Three SoCs Compete for Processing Supremacy in New Smartphones

February 11, 2020 by Lisa Boneta

In this article, we'll take a closer look at recently available smartphone chips and how these chips are responding to higher demands of processing and memory.

Today’s SoCs enable processing that fits in the palm of your hand, offering users enhanced gaming, entertainment, video, photo, and networking experiences.

With seemingly endless mobile options, it's important to take a closer look at recently available chips.

These chips highlight what engineers value in smartphone development and how these chips are responding to higher demands of processing and memory. 


Apple’s A13 Bionic Chip

It's no surprise that Apple's most recent custom-designed SoC shows up on the list of powerful SoCs.

When Apple announced the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max, they revealed that the A13 Bionic chip would power the devices. According to the tech giant, this chip provides “unparalleled performance for every task while enabling an unprecedented leap in battery life to easily get through the day.”

Apple also claims that the A13 Bionic is the fastest chip ever seen in a smartphone, offering up to 20 percent faster CPU and GPU than its A12 predecessor.

The latest chip, released in September 2019, was built for machine learning with a faster neural engine for real-time photo and video analysis and new machine learning accelerators, which allows the CPU to deliver more than 1 trillion operations per second.

These latest features transform the iPhone from a smartphone into a powerful machine learning platform.


A13 Bionic

The latest iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max feature the A13 Bionic. Image (modified) used courtesy of Macworld and Apple

With such a high demand for the iPhone 11, Apple has asked their chipmaker, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC), to increase its output of the A-series processors. Apple has also announced the mass production of a low-cost model starting this month. These devices will use the same A13 Bionic processor as the iPhone 11. 


Qualcomm Snapdragon 720G, 662, and 460

Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. recently announced three new mobile platforms: the Qualcomm Snapdragon 720G, 662, and 460. Qualcomm claims that this chipset is designed to heighten user experience in regard to connectivity, gaming, and entertainment. 


Qualcomm Snapdragon 720G, 662, and 460

Qualcomm’s newest suite of mobile platforms focuses on bringing improved user experiences in connectivity, gaming, and entertainment. Image used courtesy of Qualcomm


While many manufacturers race to be at the forefront of 5G, Qualcomm recognizes the vital place of 4G for enabling broadband connectivity for Indian consumers. The latest mobile platforms allow fast 4G connectivity, along with Wi-Fi 6 and integrated Bluetooth 5.1. Since India is a focus area for Qualcomm, these platforms will also be the first SoCs to support Navigation with Indian Constellation (NavIC). 

The 720G, 662, and 460 will feature the Qualcomm AI Engine and Qualcomm Sensing Hub and deliver new and improved AI user experience in photography, voice assistants, and virtually always-on scenarios for increased contextual awareness. 

Qualcomm states that the Snapdragon 720G will offer exceptional gaming and entertainment experiences using Qualcomm Snapdragon Elite Gaming features. The 720G will deliver smooth HDR gameplay, dynamic color range, and realistic in-game environments.

Users can also expect HDR viewing and super-smooth video streaming with the Qualcomm Spectra 350L ISP and capture 4K video or snap massive 192-megapixel photos. To tackle desired AI features, the Snapdragon 720G will have the 5th generation Qualcomm AI Engine with the Qualcomm Hexagon Tensor Accelerator to enable new AI experiences. 

The Snapdragon 662 and 460 will be equipped with a 3rd generation Qualcomm AI Engine and offer various camera configurations and connectivity capabilities.


MediaTek Launches Helio G70 and G80 for Superior Smartphone Gaming Experience

MediaTek recently announced their mobile gaming-focused chipsets, the Helio G70 and G80, expected to hit the market in India later this month. The chipsets will be aimed at premium smartphone users and gaming enthusiasts to provide high-end features at mid-tier price points. 

Both the G70 and G80 will support HyperEngine game technology, not only focusing on gaming action but also intelligent networking and resource management. 

When Wi-Fi signal is weak, MediaTek asserts that the chipsets will trigger Wi-Fi and LTE concurrency with 13 milliseconds to provide a smooth and lag-free connection during gaming. The chipsets are also designed to offer intelligent and dynamic management of CPU, GPI, and memory for better and longer gameplay. 


Helio G70 and G80

Rendering of the Helio G70 and G80. Image used courtesy of MediaTek

Both chipsets include various hardware accelerators including dedicated depth engine, Camera Control Unit (CCU), Electronic Image Stabilization (EIS), and Rolling Shutter Compensation (RSC) technology to enhance video panning and ultra-fast recording of up to 240 dps. They are also equipped with inertial navigation engines for highly accurate positioning and connectivity.


Meeting Power Demands

It is clear that between the A13 Bionic, Snapdragon mobile platforms, and MediaTek’s chips, chip designers and manufacturers are looking to answer growing consumer demands in mobile computing.

One of the most important features to users is power consumption. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 720G uses a 8nm process technology and upgraded CPU architecture to bring simultaneous power savings and improved performance. Similar features are also promised with Apple’s A13 Bionic chip.

Manu Jain, global vice president of Xiaomi and managing director of Xiaomi India highlighted the “demand for high-performance chipsets that support intensive usage and gaming is continuously increasing” along with the increasing demand for “seamless connectivity solutions.”

Both Qualcomm and MediaTek have reacted to these demands by integrating powerful gaming features and reliable connectivity designs to deliver enhanced, seamless graphics and networking.

Apple and Qualcomm’s AI engines and accelerators, it seems, are built to gear AI and machine learning into smartphones for a personalized mobile experience.

Given the nature of competitiveness in the chip market, chip designers must meet and even exceed customer demands in smartphones.

Being able to provide best-in-class power, performance, energy savings, and visual displays requires engineers to constantly strive for more advanced chip solutions.