Qualcomm gives new flagship chip the lucky 888

Qualcomm the chip maker has branded its new flagship chip with a number lucky in Chinese tradition. The Snapdragon 888 will enable handsets to take high resolution photos faster than before and perform AI-related tasks far more efficiently.

Devices with the chip in them should be available from March, 2021.

It is claimed the numbering of the chip has serious significance, given the current American-Chinese trade war, and the effects this is having on a great number of companies who are caught up in said trade war. 888 is regarded by the Chinese as a symbol of fortune and prosperity, which no doubt will chime well with Qualcomm’s hope for success.

Following US efforts to curtail its influence, Huawei has been blocked from getting its own Kirin smartphone chips produced. Qualcomm-which is based in California-has recently been given permission to sell its 4G based chips to Huawei as an alternative. 

However, this new agreement would not cover the new chip-which contains an integrated 5G modem. But some believe that in time the export rules may be reduced further under the incoming Biden administration. 

Qualcomm has said that other Chinese vendors such as Xiamoi, Oppo, One Plus and Meizu had already shown support for the Snapdragon 888 ahead of announcements of their own.

Though the company has said that if anti-US sentiment grows, handset manufacturers may switch to alternative chip designers, with Samsung and MediaTek being the main options.

The political implications are particularly relevant following China’s increased belligerence towards American allies such as Australia, which may well impact political decisions made by the incoming administration.

Outside of the political realm though, the Snapdragon 888 is Qualcomm’s first chip to be made using the five nanometre process, which is a reference to the fact its transistors are smaller than before and can be packed more densely together to offer performance gains. 

The chips AI engine has also been completely re-engineered. This refers to the parts of the processor designed to specialise in mathematical tasks useful for pattern recognition and other tasks that help software make sense of the outside world.

This would help software developers make improvements to:

  • Live motion tracking of objects, aiding autofocus in video and photography
  • Augmented reality filters in apps
  • Automatically adjusting audio to take account of the device’s immediate environment

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