Qualcomm updates its top-end chip, reveals future 64-bit and octa-core Snapdragons

No, this isn't quite the flagship chip we've been waiting on, but it's a worthy stopgap. Qualcomm has upgraded its successful Snapdragon 800 processor and notched up its title to the 801. For now, it probably represents the peak of the 32-bit era of Android, with clock speed increases across the board, including a nearly 10 percent increase on the CPU side of things (2.5Ghz instead of the 800's 2.3GHz), a 30 percent increase for the Adreno GPU as well as faster memory. Speed increases like that are par for the course as silicon fabs get into the swing of each product generation, but it means it'll be worth looking out for top-end phones that makes use of the extra power -- not least Sony's Xperia Z2, which is due out next month.

As for 64-bit chips, we've already seen the low-end Snapdragon 410, but now Qualcomm has also revealed plans for its mid-tier Snapdragon 600-series. The Snapdragon 610 and 615 will arrive in Android smartphones in Q4 of this year, regardless of whether Android is able to benefit from 64-bit processing by that time. Like the 410 and other devices that will be based on ARM's Cortex-A53, there's full backwards compatibility with existing 32-bit apps, so it's more about future-proofing than anything else. In the case of the Snadpragon 615, it's Qualcomm's first-ever octa-core silicon. According to Anandtech, it looks like the eight cores are divided into two "clusters" that are similar to ARM's big.LITTLE design -- in other words, each quad-core cluster may be designed to handle different sorts of tasks. But Qualcomm added that all eight cores can be operational at the same time, making it a more powerful alternative -- and a more direct threat -- to MediaTek's own octa-core offer.