Unparalleled improvements will come to smartphones with Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835, a tiny chip with powerhouse features. Super-thin handsets will be as fast as PCs, LTE data transfers could be faster than a wired internet connection, and virtual reality will be in the palm of your hand. Top handsets like Samsung's Galaxy S8 are likely to end up using the new eight-core Snapdragon 835 chip. Here are seven improvements coming to handsets.
Smartphones will be thinner
Phones are already thin, but will get even thinner with the Snapdragon 835. The chip -- which is smaller than a U.S. penny -- is 35 percent smaller than its predecessor, the Snapdragon 820, which powers the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge. If smartphone sizes remain the same, device makers could pack in larger batteries and battery life. The chip will also occupy less circuit board space, allowing device makers to add more memory or other components.
Longer battery life
Smartphones with the Snapdragon 835 chip will be able to play back 11 hours of 4K video, over a day of conference call audio, and more than two days of VR streaming, said Cisco Cheng, evangelist for Snapdragon technology at Qualcomm. Overall, the chip will provide 2.5 hours more battery life per day than its predecessor. Screen resolutions and graphics processing power could affect overall battery life.
Better VR and 4K gaming
VR headsets like Google's DayDream View will be able to hook up to mobile devices with the Snapdragon 835, which is capable of processing 4K video. Games will also perform better with an integrated Adreno graphics processor that is about 25 faster than the GPU in the Snapdragon 820.
Faster data transfers
On paper, LTE data transfers on smartphones could reach 1Gbps (gigabit per second) with the new X16 modem integrated in the Snapdragon 835. But networks would likely throttle that speed to preserve bandwidth.
The chip will also be the first to support Bluetooth 5, which is two times faster and has a wider range than Bluetooth 4.2. Data transfer rates for Bluetooth 5 will be about 2Mbps, and signals will reach devices up to 400 meters away in a clear line of sight.
Mobile devices will also support the emerging 802.11ad Wi-Fi, which Qualcomm says could touch speeds of up to 4.6Gbps. Theoretically, 802.11ad Wi-Fi speed has been pegged at up to 7Gbps with data transfers on the 60Ghz spectrum -- more than two times speedier than the fastest Wi-Fi technology available today.
Smartphones will be able to run for five hours on just five minutes of charging with a new feature called Quick Charge 4 in the Snapdragon 835. But the quick-charging capability also depends on device design, and Qualcomm says charging speed may vary. Nevertheless, Quick Charge 4 is an impressive feature that will save you a lot of time.
Cameras are getting powerful in smartphones, and can now even shoot 4K video. Mobile devices with the Snapdragon 835 could have one 32-megapixel camera or two 16-megapixel cameras. The GPU will also improve post processing. Expect better cameras and impressive selfies on a smartphone with the new Qualcomm chip.
Do you wonder how sites like Facebook can recognize faces in pictures? That's thanks to the magic of machine learning, where systems learn based on patterns and associations. Qualcomm is building some machine-learning features into the Snapdragon 835, so your smartphone may also be able to recognize your face without needing to reference data in a cloud service. A number of machine learning applications like speech recognition are emerging, and the Snapdragon 835 could support such applications via its GPU and digital signal processors. The chip supports Tensorflow, a popular machine learning framework being used by developers. Mobile chips aren't designed for full-scale machine learning, though, so the Snapdragon 835 may be good only for inferencing on limited data sets, and not for the development of learning models.