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.
We’re not sure if it’ll be called the Snapdragon 895 or Snapdragon 898, but leaks are already hinting at the chip’s architecture, while the first manufacturers are beginning to reveal their plans for Qualcomm’s next flagship. Here’s everything we know so far.
When will the next Snapdragon be revealed?
Qualcomm traditionally announces its flagship Snapdragon silicon at the ‘Snapdragon Summit’, which it holds in Hawaii every year in December.
Even last year, at the height of the Covid pandemic in the West, the event went ahead in December to reveal the Snapdragon 888 – though that time it stayed online-only.
We don’t know yet if this year’s Summit will go ahead in-person, but either way it seems a safe bet that Qualcomm will unveil the chip just before Christmas 2021.
Snapdragon 895 vs Snapdragon 898
I already mentioned that there’s a little uncertainty about the chipset’s name.
Since 2017 we’ve had the Snapdragon 835, 845, 855, 865…and then 888. So much for that pattern.
So we’re not sure if Qualcomm will revert to its old ways and call this the 895, or just add ten to last year’s chip and go with the 898. 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.
Of course, it’s also possible that Qualcomm will change names entirely. The Snapdragon 888 name shift was intended to reflect what Qualcomm saw as a significant performance jump last year, but it hasn’t left the company much room to grow in its 8-series naming convention.
With that in mind, it’s possible that we’ll see the company unveil the first 9-series chip – or change its naming system more dramatically to give itself room to grow in the future.
Which phones will use the Snapdragon 898?
It would probably be quicker to list the major phone companies that won’t release a Snapdragon 898 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.
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.
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.
There is still some uncertainty around the clock speeds though. For one, Ice Universe says they’ve seen an 898 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.
One final wrinkly 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.