The premium Android smartphone market has evolved and diversified; many manufacturers have entered the segment, driven by demand for quality devices and unique experiences. To compete, these companies look to create standout products by using design and performance gains. But when manufacturers compete with the same leading chipsets, being unique becomes harder. This has opened the door for increased competition in chip-making — most notable with MediaTek’s entrance into the flagship tier of the market.
As a result, it’s become necessary for industry leaders like Qualcomm to offer more frequent updates, even to its flagship line of mobile system-on-chips (SoCs). To this end, this week Qualcomm announced the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1, an earlier-than-expected mid-cycle update to its high-end platform. The new mobile SoC features improved computing, graphic and artificial intelligence cores, along with power efficiency gains derived from design optimizations and a move to a new silicon process. Qualcomm has also catered to the enthusiast and mobile gaming-orientated with the new Snapdragon 7 Gen 1 platform, which inherits some of the premium technologies established by the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1.
The Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 comes just five months after the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 was announced, signalling the company’s willingness to support manufacturers’ visions of unmatched performance and fast development. It sets a new bar in chipset performance, enabling smartphone makers to target even more capable products that will boost performance from the second half of 2022.
Qualcomm has tweaked its Adreno GPU to provide 10% faster graphics rendering while reducing power consumption by 30%; CPU performance has made similar gains and power savings, with maximum clock rate now set at 3.2 GHz, up from 3 GHz in the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1. Together, the rate of performance gains in the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 outpace those of previous “plus” upgrade cycles — such as 2021’s Snapdragon 888+ — making this mid-cycle flagship update more significant than in previous years.
The Snapdragon 7 Gen 1 sees Qualcomm position a high-tier chipset with strong optimization for mobile gaming. The company’s Snapdragon Elite Gaming brand has aimed to develop its presence in this segment, and features such as its Adreno Frame Motion Engine, which can maintain a high gaming frame rate without increased battery consumption, will now trickle down to a more affordable chipset. Naturally, the Snapdragon 8 and 8+ family will deliver a higher level of performance for the most discerning customers, but the popularity of mobile gaming means these changes should be well received.
On both fronts, it appears that the improvements are resonating with customers. Over a dozen companies have already lined up behind the new flagship Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1, and are expected to release powerful new smartphone designs based on the SoC as early as July 2022. The Snapdragon 7 Gen 1 also has support from multiple manufacturers, with commercial devices expected this quarter.
The rapid refinement rate at the high end of the chipset market is driving phone manufacturers to constantly evolve their offerings; Qualcomm’s latest improvements should help them to continue setting the pace. Regardless of increased pressure as rivals seek to enter the premium tier, there’s no doubt that Qualcomm remains the dominant player in offering premium chipsets. Its ability to drive innovation here, and eventually bring its SoC benefits down to more affordable tiers, has proven very successful. The latest improvements look set to continue this trend, and although competitive pressures are rising, Qualcomm is well positioned to defend its market position — at least for the moment.
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