Next week in Berlin there are sure to be some new smartphone announcements. It’s the annual IFA show there, along with some supplemental press events in New York City and elsewhere. Yup, we’ll likely see the new Galaxy Gear smartwatch from Samsung and the company’s new Galaxy Note 3, but the star of the show may not be one single device. Instead, it could be a single chip.
At least two companies, if not more, are expected to announce powerful new mobile devices built around Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 chip.
The market has seen a number of phones and tablets using the current Snapdragon line, but those have all been the 200, 400 and 600 models. The HTC One and some versions of the Samsung Galaxy S 4, for example, use the current high-end Snapdragon 600.
So what’s the big deal about the 800? Quite a bit, because it’s not just a faster chip: It adds the potential for completely new features we haven’t yet seen on smartphones. Of course it will be up to handset makers and software developers to tap that potential, so Sony’s Xperia Ultra and LG’s G2 may or may not fully utilize the chip’s functionality.
For example, the Snapdragon 800 supports much higher resolution video capture: Enough to display such content on a UHD HDTV if you have one. That means stills of up to 21 megapixels or video at 4,000 x 2,000 pixels. The chip can also push a lot of pixels on a screen too, supporting displays up to 2560 x 2048 or sending 1080p video wirelessly through Miracast. A new Adreno 330 graphics chip is expected to boost visual performance by 50 percent from the prior version; when combined with the display tech it should offer some excellent gaming opportunties.
From a wireless perspective, 802.11ac Wi-Fi is natively supported, offering faster speeds and greater range for those with a compatible router. I upgraded to one of these routers earlier this year and see a noticeable boost with devices that support the standard.
Also interesting is potential for a feature we’ve already seen: Listening for user input through a low-powered, dedicated Digital Signal Processor (DSP). Motorola enabled this on the Moto X and Droid Ultra line by adding a DSP to the phone chips but the option will be available for all handsets thanks to the Hexagon DSP included with the Snapdragon 800. There’s no always-watching feature, but another company has that in the works if you don’t mind being creeped out a bit!
Qualcomm also includes its Quick Charge 2.0 technology, which it says charges devices 75 percent faster than phones or tablets without the feature. We’ll have to see how handset makers implement the chipset in devices though. Charging faster is always nice but getting through a full day — or more — on a single charge is even better.
Here’s a nice look at what the new chip can do, put topgether by MobileGeeks at this year’s Computex event:
Instead of the same-old minor advances in new phones then, next week could be a bit of a bigger step forward. Sony’s Xperia Ultra Z uses this silicon while LG has already confirmed the chip in its G2 but I wouldn’t be surprised if Asus — with a new PadFone — or HTC’s One Max also out have with a Snapdragon 800 inside.