Qualcomm’s had a rough year, getting hit by a lawsuit from Apple, an ongoing antitrust case in the United States, and an attempted hostile takeover attempt by fellow processor giant Broadcom. But, at least they’ve got one thing going for them — they’re still firmly in control of the world of premium Android smartphones.
This year, their Snapdragon 835 chipset was the brains behind phones like the Samsung Galaxy S8, the OnePlus 5 and 5T, the LG V30, the Moto Z2 Force, the Pixel 2, and the HTC U11, providing not just the processor, but the modem, GPU, and the bits that process your pictures and music to make them look their best. As per usual, Qualcomm has wrapped up the year by debuting their big platform for next year, and it’s called the Snapdragon 845. That it’ll be more powerful is no surprise, but there are some other cool additional features on the way that you can expect to see in next year’s Android smartphones!
Pictures have gotten way better on Android smartphones, with the cameras on the Pixel 2 and Galaxy S8 sometimes rated above those on the iPhone. But, there’s one thing that’s kind of lagged behind — video. Sure, you can take 4K video with a lot of smartphones now, but colors still look blah, making the perfectionist in all of us want to reach for a real camera.
While pictures should look a little better next year on phones with the Snapdragon 845, it’s video that should see the most improvements. Thanks to the new tech, the range of colors that can be captured is being expanded dramatically, with Qualcomm saying the new chipset “captures 64x more high-dynamic range color information.” If you’ve got a fancy 4K Premium display, that means you can take full advantage of it — videos taken on these phones will be in 4K HDR with a wide enough color gamut to get the Premium seal of approval. Hopefully, that means smartphone videos that will be much closer to professional-looking than the washed out ones we tend to see now.
If you’re not a fan of Apple totally dropping Touch ID for Face ID on the iPhone X, you probably have a furrowed brow right now. Well, it’s true that Qualcomm is moving in that direction, too, but it’ll be up to individual smartphone makers to decide whether or not to keep their fingerprint sensors. A lot of Android phones have resisted the Apple-led move to get rid of the headphone jack, so there’s hope!
If you’re a Galaxy S8 or Note 8 user, you know that Samsung had iris scanning on their phones this year. That’s probably not the future of secure logins — instead, like Apple, Qualcomm’s new facial recognition feature will use a 3D map of your face (or anything else, like you can see above) measured by infrared lights. Making a 3D map is vital to keeping your phone secure, as it prevents anyone from logging into your phone simply by using a picture of your face. Even carefully made molds will have a hard time tricking this facial recognition system, making it in theory one of the most secure login methods available!
Those of us on the Android side of the fence have long been able to hold at least one thing over iPhone users — much better battery life. Most top Android smartphones from this year can easily last a full day, and sometimes more, thanks to both the efficiency of Qualcomm’s chipset and the phone makers simply using larger capacity batteries.
This year, Qualcomm wants to make even more efficient use of those huge batteries — and that’s pretty important, because those bright high-resolution displays and high-quality streaming videos can really tax a battery. Qualcomm says they’ve made all parts of the 845 more efficient, from the GPU that handles 3D gaming to the image signal processor that makes your pictures look their best. It’ll be up to phone manufacturers to decide if they want to use that efficiency to make thinner phones with smaller batteries or wring even more battery life out of the ones they’re using now.
Artificial intelligence is still kind of a misnomer. Siri, the Google Assistant, and Cortana are all pretty far from Her status — they can still only do so many tasks, and even then, just what they’re programmed to do. But, there are a lot of other ways AI can be used, and Qualcomm is enhancing some of them with the 845.
One area is photography. It’s now possible for your phone to recognize objects in your pictures, then adjust camera settings during processing to make sure the lighting and colors look as good as possible. That’s the real appeal of AI — phones just work better without you having to do anything differently. We don’t know too much else about what to expect, though — it’ll be up to AI software developers to come up with new uses for Qualcomm’s hardware.
While we’re all looking to the super-fast future of 5G, we’re not quite there yet — we probably won’t see many 5G networks until 2019 or 2020. For the time being, we’ve got Gigabit LTE networks rolling out, and the Snapdragon 845 is equipped to take advantage! Not only will it support the Gigabit LTE, it’ll be able to maximize speeds by using even more frequency bands together in a process called carrier aggregation. In other words, faster internet on 4G networks!
Their new modem also includes Bluetooth 5, which is kind of a big deal. With the new version of Bluetooth, you’ll be able to connect to and stream to multiple speakers at once, so you can create whole Bluetooth speaker surround sound systems with ease. Bluetooth 5 also halves power consumption, which should lead to better battery lives for your Bluetooth speakers and headphones!