This year the Snapdragon 835 chip was the belle of the ball for Android phone makers. The flagship phones from Samsung, LG, OnePlus and about 100 others — with the notable exceptions of Apple and Huawei, who like to do their own thing — all used it. Next year it’s going to be inclusion of the 845 that marks phones, tablets, virtual reality headsets and some laptops as being on the cutting edge, but what can end users actually expect from the new chip that’s going to make their digital lives better?
1. More impressive video
The last-gen Snapdragon chip let manufacturers build devices that could display 4K HDR content. The new one’s going to allow for 4K HDR capture, too. That’s going to mean more accurate colour rendition, contrast and detail in both stills and videos. How much more? The Snapdragon 845 will be able to capture 64x more high-dynamic range colour information, including 10-bit colour depth (which is what standards like HDR10 use), which translates to over a billion shades of colour.
2. More immersive content
Augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and mixed/multiple reality (MR) applications will all benefit from the new chip. Which means whether you’re mapping out your home with an app on your phone to see if that new Corricraft couch will fit in your bay window, or slaying zombies in VR, the experience should be slickers, speedier, more detailed and ultimately, more immersive. And, more importantly, it won’t drain your device’s battery as fast.
3. Artificial Intelligence should get more intelligent
From more capable personal voice-based assistants to the ability to use on-device software to create the subject-in-focus-blurry-background bokeh effect with a single-lens phone camera, Snapdragon 845 is built for on-device intelligence. The previous chip already supported Google’s TensorFlow and Facebook’s Caffe/Caffe2 frameworks. The new one adds support for Tensorflow Lite and the new Open Neural Network Exchange (ONNX), which means software developers should have much more flexibility when they’re building AI applications for 845-powered hardware.
4. It’ll be more secure
The 845 introduces a “hardware isolated subsystem called the secure processing unit (SPU).” Say what now? Think of it like a physical vault or safe. What this means is there’s a dedicated part of the chip where things like your biometric info (like fingerprint, iris, voice, and facial data) and the info needed for mobile payments can be safely stored. This same system can be harnessed to create the digital keys and other security measures online services from social media to mobile banking use to make sure you are who you say you are when using their services.
5. Connections will be way faster
Device makers will be able to benefit from updated LTE, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth features on the Snapdragon 845. First, it offers Qualcomm’s second-generation Gigabit LTE solution – the Snapdragon X20 LTE modem. Whether in a phone, a laptop (like the updated versions of the always connected laptops Qualcomm showed off yesterday) or any other internet-connected device, that means that if your mobile network supports it (and you can afford the data) you’ll be able to download a 3GB movie in less than three minutes, for example.
Similarly, support for 60GHz 802.11ad Wi-Fi, integrated 802.11ac Wi-Fi will mean better Wi-Fi performance on supported networks, while enhancements to Bluetooth 5 will make it possible to broadcast audio simultaneously to multiple wireless speakers or other audio kit. Perhaps more importantly, it should also mean less battery consumption by wireless earbuds.
Whatever hardware manufacturers decide to do with the new Snapdragon 845 there’s also improved energy efficiency to look forward to. That should translate into better battery life, even if you’re capturing 4K HDR video, snapping slo-mo 720p video at 480fps (yeah, it supports that, too) or making mobile payments in a coffeeshop in-between streaming your latest binge-watching obsession (try Mindhunter, if you haven’t already).
When can you expect it? Qualcomm says its partners are already playing with the 845 and it should start appearing in phones, headsets, laptops and the like early in 2018. Bring. It. On.