At its annual Tech Summit, this year held in Hawaii, Qualcomm has unveiled its next-generation smartphone chip, the Snapdragon 855. It is the first to offer 5G, and will be in many of the 2019 flagships from Samsung, Google and other phone manufacturers.
A spokesperson for Samsung took to the stage to confirm that the next major release would feature the 855, though presumably some markets will get Samsung's on Exnyos processor instead.
The Snapdragon 855 will also support a brand new in-screen fingerprint sensor called the 3D Sonic sensor. Instead of recording a 2D image of your finger, it uses an ultrasonic sensor to build up a 3D model. This is said to work even if your finger is wet or oily.
The sensor isn't part of the 855, and you'll only see it if phone manufacturers decide to use it. It won't put an end to the current trend for screen notches, since that will still be necesary for the selfie camera at a minimum.
4th Gen AI Engine
Not many details have been given yet, partly because Qualcomm is downplaying things such as CPU and GPU performance in favour of the overall experience. And so far it has only said that the latest AI Engine has 3x the performance of the one in the Snapdragon 845, and is twice as quick as other 7nm chips.
That means Apple's A12 Bionic and Huawei's Kirin 980. It also suggests the 855 itself is using a 7nm manufacturing process, which is no surprise.
The new AI engine is said to efficiently pick whichever processing core is appropriate for the best user experience.
It also looks very much like the focus of the 855 will be on AR and image processing.
Computer vision ISP
Part of the 855 platform is a brand new image signal processor. Like the NPU in the Kirin 980, this intelligently understands the scene when you point the camera and adjusts parameters to capture the best photos and videos.
We'll learn more about this and the 855 in general tomorrow.
The final teaser concerns mobile gaming. Qualcomm announced Elite Gaming. This is a hollistic approach to gaming, and not simply a highly tuned GPU. Qualcomm spoke of the complete package of immersion, visuals and sound, adding that this won't compromise long battery life and saying that, with the 855 in your phone, you'll feel like you have a proper games console in your hands.
Recently Qualcomm announced the Snapdragon 675, to target gamers buying mid-range phones.
Snapdraon 855 5G
5G is part of the 855 of course. This is delivered via Qualcomm's latest X50 modem which will work in partnership with new infrastructre from mobile operators to deliver "vastly faster speeds" than are possible with 4G.