In an unexpected twist, Qualcomm just updated last year’s flagship mobile processor, creating a Snapdragon 870 chipset that fits in the product line just below the new Snapdragon 888.
The Snapdragon 870 is a clocked-up Snapdragon 865 Plus, which was itself a clocked-up of the Snapdragon 865, last year’s hot Android flagship processor. The 865 was succeeded by the Snapdragon 888, the processor in the new Samsung Galaxy S21 series.
The 870’s major new feature is a “prime core” running at 3.2GHz rather than the 865 Plus’s 3.1GHz and the 865’s 2.84GHz.
The Snapdragon 870 will be used by OnePlus, a company known for putting only the fastest Qualcomm chipsets in its flagship phones. This could create a division between an upcoming OnePlus 9 Pro with a Snapdragon 888 and a OnePlus 9 with an 870.
Chinese sites that smoked out potential 870 performance in a Vivo phone say it has a 15-18% lift in performance over the 865 and is only 5-8% behind the 888. But CPU benchmarks don’t tell the whole story.
The difference would be most clearly seen in imaging and modem capabilities, not in pure speed. The 888 has the ability to run three cameras rather than two at once, and to merge 5G spectrum in new ways the 870, as an overclocked Snapdragon 865 Plus, lacks.
“The flagship performance and exceptional 5G connectivity provided by the Snapdragon 870 5G Mobile Platform coupled with OnePlus’ unique innovative technologies and optimization, we look forward to delivering lightning-fast 5G speeds and ultra-smooth mobile experiences to more users.” Kinder Liu, chief operating officer and head of R&D, OnePlus said in a press release.
Qualcomm’s move here is new. For the past few years, it has made a flagship, bumped it up halfway through the year, then released another flagship. I can’t think of it doing this “one and three quarters” strategy before.
“Building upon the success of Snapdragon 865 and 865 Plus, the new Snapdragon 870 was designed to address OEM and mobile industry requirements,” says Kedar Kondap, vice president, product management, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.
I have to wonder what’s at the core of this move. Why aren’t the 865 and 888 up to “mobile industry requirements”? Maybe there’s a shortage of 888 components?
The 870 will appear in phones from Motorola, iQOO, OnePlus, Oppo, and Xiaomi. We won’t have to wait long to see the 870, as it will come to phones “in the first quarter of 2021.”