Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 is the next mobile platform for flagship smartphones launching in early 2021. At the first ever virtual edition of Snapdragon Tech Summit, Qualcomm unveiled the new mobile platform as redefinition of premium smartphone experience. Earlier rumours indicated that Qualcomm will brand its next flagship mobile chipset as Snapdragon 875.
However, the successor to Snapdragon 865 is called the Snapdragon 888 and shows the generational leap that Qualcomm is promising for the next era of flagship devices.
At the Snapdragon Tech Summit Digital, ASUS, Black Shark, LG, MEIZU, Motorola, Nubia, Realme, OnePlus, OPPO, Sharp, Vivo, Xiaomi and ZTE confirmed support for the new platform.
However, Samsung is rumoured to be the first brand to launch a new Snapdragon 888-powered smartphone in the form of Galaxy S21 series next month.
Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 is official
Like the previous edition of Snapdragon Tech Summit, Qualcomm is not shedding a lot of light on its next generation flagship mobile platform. We will know more details during the second day of the summit. However, the company did share some details around what makes Snapdragon 888 better than its predecessor.
Qualcomm says it builds foundational technologies for smartphones first and then brings the technology to broader Snapdragon tiers. These include ACPCs, Extended Reality (XR) devices, Cloud AI products and 5G Fixed Wireless Mobile Broadband. After Alex Katouzian, SVP & GM, Mobile, Compute and Infrastructure, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. revealed the chipset, Lekha Motiwala, Director of Product Development, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. detailed key aspects of the chip.
At the heart of Snapdragon 888 is the third generation Qualcomm Snapdragon X60 5G Modem-RF system. The Snapdragon X60 was announced earlier this year as a third generation 5G solution. The modem offers global compatibility with support for mmWave and sub-6 frequency bands across all major bands worldwide. It also brings support for 5G carrier aggregation, global multi-SIM, standalone and non-standalone and Dynamic Spectrum Sharing.
With Dynamic Spectrum Sharing, operators will be able to deploy their 5G networks on low frequency FDD bands already used for LTE service. With 5G FDD-TDD carrier aggregation in X60 will allow operators to add capacity and coverage. They can increase peak throughput above 5.5Gbps using mmWave-sub6 aggregation and for a 5G SA operator with only sub-6GHz spectrum, Snapdragon X60 promises double the peak throughput. If Snapdragon 865 with Snapdragon X55 was fast then this promises to be even faster. The only problem for consumers will be to find 5G networks with such capability.
AI Computation and Snapdragon Elite Gaming
The Snapdragon 888 will compete against mobile platforms like Apple A14 Bionic and Huawei Kirin 9000. So, it is imperative to say that there is renewed focus on AI computation as well. There is a new 6th generation Qualcomm AI Engine with a completely re-engineered Qualcomm Hexagon processor. Qualcomm claims 26 tera operations per second, which is a huge leap from 5.5 TOPS of AI performance offered by Snapdragon 865. There is also a second generation Qualcomm Sensing Hub for low-power always-on AI processing.
Qualcomm is also teasing a significant upgrade in Adreno GPU performance with Snapdragon 888 mobile platform. Last year, it enabled support for frame rates up to 144fps and we will have to see what kind of graphics performance comes to the third generation of Snapdragon Elite Gaming experience.
Lastly, Qualcomm is also sharing its focus on computational photography and the quest to turn smartphones into professional cameras. The Snapdragon 888 SoC brings Qualcomm Spectra ISP with faster gigapixel speed allowing users to capture photos and videos at 2.7 gigapixels per second. In other words, we are looking at capturing 120 photos at 12MP resolution, which will be 35 percent faster than the previous generation.
We will know more details including the system architecture of the Snapdragon 888 during the second day technical keynote. For now, Qualcomm is making it clear that it is the leader when it comes to flagship platforms that power Android devices. With Huawei losing access to US technologies needed to design and build mobile chipsets, Qualcomm is in a unique position. Samsung is the only other company capable of challenging the San Diego, California-based company for leadership in Android flagship smartphone performance.
Snapdragon 888 reference design demo
“Creating premium experiences takes a relentless focus on innovation. It takes long term commitment, even in the face of immense uncertainty,” Cristiano Amon, President, Qualcomm Incorporated said. “It takes an organization that’s focused on tomorrow, to continue to deliver the technologies that redefine premium experiences.”
Qualcomm also demonstrated the power of Snapdragon 888 mobile platform through a Radio-Controlled race car connected entirely by 5G mmWave. During the demo, two race cars were connected to a private 5G network and controlled using a Snapdragon 888 reference design with Snapdragon X60 5G Modem-RF system. These cars were controlled from over a mile away and live video of the track was viewed using capturing capabilities.
The demo was used to show low latency streams and throughput capabilities of the new Snapdragon 888 mobile platform. Qualcomm has pioneered 5G and with Snapdragon 888, it is preparing for the next wave of experience even though emerging economies like India are yet to begin trial for the next generation of mobile telephony.