Smartphone manufacturers are working towards pulling off the perfect balance between brain and brawn. Even as phones are taking on slimmer and sleeker forms, they are also becoming more intelligent and intuitive. The brain of a smartphone lies in its mobile chipset, which is responsible for lot more than just speed. New-age processors pack in most of the components that power laptops and desktops - although on a smaller scale - in the form of system-on-a-chip (SoC). This is what equips smartphones to carry out complex functionalities.
Apple gave us a glimpse of what a smart chipset can achieve - the A11 Bionic chip on iPhone X powers the FaceID technology used to unlock the phone, and helps achieve the blur effect using a single camera lens. Now, Qualcomm has announced its next generation Snapdragon 845 processor that will power some of the upcoming flagship smartphones, including the global edition of Samsung Galaxy S9 and Note 9, Xiaomi Mi 7 and OnePlus 6.
What can we expect from this new crop of smartphones? Roger Sheng, Vice President, Research, at Gartner, says the new smartphones using Snapdragon 845 will have "more creative AI features supported by its heterogeneous computing technology." "We also expect enhancements in photo and video capabilities," he adds.
Apart from being superior in terms of security and power efficiency, here are some of the other advancements one can expect from flagship smartphones launching next year.
Secure Vault: Smartphones housing much of our personal and financial data puts us in a vulnerable position. Although biometric authentication tools and passcodes reduce the risk of data theft, these methods are not infallible. The increasing instances of cyber attacks are proof. Chip manufacturers are coming up with a secure vault that adds a new layer of hardware security. It is designed to keep all high-value assets such as biometric authentication data - including fingerprint, iris, voice and face - and passwords, user data and application data safe from prying eyes. Apple talked about the secure vault feature on the recently launched iPhone X, and now Qualcomm has added a hardware isolated subsystem called the secure processing unit (SPU) in the Snapdragon 845 processor.
Machine Learning and AI: Voice Assistants such as Siri and Google Assistant have been doing a great job of fetching information with a simple voice command. This experience is set to improve further, as chip manufacturers are adding dedicated hardware to handle machine learning processes for tasks such as real-time voice processing and image recognition. FaceID on iPhone X, for example, understands the gradual changes in your looks and continues to unlock the iPhone. With the new 845 chip, Qualcomm claims that the overall AI performance will be three-times better than the previous generation SoC. It will simplify capturing bokeh images using a single camera, enhance VR games, improvise accurate audio detection, identify voice from the sea of sound, and make movie interaction even more natural.
Better Video Capture: New chipsets with improved dedicated image signal processor will be able to capture pictures with more details. The one in Snapdragon 845 processor will enable high performance, true-to-life cinematic video capture and superior photography. Smartphones powered by this chip will be able to capture 64x more high-dynamic range colour information for video capture, record ultra HD Premium video at 60 frames per second and slow-motion videos at 720p resolution at 480 frames per second. When combined with AI, the camera will be able to also identify noise in the images, resulting in far better pictures. Devices powered by Huawei's Kirin 970 chip will automatically choose camera settings based on the objects in the frame ensuring a much-enhanced output.
More Power: Improved performance is a given in every new chipset; the Snapdragon 845 is no different. The 10-nm chip, aside from being feature-rich, promises to be 25-30 per cent faster than the current Snapdragon 835 chip. Launching apps, playing games, AI-driven tasks and graphic-intensive apps, etc, will see a performance boost of up to 25 per cent. Both Apple's A11 Bionic chip and Qualcomm's Snapdragon 845 processor are designed to deliver immersive 3D games and an enhanced augmented reality experience. There is said to be significant improvements in the battery as well as the camera and visual processing architectures that will help in delivering up to 30 per cent power reduction when capturing video, playing games and using VR and AR applications. Qualcomm Quick Charge 4 technology can get the battery to recharge from 0 to 50 per cent in 15 minutes.