Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 Is an Upgraded Chip for Only a Few US phones

What’s happening

Qualcomm has announced two new chips: the Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 and the Snapdragon 7 Gen 1

Why it matters

Qualcomm’s chips are powerful, but as more phonemakers build their own chips, these might end up in fewer handsets — at least ones released in the US.

What’s next

Qualcomm has its work cut out for it to power more top-end phones in the US, but plenty of Chinese phonemakers will use the Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 and 7 Gen 1 in their gaming-focused phones.

Qualcomm on Friday announced a new chip it says promises faster mobile computing with much better power efficiency, too. But it’ll only come to the US in Motorola and OnePlus phones that are expected later this year.

As you can probably guess, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 is a slight upgrade on the Series 8 Gen 1 that debuted earlier this year. For that added “plus,” Qualcomm said its new silicon has 10% faster CPU and GPU speeds than the earlier model and has 30% better power efficiency. As a result, phones should get speedier while boasting better battery life. But one drawback is it will stick with the X65 5G modem, which Qualcomm started using earlier this year, and so will not have the wider-range 5G connectivity in the upcoming X70 5G modem unveiled at Mobile World Congress in February.  

The Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 reveal isn’t a surprise — in fact, it’s right on schedule for when Qualcomm typically announces a midyear upgrade for its mobile device chips that power most of the world’s phones and tablets. But it comes at a time when Qualcomm is facing increased competition. Apple’s been making its own chips for iPhones and iPads for over a decade. Microsoft and Google, meanwhile, said they too would follow Apple’s lead, designing specialized chips for some of their devices. As a result, while that extra “plus” may sound enticing, it’ll only arrive in a few American’s pockets.

“Outside the US, the situation is radically different, with nearly a dozen Chinese brands jockeying for position alongside Apple and Samsung,” said Avi Greengart, of analyst firm Techsponential. “With Huawei’s smartphone business devastated by U.S. sanctions, other Chinese brands are trying to fill the gap it left at the high end of the market.”

Qualcomm didn’t announce any specific phones getting the 8 Plus Gen 1, which is also typical, instead assembling an extensive list of phone makers who intend to use it in their devices. But among them, only Motorola and OnePlus release phones in the US. The others, including Asus ROG, Black Shark, Honor, Oppo, Xiaomi, Vivo and ZTE, typically focus their releases in Asia and Europe. Devices using the Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 will start coming out in the third quarter of 2022.

Qualcomm’s also focusing on the Alongside its top-tier silicon, Qualcomm also introduced the Snapdragon 7 Gen 1, officially relaunching its 700-series chipsets under its new naming scheme. The 7 Gen 1 continues the tradition of trickling premium silicon features down to a more affordable chipset, with better AI camera features for facial recognition and support for up to 200MP cameras, up from 190MP in the last 700-series chipset. 

The Snapdragon 7 Gen 1 will primarily power fast, gaming-focused phones released outside the US that will start releasing in the second quarter of 2022 — meaning the first could arrive in the coming weeks. While Qualcomm similarly didn’t list specific devices, they did say brands like Honor, Oppo and Xiaomi would release phones with the Snapdragon 7 Gen 1.

“Qualcomm’s positioning of the Snapdragon 7 Gen 1 as a gaming platform also makes sense in the global context,” Greengart said. “In the U.S., the 7-series has mostly been used to bring 5G to upper-mid-tier price points. In some Asian markets, mobile gaming is becoming a purchase driver.”

During the briefing revealing the new silicon, Qualcomm also named two new chipset lines, the Snapdragon 4 series and Snapdragon 6 series. While these will presumably replace the 400-series and 600-series chipsets that have powered budget and mid-range phones, respectively, Qualcomm declined to elaborate, stating it does not discuss unannounced products. 

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