It pays to pay attention to the chips powering Samsung and Google's top phones, because the next-generation products reveal what future phones will be able to do. In this case, we're looking at Qualcomm's Snapdragon 855 on a prototype device meant to show off the processor's new strengths.
This demo uses an image and a slider to show off the much improved dynamic range for images.
The overexposed image (left) is the "before" shot, while the image you can slide to on the right shows the "after" scene, taken with the Snapdragon 855 reference device.
See the sensor sticking out of the top of the phone? That's a facial recognition module (don't worry, it won't appear like that in any final products). It shows off a new sensor called Sense ID 3D Face Authentication, which uses AI to take an infrared photo of your face.
This sensor is cheaper than the dot projector supported in Snapdragon 845, and makes a depth map of your contours that's strong enough to accept mobile payments.
Look at the TV and then look at the phone screen. It's almost exactly the same soon. A reference device with Snapdragon 855 is controlling the gameplay using an Asus-made controller that's streaming Asphalt 9 to the TV. The higher bandwidth you get with 5G makes it possible to stream games wirelessly with almost no lag.
Photos of text aren't always crystal clear, especially when taken in lower lighting or from farther away. A new capability that's tucked into the chip uses AI to fill in the gaps and make text in your photos much clearer and easier to read.
Scanning words from a menu, sign or business card is hard for devices to do right, and it gets harder the more text there is. This demo of a book and the Google Lens app shows a block of text accurately being scanned. App-makers can use this to make real-time translation better, for example.
Here's the back of Qualcomm's reference device. It's outfitted with the cameras and sensors you'd expect to see in a high-end phone that will one day use this chip.
Samsung also announced that it's making 5G phones with Qualcomm's chip. We weren't allowed to touch the prototype, shown here in a dimly lit room, or even allowed to light up the screen. Samsung also says this isn't anywhere near the phone's final design. Here it powered a 5G demo.
It's hard to imagine that your entire phone depends on a chip that's smaller than a thumbnail.
OnePlus also announced it's making a 5G phone with Qualcomm's technology. That phone, which is not the OnePlus 7, will be the first in Europe with Snapdragon 855.
Qualcomm President Cristiano Amon said his company is working with 45 carriers and device-makers worldwide to make 5G phones a reality. Here's a partial list.
Not every phone that uses Snapdragon 855 will have 5G. The reality is that the rollout will take time, even if you run out and buy a 5G phone. That means plenty of 4G phones could unlock these features too, if the devicemakers take advantage of the capability.
5G is a hot topic, and so are the headliner Android phones that will use Snapdragon 855. Carriers like Sprint, Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile are actively updating their networks, and phone makers are readying their devices. Here's everything you need to know about your next big upgrade.