Two new Qualcomm chips will bring faster mobile speeds, processing and graphics performance to smartphones and tablets. The Snapdragon 808 and 810, announced by Qualcomm on Monday, will also support 64-bit computing. What they won’t bring are any of these new features in 2014; the company says to expect chip samples in device manufacturer’s hands the second half of 2014 with availability in commercial devices in the first six months of 2015.
The timing is a bit surprising to me as Qualcomm has generally been leading the mobile chip cycles with its Snapdragon line over the past few years. Of late, the top performing Android and Windows Phone handsets, for example, typically run on the Snapdragon 800 or 805 chips. And the latest flagships — the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the HTC One M8 — run on Qualcomm’s upgraded 801 system on a chip. None are 64-bit capable, however; a move that Apple made with its A7 chip in the iPhone 5c and iPad Air.
Also surprising is no mention of Qualcomm’s own processing cores on these chips. Unlike the prior Snapdragons that use Qualcomm’s Krait cores, these new chips appear to be generic ARM processors with other processing core technology still in progress. In its press release, for example, the company mentions says “These product announcements, in combination with the continued development of our next-generation custom 64-bit CPU, will ensure we have a tremendous foundation on which to innovate…”
These aren’t the first 64-bit chips from Qualcomm, regardless. In December the company announced the Snapdragon 410 followed by February news of the Snapdragon 610 and 615; all of which are 64-bit capable but meant for low- and mid-range phones respectively. These are also expected in devices sooner than the new 808 and 810: Look for devices with them before year-end. In Qualcomm’s defense, the bottom-up approach may make sense as the budget phone market is showing more signs of growth than the high-end market.
Timing aside, what’s new in the 808 and 810?
Both of the new chipsets work with LTE-Advanced networks, supporting 3 x 20 MHz carrier aggregation and theoretical wireless speeds up to 300 Mbps. They’ll also work with a dual-stream 802.11ac Wi-Fi network for better local network performance.
The Snapdragon 810 is the more potent chip, however, with native 4k video and imaging support, Bluetooth 4.1 and 64-bit quad-core ARM Cortex-A57 CPUs and Cortex-A53 CPUs. The chip also uses an Adreno 430 graphics core. Native 2k video comes with the Snapdragon 808 and its Adreno 418, along with a pair of Cortex-A57 CPUs and four Cortex-A53 processing cores.
Of course, to take advantage of 64-bit chips, the software must be compatible. As of yet, Google hasn’t announced 64-bit support for Android, although Google I/O is just around the corner in June. Now that the silicon is in the works, I’d expect Google to show progress here. Intel did so just last week, saying it now has a 64-bit kernel for Android. That doesn’t help Qualcomm though as it uses a completely different chip architecture.