NOTICE: I recently became jaded by the latest smartphones. We’ve reached a point where our pocket laptops are so fast and comprehensive that I don’t want the upgrades like I used to.
Every year, several companies brag about the performance improvements of their latest phone, but that doesn’t really interest me.
My Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G has the now obsolete Snapdragon 865 chip, and it’s fast enough that I can browse the web, watch videos, or take photos without any noticeable lag.
Of course, longer battery life is always welcome, but my phone is also able to last the day without needing to be recharged. Battery life is always a big consideration when buying a new phone, but I wouldn’t rush to upgrade my Galaxy S20 FE if its successors manage to double that endurance.
Thinking back to the last few years, I can’t remember many announcements of new smartphones that have really got me excited.
Microsoft and Samsung are probably the closest, with the Surface Duo and the Galaxy Z Fold 3 thanks to the dual-screen and foldable designs. But the extravagant prices and software startup issues preclude these phones from being a realistic option.
So when I was invited to Hawaii for Qualcomm’s launch of the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 smartphone chip, my expectations weren’t very high. As expected, Qualcomm announced that its new chip will benefit from 20% faster processor speeds compared to the previous generation and a 30% faster GPU. Power saving improvements have also been made, potentially extending the battery life of future phones.
Qualcomm has also increased the maximum download speeds for 5G connectivity to 10Gbps, but the UK still does not have coverage for mmWave, unfortunately we cannot achieve these speeds.
No doubt these are impressive upgrades for the next generation of smartphones, but they’re not substantial enough to make me want to upgrade my current phone.
However, following the announcement, Qualcomm invited me to various demos to check out the new features that the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip is capable of thanks to artificial intelligence and other smart upgrades.
The first demo showed how AI is able to block out background noise during voice calls. A Qualcomm employee demonstrated this by crumpling a crisp package and banging on the table while talking on the phone. He then played the recording, and as if by magic, all I could hear was his voice without any distractions. It was remarkable.
I’m also impressed with the new âalways-on camera,â which allows users to log into their phones via facial recognition without needing to touch or press anything first. A Qualcomm employee explained that this feature will also allow you to scan QR codes without having to wake up the phone first. This should make the process of loading a digital menu in a restaurant a lot easier.
The camera seems to have benefited the most from this generation’s AI, as the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip lets you record videos with a bokeh effect. A Qualcomm employee showed me this feature in action and I was impressed with how easy it was to activate. Just press a button in the Camera app and the phone automatically blurs the background of your recording with a more intense focus of the person being photographed.
Photos will generally look better with the new Snapdragon chip, with improvements to night mode, burst capability, and automatic face detection. Phones with the Snapdragon chip will also be able to record videos in 8K HDR.
And then there is lossless sound through bluetooth, ensuring that you can get CD quality sound when using wireless headphones. Unfortunately, you have to purchase headphones that support the new Snapdragon Sound technology to benefit from this feature, but I’m sure the technology will start showing up in many Bluetooth headphones in the near future.
Of course, some phones need to support the above features and that’s not always a guarantee.
As you can see, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 unlocks a lot of new features for future smartphones. Granted, there isn’t really a single killer feature here that makes me desperate to upgrade my phone in 2022, but I think the accumulation of all of these features results in a smartphone chip that really feels like an upgrade. at an important level compared to its predecessors.
But how does Qualcomm get this message across to people? It’s easy to understand that a new chip is faster than previous iterations, but explaining how artificial intelligence will improve your phone is much trickier. I posed this question to Jeff Gehlhaar, who leads the Qualcomm AI software team.
âThe value for the end user, I think, is a more immersive, magical and natural experience,â he said. “These things [new features] are being deployed because of devices like Snapdragon 8, and people take that for granted. They don’t even realize it’s happening.
I think this is a very good summary of artificial intelligence. It allows users to benefit from advanced features, such as noise cancellation and video bokeh effects, with just the push of a button. And all of these features translate to a smoother user experience – as Gehlhaar says, it works like magic.
I’m in awe of the number of new features the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 brings, and I’m excited for the prospect of discovering even more AI-based tricks that Qualcomm has up its sleeve. Personally, I might not need a faster phone, but I could definitely benefit from AI turning my amateur vacation photos into something I can proudly post on Instagram.