Although Apple's latest A14 Bionic chip enabled the iPhone 12 family and iPad Air tablets to deliver impressive performance improvements, Qualcomm is making clear that the next generation of Android devices will rely heavily on advanced AI and computer vision processors to retake the performance lead. Teased yesterday at Qualcomm's virtual Tech Summit, the Snapdragon 888 is getting a full reveal today, and the year-over-year gains are impressive, notably including the largest jump in AI performance in Snapdragon history. The Snapdragon 888's debut is significant for technical decision makers because the chip will power most if not all of 2021's flagship Android phones, which collectively represent a large share of the over two billion computers sold globally each year. Moreover, the 888's increasing reliance on AI processing demonstrates how machine learning's role is now critical in advancing all areas of computing, ranging from how devices work when they're fully on to what they're quietly doing when not in active use. From a high-level perspective, the Snapdragon 888 is a sequel to last year's flagship 865 chips, leveraging 5-nanometer process technology and tighter integration with 5G and AI chips to deliver performance and power efficiency gains.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the most exciting technological growth areas in recent years, with some investors like technologically-focused entrepreneur Tej Kohli predicting the sector will be worth $150 trillion (£125tn) by 2025, but why do we need the technology in our phones? Flagship devices today all come equipped with specialised AI processing chips, known and neural engines or neural processing units, from Apple's A12 Bionic CPU to Huawei's Kirin 980 or Qualcomm's Snapdragon 845, and more and more tasks are using their advanced processing capabilities. The most obvious artificial intelligence in our phones are the voice assistants that learn to understand our voice commands and then act appropriately from telling us the weather to playing our favourite song or adding an appointment to our calendar. Google, Apple, and Amazon have steered clear of labelling their services as AI so as not to scare away users fearful of a robot takeover, but these services rely on machine learning to function – understanding what you are telling them to do and then performing the right action. Possibly the most advanced implementation of any digital assistant is Google's Duplex service that will make calls and interact with other people and businesses on your behalf.