Qualcomm is introducing a new Snapdragon 800 series processor, but it’s not designed for flagships. Instead the new Snapdragon 860 processor makes its debut in the Poco X3 Pro, a smartphone that hits select markets this week for €249 (about $300).
It’s just the latest example of Qualcomm’s smartphone processor naming conventions getting weirder and harder to track this year.
In recent years, it’s been relatively easy to understand where each Qualcomm Snapdragon processor stood. The company’s Snapdragon 800 series chips were the most powerful, while Snapdragon 700, 600, 400, and 200 series chips were designed for mid-range to entry-level devices.
And for the most part that’s still true. But we’re starting to see Snapdragon 800 series chips showing up in mid-range smartphones. What’s the catch? These new chips are basically modest updates to older processors.
The Snapdragon 860 chip? It’s basically a slightly updated Snapdragon 855+ that brings a few improvements such as support for up to 16GB of RAM (rather than 12GB) and support for more camera features including night mode photography with ultra-wide camera lenses. But for the most part this chip is the same as Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855+ processor from two years ago.
Earlier this year the Snapdragon 870 processor also made its debut as a slightly faster version of last year’s Snapdragon 865+, with the new chip debuting in Motorola’s $310 Edge S smartphone.
In other words, while these are still theoretically “flagship” class chips, they’re based on previous-gen flagship technology. And the trickiest thing is that while you can still easily tell which Snapdragon chip is fastest by looking at is model number (Snapdragon 888 is faster than Snapdragon 865, for example), you can no longer easily tell how new a processor is by looking at is name (the Snapdragon 860 and 870 are both newer than the Snapdragon 888).
The good news is that this means you get previous-gen flagship performance at a fraction of the price. And since you’re getting a newer chip, you’re also getting a longer support lifespan than you would if device makers used chips that were actually older. And that could help prevent situations like the one F(x)tec ran into recently when the startup ran into problems sourcing the Snapdragon 835 processor it had planned to use for its smartphone, and instead had to choose a new processor (eventually landing on the Snapdragon 662).
Incidentally, in addition to launching the new $300-ish Poco X3 Pro this week, Poco is launching a new Poco F3 which will sell for around $415 and up and which is powered by a Snapdragon 870 processor.