Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 unveiled — could the iPhone 12 be in trouble?

Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor front and back leaning on smartphone
(Image credit: Qualcomm)

Qualcomm is the biggest name in the world of mobile processors found in smartphones, tablets, VR headsets and more. Today is the first day of the company's annual Snapdragon Tech Summit and it kicked things off by revealing its new top-tier Snapdragon 888 chipset. 

This will likely be the chipset powering the majority of 2021 flagship smartphones, including the Samsung Galaxy S21, OnePlus 9, and more. Qualcomm will reveal more info about the Snapdragon 888 throughout the event, but the company gave us a brief overview of the kinds of performance improvements we can expect to see.

One of the big focuses for Qualcomm was on the photographic capabilities of the Snapdragon 888, which, as you know, is one of the most prominent features in modern smartphones. Qualcomm boasted that the new Spectra ISP, the dedicated processing unit for photo and video, is capable of capturing photos and videos at up to 2.7 gigapixels per second, which is up to 35% faster than the previous generation.

What does that look like in more real-world terms? A smartphone with the Snapdragon 888 could capture up to 120 photos per second at 12MP.

Next up was gaming where Qualcomm indicated that, of the 2.7 billion people who indicated that they play games worldwide, roughly 1 billion said they only play games on mobile. Qualcomm Snapdragon Elite Gaming looks to deliver gaming performance on mobile that is more akin to what we see on consoles and PCs. 

This includes improved support for 144Hz displays, which will be coming to some Android flagships in 2021. Qualcomm claims the Snapdragon 888 is the most significant upgrade to Adreno GPU performance, but we'll need to wait for more specifics on this.

PUBG Mobile screenshot

(Image credit: Qualcomm/PUBG Corporation)

5G was another big piece of the event with the Snapdragon X60 5G modem, which is paired to the Snapdragon 888, offering global compatibility with mmWave and sub-6Ghz networks. While 5G will only be trickling out to consumers over the next couple of years, it's good to see devices with full spectrum support so you won't spend $1,000 on a flagship smartphone only to find you are missing crucial 5G support in a year or two.

Finally, Qualcomm offered a list of the OEMs that are providing support for the Snapdragon 888: Asus, Black Shark, Lenovo, LG, Meizu, Motorola, Nubia, Realme, OnePlus, Oppo, Sharp, Vivo,  Xiaomi, and ZTE. Notice one missing? Samsung isn't on that list. Whether that means Samsung is truly converting over to its own Exynos chips completely or simply wasn't part of this initial list remains to be seen. If it's the former, I'd expect to see Samsung start ramping up talking about its own solution soon.

That's all for now, but Qualcomm has more to come over the next two days and we'll bring you the full details on the Snapdragon 888, including the million-dollar question of how this is likely to stack up against the reigning mobile processor champ: Apple's A14 Bionic.

Sean Riley

Sean Riley has been covering tech professionally for over a decade now. Most of that time was as a freelancer covering varied topics including phones, wearables, tablets, smart home devices, laptops, AR, VR, mobile payments, fintech, and more.  Sean is the resident mobile expert at Laptop Mag, specializing in phones and wearables, you'll find plenty of news, reviews, how-to, and opinion pieces on these subjects from him here. But Laptop Mag has also proven a perfect fit for that broad range of interests with reviews and news on the latest laptops, VR games, and computer accessories along with coverage on everything from NFTs to cybersecurity and more.