Every December for the last few years, Qualcomm has unveiled its next-generation high-end CPU that ends up powering many flagship smartphones for the first half of the following year. Though 2020 might be different than previous years, the tech product cycle is not letting up. The company is announcing today that its latest premium mobile chipset is the Snapdragon 888, and it’ll be in Xiaomi’s upcoming Mi 11 flagship. Other companies like LG, OnePlus, Motorola, ASUS, Lenovo and Oppo have “provided their support for Snapdragon 888,” Qualcomm said.
Though its predecessor is the Snapdragon 865, Qualcomm’s latest model number is a departure from sequential increments and an auspicious name in Chinese culture. The Snapdragon 888 uses a third-generation X60 5G modem and a sixth-generation AI engine. This will be Qualcomm's first 800-series chipset with an integrated 5G modem, too.
The company continues to work on improving what’s possible with smartphone photography, and the Snapdragon 888’s Spectra 580 image signal processor (ISP) will enable devices to capture three 28-megapixel pictures at once. It’ll also support the recording of three concurrent 4K HDR video streams. Notably, it’ll finally allow 10-bit HDR pictures to be saved in the HEIF format, which will preserve the same color depth instead of compressing to 8-bit in JPGs. Though, the HEIF format still isn’t very popular so the usefulness of this feature might not be immediate.
More interesting is a new method to authenticate pictures that will be supported on devices that use the Snapdragon 888. This is powered by Qualcomm’s partner called TruePic that is compliant with the Content Authenticity Initiative to create a “cryptographic C around a picture” that will appear when the image is shared to supported platforms (as long as it has been untouched).
Phones with the Snapdragon 888 will be able to capture photos at 2.7 gigapixels per second, the company said, which should translate to 120 photos that are 12-megapixels sharp per second. That’s up to 35 percent faster than the last Snapdragon processor.
Qualcomm also said that the Snapdragon 888 features the third generation of its Elite Gaming platform, which delivers its “most significant upgrade in Qualcomm Adreno GPU performance.” The latest Snapdragon chipset uses an Adreno 660 GPU and will be capable of things previously reserved for desktop gaming like variable rate shading. It’ll also deliver a 35 percent increase in graphics rendering speed.
The Snapdragon 888’s Kryo 680 CPU also features new architecture, using a “prime” ARM X1 core, three Cortex A78 performance cores and four Cortex A55 efficiency cores. The company says this should provide a 25 percent improvement in performance, and the X1 core can run at up to 2.86GHz.
With new architecture, support for three concurrent photo and video streams as well as cryptography to ensure the veracity of smartphone pictures, the Snapdragon 888 is an intriguing preview of features that might come to next year’s flagships. Now we just have to wait for phone makers to decide which of these capabilities they want to enable in their products.
Update (on 12/2/2020): This article was updated to add more information about the Snapdragon 888’s components, architecture and features after Qualcomm shared more details on the second day of its Tech Summit.