8 major smartphone features that Snapdragon 845 just made possible

Look out for them in 2018's flagship devices

Mobile processing platforms don’t sound sexy or fun, but there’s one major reason you should pay attention to them: they more or less dictate what your smartphone can do.

That’s why the announcement of telecoms equipment giant Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 845 (at least it has a cool name) at today’s Snapdragon Summit is such big news. While the company’s Snapdragon 835, released last year, is already the processor virtually all Android phone makers use in their flagship devices, the 845 promises even more good stuff that may just change the way we work and live.

Before the chip makes its debut in devices next year, here’s what to expect.

1. Video and image capture like you’ve never seen before

Okay, more like you have seen before because the 845 renders images more true-to-life and vibrant than ever. Its new Adreno 630 visual processing subsystem captures 64 times more HDR colour information and greater colour depth. Pics get a bokeh effect via just one camera, which may signal the end of dual camera setups. A second-gen Spectra image signal processor also records 4K videos at a Hollywood-standard 60fps, with slow-mo video benefiting as well at 480 fps at 720p. Plus the 845’s ImMotion, computational photography and video post-processing capabilities make transforming photos into cinemagraphs and more easy.

2. Real-time image processing

Can't wait to have fun with photos? The Snapdragon 845 allows for real-time image processing such as stylistic filtering. That means you can slap on that Van Gogh-style filter as you’re shooting to see how it will appear before capture, rather than try it out on your image post-shoot – only to realise it makes you look more like an Otto Wacker.

3. More immersive experiences

It’s time we all stopped associating accessible VR with flimsy Google Cardboard goggles. The 845 puts some very sophisticated VR, AR and mixed reality capabilities in our hands. Just think: it’s the first mobile platform to enable room-scale 6DoF (6 Degrees of Freedom), which essentially means it can track your head movement and your location as you move around a room. It also has SLAM (simultaneous location and mapping), a technology that “transforms” objects around you into things that fit the VR environment you’re exploring, so you don’t have to break out of your experience to make sure you’re not bumping into anything.

4. A personal assistant that’s even more personal

Ever felt like a bit of a nutcase talking to your robotic, obviously-not-real smartphone assistant? The Snapdragon 845 will soon see to that. Its AI platform (3x faster than what’s in Snapdragon 835) will make voice interaction more natural and detect your voice more accurately and with less latency. Yep, almost like a real companion. And if you need that companion by your side all day long, it’s possible – ultra-low-power voice processing and a low-power audio subsystem means you can chatter away all day to it. 

5. Super security

In a first for a smartphone processing platform, the 845 comes equipped with a new Secure Processing Unit that handles security-related code and digital key generation on its own, separate from all the other information processing bits. Data enters and terminates in this isolated virtual vault of a subsystem, meaning you won’t have to be so wary of high-value personal information passing through your phone like payment or credit card info. 

6. Awesome connectivity

We haven’t personally tested the Snapdragon 845 yet, but the chip’s new second-gen Gigabit LTE solution, the x20 LTE modem, apparently enables faster connection, a 20% overall improvement in speeds and more robust voice quality. That means, according to Qualcomm’s senior director of product marketing Peter Carson, you can download a HD movie in two minutes. Or still have crystal clear conversations should you wander into a basement carpark with crappy reception.

7. Better battery life

With battery life the Number 1 purchase criteria for consumers worldwide, it’s no wonder manufacturers keep working to extend it. The 845 promises all-day battery life and over 20 hours of video playback. Or four hours of 4K video capture. Or three hours of immersive, unwired VR gaming. You decide. The chip also allows for Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 4+ – zero to 50% in 15 minutes – though it remains to be seen if smartphone manufacturers will take advantange of this feature and include the hardware to enable it in their devices.