The most powerful phones you can buy today are powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset, but Qualcomm makes mobile platforms at a variety of prices and power levels. Only the series 8 and series 7 platforms had gotten the new “Gen 1” designation, but today the company unveiled the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 6 Gen 1 and Snapdragon 4 Gen 1. The announcement comes only a day before Apple is expected to announce its flagship mobile chip, the A16 Bionic.
These new Qualcomm Snapdragons will power mid-range phones and super-cheap devices, respectively. To understand the difference, the current OnePlus Nord N20, which costs around $300, uses a Snapdragon 6-series chipset, and the Nord N200, which costs closer to $200, uses a Snapdragon 4-series chipset.
Qualcomm advertises a number of new advantages for these Gen 1 platforms over the older generation, but it’s truly up to the manufacturers to implement all of the benefits. For instance, the Snapdragon 4 Gen 1 can take photos up to 108MP, but that only matters if the phone maker includes a 108MP sensor and the appropriate camera hardware and software. The Snapdragon 4 platform can now do the processing work, as long as the phone can shoot the image.
Analysis: why on this night do we get new Snapdragons?
Tomorrow, Apple is expected to announce the Apple iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max with a brand new A16 Bionic chipset. The new Apple iPhone 14 will have to live with the existing A15 Bionic. Clearly Qualcomm sees an opportunity to strike.
By launching new hardware for cheaper phones, Qualcomm is effectively pointing out that even cheaper new Android phones use brand new Qualcomm chips with new capabilities, while only the newest and most expensive Apple device gets an upgrade this year.
Google is also expected to update its new Tensor chips this year, which should debut on the announced Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro phones. However, rumors suggest that next year’s Pixel Tablet may see last year’s Tensor chips. This makes sense for a mid-range tablet device, but would add fuel to Qualcomm’s brand new chipset fire.
Apple is lackadaisical when it comes to the upgrade cycle, often taking more than a year to upgrade the external designs and internal components in its phones. We’ve long seen device makers like Samsung and Google take advantage of its slow pace with multiple smartphone launches per year. Finally we’re seeing the chip makers playing the same game.
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Phil Berne is a preeminent voice in consumer electronics reviews, having reviewed his first device (the Sony D-EJ01 Discman) more than 20 years ago for eTown.com. He has been writing about phones and mobile technology, since before the iPhone, for a variety of sites including PCMag, infoSync, PhoneScoop, and Slashgear. He holds an M.A. in Cultural Theory from Carnegie Mellon University.
Phil was the internal reviewer for Samsung Mobile, writing opinions and review predictions about top secret new devices months before launch. He left in 2017. He worked at an Apple Store near Boston, MA, at the height of iPod popularity. He has been a High School English teacher at Title I schools, and is a certified Lifeguard. His passion is smartphones and wearables, and he is sure that the next big thing will be phones we wear on our faces.