Qualcomm’s vice-like grip on the Android chipset market may be loosening in the face of growing pressure from MediaTek on one side, and phone manufacturers keen to make their own silicon on the other, but it’s undoubtedly still the major player when it comes to flagship Android chips, and the next Snapdragon is likely to be no different.
The company clearly knows it has to fight to keep its share of the market, and as part of that has already confirmed a Snapdragon re-brand that hints at a whole new name for the upcoming flagship.
Other leaks are already hinting at the chip’s architecture, while the first manufacturers are beginning to tease their plans for Qualcomm’s next flagship. Here’s everything we know so far.
When will the next Snapdragon be revealed?
The Snapdragon 898 is most likely to be announced at this year’s Snapdragon Tech Summit. The event is confirmed to take place from 30 November – 2 December, and the chip will probably be announced during a keynote on the first day – though full details may have to wait until one of the later days.
What will the Snapdragon flagship be called?
I already mentioned that there’s a little uncertainty about the chipset’s name. So far leakers have been split, though there is at least broad agreement that the model number will be SM8450 – a sensible jump on last year’s SM8350 – and its internal code name is apparently ‘Waipio’, after a Hawaiian valley and village.
Just a week before the chip’s announcement Qualcomm revealed a re-brand for its Snapdragon line that includes scrapping the three-digit naming system its used so far, including for last year’s Snapdragon 888. That rules out it being called the Snapdragon 895 or 898, the two longest-running rumours.
Instead, Snapdragon chips will adopt “a single-digit series and generation number,” which sounds similar to the naming of the company’s computer chips – where the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 is due soon.
The company hasn’t yet confirmed the actual name of the new phone flagship, but earlier in November leaker Ice Universe predicted that the chip will be called the ‘Snapdragon 8 gen1’.
That matches Qualcomm’s new brand guidelines fairly closely – so while it isn’t official yet, we think it’s a safe bet that this will be the name of next Snapdragon chipset. On its computing chips Qualcomm capitalises ‘Gen’ and adds a space though, so ‘Snapdragon 8 Gen 1’ may be the more accurate formatting.
Which phones will use the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1?
It would probably be quicker to list the major phone companies that won’t release a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 phone than the ones that will: Apple, obviously; Google, as its shift to in-house silicon production for this year’s Pixel 6 will presumably continue; and Huawei, as it’s still limited by the US trade ban (though we may see it adopt a 4G-only version of the chip).
Every other phone company you can name will probably use the chip in at least one new 2022 phone, with Geekbench leaks already revealing the chip in an unnamed Vivo phone and a Samsung phone (likely the Galaxy S22). Samsung is also tipped to feature the chip in the Galaxy Tab S8 series.
The Redmi K50 Pro is also rumoured to use it, while the Xiaomi 12 series is also almost certain to support the chip, since last year’s Mi 11 was the first phone announced to use the Snapdragon 888.
A Lenovo exec has also already confirmed on Chinese social media network Weibo that there are plans to release SM8450 phones under both the Lenovo and Motorola brands, with the first set to launch within 2021. Leaker Digital Chat Station claims that whatever Motorola handset is coming will be one of the ones that launches this year, and may be coordinating with Xiaomi over who gets to be the first to announce an 8 Gen 1 phone.
What are the specs of the next Snapdragon?
Understandably the Snapdragon’s specs are far from certain, but a few key details are beginning to slip into place.
First up, the chip is expected to be built on a 4nm process, an upgrade from the 5nm form factor used last year. That should mean improved power efficiency and performance. Leaker Ice Universe says that the chip will be manufactured by Samsung, with rival TSMC taking on production duties for the follow-up ‘+’ model that usually launches six months later.
In any case, the architecture is set to be based on the latest Armv9 standard. Evleaks predicts the following components:
Kryo 780 CPU
Adreno 730 GPU
Spectra 680 ISP
Integrated Snapdragon X65 5G modem
It’s the CPU that usually attracts the most attention. The usually reliable leaker Digital Chat Station has predicted the specific cores as follows:
1 x Cortex-X2 @ 3.0GHz
3 x 2.50GHz
4 x 1.79GHz
This looks pretty likely – not least because those exact clock speeds are seen in a Geekbench 5 listing for a Samsung phone believed to contain the chip – codenamed ‘taro’. The listing also mentions the Adreno 730, though curiously mentions the CPU version as ARMv8 – not v9.
This is also almost exactly the same makeup as MediaTek’s recently announced rival, the Dimensity 9000 – though the Dimensity runs just a little faster, with its X2 clocked at 3.05GHz, and its three performance cores at 2.85GHz.
There is still some uncertainty around the clock speeds though. For one, Ice Universe says they’ve seen an 8 Gen 1 with an X2 core clocked at 3.09GHz – faster than the numbers given above.
Secondly, we’ve also seen another Geekbench 5 listing with the same chip codename ‘taro’. This is for an unknown Vivo device, and also mentions the Adreno 730, but gives lower clock speeds: 2.42GHz for the prime core, 2.17GHz for the big cores, and 1.79GHz for the small cores. This could just be an underclocked prototype of course, but means we’re still guessing a little on the exact cores to expect.
One note on both these benchmarks: the scores are low. Don’t read too much into that though, as these scores will be coming from prototype devices in early testing stages – hence the varied clock speeds reported – and so it’s likely that the final product will be much more powerful.
Ice Universe has shared what he claims are more final Geekbench 5 results for the 8 Gen 1, with a single-core score of 1200, and multi-core of 3900. That would be a little – though not a lot – faster than we’ve seen from any 888 and 888+ devices, but still lagging behind Apple’s A15 Bionic.
One final wrinkle concerns the chip’s camera chops. Roland Quandt of WinFuture reports that the new camera module has an internal codename ‘Leica1′ – a reference to the prominent camera manufacturer, which also lends its name to Huawei phones’ camera tech.
He’s careful to emphasise that nothing is certain here, but it does at least imply a partnership that may see Leica lend its camera expertise to the Snapdragon ISP’s image processing capabilities.