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 has to offer mobile photography.

The same goes for Samsung and its upcoming flagship Galaxy S22, which is sure to feature the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 (at least for the versions of the phone released in the US). Rumors about the Galaxy S22 Ultra suggest that there won’t be much of a change from the hardware Samsung featured on the Galaxy S21 Ultra, so imagine that Samsung would appreciate an improved ISP that would allow its current camera to capture sharper images and video.

All about AI

Qualcomm generally talks about the artificial intelligence elements of its leading chipset, although that aspect took on additional importance this year with the arrival of Google’s Tensor system-on-chip. That chipset, which powers the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, puts an additional emphasis on artificial intelligence and machine learning; As a result, Google has been able to make AI-powered features like real-time voice dictation in text messages a centerpiece of why people should. consider your new flagship.

Qualcomm is responding with a new generation of its AI engine on board the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, powered by Qualcomm Sensing Hub and the company’s Hexagon processor. That processor’s tensor throttle is twice as fast as before and has twice the shared memory, contributing to a faster and more power-efficient artificial intelligence engine. (The Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 benchmarks seem to confirm faster AI performance, even if the overall performance only shows modest gains over the Snapdragon 888.)

(Image credit: Qualcomm)

It’s hard to talk about what kinds of features the performance boost enables until you’ve got a real phone in hand, but some of the experiences Qualcomm touted during its Snapdragon Tech Summit last week use natural language processing to group text messages. Presumably, the ones that have a more urgent tone would be prioritized. A better AI engine also means better photo filing cabinets and more realistic bokeh blurs. Qualcomm even believes that mobile devices will be able to monitor your physical and mental health by analyzing speech and speech patterns.

We’ll have to wait until the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1-powered phones start arriving to assess what the improved AI engine brings, but it looks like Qualcomm isn’t going to let Google’s Tensor chip get all the plaudits.

Other Features of Snapdragon 8 Gen 1

The Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 offers other capabilities that should be of interest to anyone planning to buy an Android phone in 2022. Gaming capabilities are front and center once again as Qualcomm continues to expand its Snapdragon Elite Gaming features. intended to provide desktop-style games. to mobile devices. Additions to this chipset include support for volumetric rendering (fog and smoke will look more realistic in games) and an Adreno Frame Motion engine that increases frame rates without the corresponding increase in power.

In terms of sound, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 will be the first Snapdragon chipset to include LE audio features such as streaming audio, stereo recording, and voice rear channel for gaming. Qualcomm also says that its built-in Bluetooth 5.2 and Snapdragon sound technology will deliver crystal-clear audio and music.

5G is still a fundamental part of Snapdragon silicon, with the latest chipset with carrier aggregation for faster 5G upload speeds and a 5G modem that can achieve 10Gbps download speeds. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 also supports Wi-Fi 6 and 6E, for better performance over Wi-Fi networks.

What does this mean for the Galaxy S22, OnePlus 10 and other phones

We will soon see the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 in action. The Xiaomi 12 will be out with the chip shortly, as will the Motorola Edge X30. But those phones arrive first in China and are unlikely to reach the United States.

Instead, the first phone with Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 to debut in this country is probably the usual suspect: the next Samsung Galaxy S flagship. And right now, it looks like the Galaxy S22 will arrive around February next year. The OnePlus 10 could be ready at that point as well.

Conceptual design of the Galaxy S22 (Image credit: Super Roader / YouTube)

Samsung and OnePlus will have their own features to promote once their respective flagships debut. But we’re willing to bet that Snapdragon 8 Gen 1-enabled camera capabilities will rank high on the list, and AI-enabled features will be part of the picture as well. Qualcomm’s new chipset may not be mentioned by name, but it will play a central role in supporting those improvements.

This fall has already seen the iPhone 13 and Pixel 6 raise our expectations of what a high-end smartphone should do. From what we’ve heard about the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, Android phones that rely on that new silicon should be able to challenge those devices for a spot among the best phones.

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