Qualcomm just announced the Snapdragon 888+ 5G, an upgraded version of the company’s most powerful mobile processor. But the improvements offered by this new chip are marginal, and will likely go unnoticed by flagship phone users when it hits the market in February 2022.
The original Snapdragon 888 was a major leap for Qualcomm (and mobile devices in general). It hits a 2.84GHz clock speed and was one of the first flagship processors with an integrated 5G modem—a major upgrade from the battery-sucking modems found in earlier devices. Improvements to AI processing also helps the 888 with computational photography, leading to a higher camera quality and more effective night photography in some flagship phones.
From Qualcomm’s announcement:
Our latest flagship Snapdragon 888 Plus 5G Mobile Platform will help deliver the premium entertainment, connectivity, and gaming experiences users deserve. We’re excited to see OEMs launch with products based on our highest performing platform.
But the 888+ isn’t a very big leap into the future. Qualcomm says that it’s 5% faster than its predecessor, reaching a 2.995GHz clock speed in one of its eight cores (Qualcomm says 3GHz in marketing material). Unless you’re pushing a flagship to its absolute limits, the difference between 2.84GHz and 2.995Ghz is negligible.
Along with its improved clock speed, the Snapdragon 888+ boasts a 20% faster “AI Engine,” measuring at an industry-leading 32 TOPS (up from 26 TOPS in the previous model). This measurement is difficult to interpret, as TOPS simply tells us the number of very simple operations an AI engine can execute at one time. TOPS doesn’t tell us how the engine handles complex operations, so from a consumer or developer standpoint, Qualcomm’s claims are too vague to draw any information from.
That said, developers might find specific improvements in the AI Engine that we don’t know about. This seems unlikely given the vague language in Qualcomm’s press and marketing materials (the company doesn’t present a single use for its improved AI Engine), but anything’s possible.