Weeks after unveiling new mobile chips that bring ChatGPT-like generative AI to premium phones, Qualcomm has announced some new silicon that brings the tech to more affordable handsets. The Snapdragon 7 Gen 3 will be used in phones from Honor, Vivo and other manufacturers, with the first devices arriving later this month.
At Qualcomm's Snapdragon Summit in Hawaii, the company championed on-device generative AI as the key feature that will distinguish phones with the latest Snapdragon chips in 2024. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 3, which has already launched in the Xiaomi 14 Series of phones available in China, enables generative AI features, like using Stable Diffusion to create new images from prompts and expanding photos beyond their original borders.
The big question is how the Snapdragon 7 Gen 3's generative AI capabilities compare to its more powerful sibling. Qualcomm has maintained that its lower-tier chips will have a "graceful degradation" of capabilities in comparison to the top-tier silicon, meaning they won't be able to pull off as many tricks and features.
However capable the chip's generative AI is, there's still the implementation to consider, as each manufacturer will decide how much of that capability will end up in the phones using the Snapdragon 7 Gen 3. Many factors may affect the performance of the Snapdragon 7 Gen 3, like the size and type of models, its DRAM or other configuration choices.
Conceptually, on-device generative AI has advantages over cloud-based solutions: It has lower latency since it doesn't have to send queries to and get answers from server farms. It can also consider personal info like behavioral patterns since it's not offloading data, and can work in areas without cell signals. The fact that it handles tasks locally could also help with privacy and security.
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Aside from generative AI, the Snapdragon 7 Gen 3 has other improvements, like spatial audio with head tracking included for the first time in the 7 series. As with Qualcomm's other recently announced chips, the 7 Gen 3 has an upgraded neural processing unit to handle generative AI tasks. The chip is 15% faster than the Snapdragon 7 Gen 1 released two years ago, has 20% better power efficiency, and supports fast recharging from a dead battery to 50% capacity in five minutes. Qualcomm didn't release figures for how the chip compares to the Snapdragon 7 Plus Gen 2 released in March. (There is no Snapdragon 7 Gen 2.)
The Snapdragon 7 Gen 3 still uses the Kyro CPUs that Qualcomm has used for its higher-end mobile chips for some time, but next year could see a more serious boost in performance and efficiency if the company switches it out for the new Oryon CPU featured in the Snapdragon X Elite chip for PCs. At its Snapdragon Summit last month, the company said that Oryon CPUs would make their way into chips for other product lines, starting with mobile in 2024.
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Qualcomm has partnered with Honor and Vivo to release the first phones with the Snapdragon 7 Gen 3, and we expect more to arrive next year. Considering the phones that were powered by the chip's predecessor (the Snapdragon 7 Plus Gen 2) like the Realme GT Neo 5 SE, we might see more devices from those manufacturers running the Snapdragon 7 Gen 3 next year.
We could also see other manufacturers use the 7 Gen 3 in 2025 and beyond. The Motorola Razr 2023, for instance, uses a Snapdragon 7 Gen 1, so it's possible that a future premium (but not top-tier) Motorola device could use Qualcomm's new chip as it looks to keep costs down compared to a pricier flagship device that runs the latest silicon.
Correction, Nov. 17: This story initially misstated the degree of improvements in the Snapdragon 7 Gen 3. The new chip was being compared against the older Snapdragon 7 Gen 1.