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Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8s Gen 3 is here to make smartphones much more confusing

Published Mar 18th, 2024 6:50AM EDT
Qualcomm Snapdragon 8s Gen 3 chip.
Image: Qualcomm

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Qualcomm announced late on Sunday an unexpected chip addition to its family of Snapdragon devices. The chip will confuse some buyers looking for flagship smartphones and paying attention to the specs. That’s the Snapdragon 8s Gen 3, which shouldn’t be mistaken for a Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 3 version if the latter ever comes to market.

The Snapdragon 8s Gen 3 isn’t an evolution of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 that powers the Galaxy S24 series, the Xioami 14 models, and other 2024 flagships. It’s a downgrade of sorts. A chip that sits between the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 and the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 from last year.

The Snapdragon 8s Gen 3 will, therefore, power almost flagship-grade smartphones. Or very high-end devices that are above the mid-tier phones, which are also getting very good. What you get out of it is on-device AI, support for gaming (ray tracing), and high performance. Also, you’ll probably pay less for Snapdragon 8s Gen 3 flagships than real flagships. But we don’t have any specifics.

Qualcomm explained the new chip’s abilities during a briefing with reporters ahead of Sunday’s reveal without clarifying why the Snapdragon 8s Gen 3 compromise is needed in the marketplace. We didn’t get a necessarily clear understanding of the differences between the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 and the Snapdragon 8s Gen 3. There were no benchmarks to compare the two.

The overall message seemed to be that the Snapdragon 8s Gen 3 isn’t as good as the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3, but it’s good enough for flagships.

My take is that the Snapdragon 8s Gen 3 is a System-on-Chip (SoC) that either Qualcomm or the OEMs need. Or both. It will be cheaper than the top-tier chip, and hopefully, those savings will be passed on to the consumer.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 8s Gen 3 chip: Photo expansion generative AI feature.
Qualcomm Snapdragon 8s Gen 3 chip: Photo expansion generative AI feature. Image source: Qualcomm

I’m certain it’ll be fast enough that most people will not notice, or care, that it’s an 8s or 8 powering their devices. We’ve reached a point where mid-range phones like the newly launched Galaxy A55 should be good enough for most people.

Those Android buyers who always purchase flagships and care about specs might ignore the Snapdragon 8s Gen 3 devices. What will those devices be? US buyers might not even get them.

Qualcomm didn’t initially say what OEMs will make use of the chipset. The company revealed in a press release that various Chinese smartphone vendors will use the chip. Devices from Honor, iQOO, realm, Redmi, and Xiaomi should be announced in the coming months.

The most important Snapdragon 8s Gen 3 chip concerns AI, which isn’t surprising in 2024. Like the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3, the new chip will support on-device AI features powered by large language models of up to 10 billion parameters. Think Llama 2 and Gemini Nano.

Qualcomm said the chip will offer features like AI-powered virtual assistants, complete with voice and generative AI generation with support to expand photos. That’s assuming OEMs will build such features into their almost flagship phones.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 8s Gen 3 chip: Main features.
Qualcomm Snapdragon 8s Gen 3 chip: Main features. Image source: Qualcomm

The chipmaker also stressed other features that flagship smartphone buyers would want from their phones. Like a powerful camera, high-end gaming support, great sound, and fast connectivity. That’s probably what matters the most in this offering. That it’ll be a great phone that can offer some of the bells and whistles of real flagship phones.

The success of the Snapdragon 8s Gen 3 all hinges on the price of those devices. Since it’s Chinese smartphone vendors that confirmed they’ll use the chip in new devices, these are probably going to be very affordable, especially in China. As for the rest of the world, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.