Qualcomm today announced the launch of new reference designs associated with its Snapdragon 7 and 6 series targeting the mid-range segment of the smartphone market.
Improved imaging and advanced AI implementation are key features in the new reference designs. For example, the Snapdragon 730 features the fourth, and latest, generation of Qualcomm AI Engine, which was previously only available in Qualcomm’s top-line Snapdragon 855 chipset targeted at flagship smartphones.
According to Lian Jye Su, Principal Analyst at tech advisory ABI Research, Qualcomm has demonstrated its leadership position in edge AI processing through its presence in most flagship smartphones, including Samsung’s Galaxy S and Note series, Google’s Pixel series, and Xiaomi’s Mi series. Qualcomm’s intention now is to democratize the use of advanced AI applications, notably for improved imaging, computer vision, secure authentication, and depth sensing.
The move by Qualcomm to take advanced AI to lower smartphone tiers confirms the AI democratization trends ABI Research has identified through its investigation of AI implementation in mobile devices, predicting shipments of smartphones powered by AI engines to exceed 455 million in 2023.
However, Qualcomm is not unique here as other competitors, including Hisilicon, with its Kirin 970 chipset, and MediaTek, with its Helio P90 chipsets, have already enabled users of mid-range smartphones to enjoy AI features that were previously only accessible to those who could afford flagship smartphones. Since Hisilicon is a captive vendor (meaning its chipsets are only available for Huawei smartphones) and MediaTek Helio P90 shows very a weak AI ecosystem thus far, Qualcomm is well positioned to lead AI democratization in smartphones and become a key strategic chipset supplier for many OEMs, mainly Chinese vendors, who want to bring high-end features enabled by AI to mid-range and low-end smartphones. Qualcomm has already built a decent ecosystem around its AI engine for smartphones. Now the company needs to keep the associated ecosystem audience, essentially apps developers, engaged and invested in the platform if they want to extend the success of their AI engines to lower tiers of the smartphone market.