Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 835 is tailor-made for VR and superfast charging

qualcomm
Karlis Dambrans/Flickr
Thought your next phone couldn’t get any thinner, lighter, faster, and more power-efficient than your current model? Think again. At chipmaker Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Technology Summit in New York in November, the firm unveiled its most impressive silicon yet — the Snapdragon 835.

The processor’s built on 10-nanometer FinFET process. In plain English, that basically means it is more compact than the current top-of-the-line Snapdragon 821, which is built on 14nm tech. Qualcomm said the new architecture packs 30 percent more parts into the same space and has a significantly smaller footprint, improvements which it contends will allow for “slimmer [smartphone] designs” and “larger batteries.” Those and other enhancements help to deliver 27 percent better performance, a 40 percent reduction in power draw, and “significant” gains in battery life.

The processor’s other big advancement involves rapid battery charging. Currently, Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0 standard tops out at 80 percent capacity after 15 minutes of charging, but the next iteration, Quick Charge 4.0, features a 20 percent improvement in speed and a 30 percent improvement in energy efficiency. That translates to up to five hours of extra battery life in just five minutes of charging, or 50 percent of a battery’s capacity in 15 minutes.

Qualcomm said the rapid charging tech is fully compatible with both the USB Type-C and USB Power delivery specifications ratified by the USB-Implementers Forum, the industry  body that standardizes USB technologies. Previous implementations of Qualcomm’s tech, including a few packed into the Snapdragon 821, run afoul of spec by manipulating voltage to reduce recharge times and employing workarounds to set charging speed. Qualcomm said that Quick Charge 4.0, in contrast, is fully compliant.

It is also in line with Google’s compatibility document for future Android devices, a draft of which the company published this week. In it, the search giant called for USB Type-C devices that “support[ed] full interoperability with standard Type-C chargers” — a requirement which Qualcomm’s previous Snapdragon chips did not meet.

The new processor also packs a wealth of protections against the sort of catastrophic heat buildup exhibited by Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7. One, the latest generation of the company’s INOV (Intelligent Negotiation for Optimum Voltage) software, monitors power transfer in real time to ensure it does not exceed safe operating temperatures. Four levels of thermal protection — some at the chassis, others at the battery, and several inside the chip itself — sense the type and quality of plugged-in charging cables. New features extend the longevity of the battery — Qualcomm said it will maintain at least 80 percent of its original capacity after 500 charge cycles.

The company is teaming up with electronics behemoth Samsung to build the processors, which it expects to begin shipping in the first half of 2017. “We are pleased to have the opportunity to work closely with Qualcomm Technologies in producing the Snapdragon 835 using our 10nm FinFET technology,” Jong Shik Yoon, Samsung’s executive vice president and head of its foundry business, said in a press release. “This collaboration is an important milestone for our foundry business as it signifies confidence in Samsung’s leading chip process technology.”

You can expect it to begin appearing in new smartphones in the coming months.

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