Did this year’s flagship phones feel a little lackluster to you? Well, next year is already looking brighter. Qualcomm just unveiled the Snapdragon 888, a next-gen flagship processor with an integrated 5G modem, an enhanced GPU, and improved support for AI applications like computational photography.
The next wave of premium Android smartphones will utilize the 888 processor, a major improvement over last year’s 865 chip. The old 865 processor did not have an integrated 5G modem, forcing manufacturers to utilize external modems like the Snapdragon X55. External modems eat away at battery faster than integrated modems, and they take up a lot of valuable space in smartphones. (It’s worth noting that Qualcomm’s mid-range 5G chips, like the Snapdragon 765, already feature integrated modems.)
But next year’s flagships won’t just have a better battery life; they’ll also feel a lot faster on 5G networks. The 5G phones of 2020 tend to jump between sub-6 and mmWave 5G (if they even support mmWave), providing inconsistent speeds and unreliable connections. But the Snapdragon 888’s integrated X60 modem aggregates different 5G networks, effectively combining the reliability of sub-6 with the speed of mmWave.
Qualcomm also brags that the 888 chip’s new 6th generation AI Engine crunches data at 26 tera operations per second and processes images 35% faster than the old 865 processor. For the average person, this improved AI performance will lead to better photos and videos (especially in low-light). It also means that you’ll spend less time waiting for photos to process on high megapixel cameras.
You may also notice better video effects in games, as the new 888 chip features Qualcomm’s 3rd generation Elite Gaming platform. The company suggests that its upgraded GPU delivers the “most significant” upgrade in graphics performance, although we aren’t exactly sure what that means yet.
Will the Snapdragon 888 finally push 5G phones into the mainstream? Well, Qualcomm seems pretty confident. The company intentionally broke its naming conventions to use the number 888—a lucky number in Chinese numerology. We’ll learn more about the chip as Qualcomm continues its annual Tech Summit, but we already know that it will appear in Xiaomi’s Mi 11 flagship and some 2021 flagships from LG, Motorola, OnePlus, and Samsung.