Qualcomm's next chip means a slimmer, longer-lasting phone

The Snapdragon 835 processor, built using a new manufacturing technique from Samsung, lets better things come in smaller packages, the firms say.

Keith Kressin, left, senior vice president of product management for Qualcomm, and Ben Suh, senior vice president of foundry marketing for Samsung, show off the Snapdragon 835.

When it comes to the processor that powers your phone, size matters.

And Qualcomm and Samsung are going smaller than ever.

The two companies on Thursday showed off the Snapdragon 835 chip, the first mobile processor to lean on a 10-nanometer manufacturing technique from Samsung, which packs millions more transistors -- the engines for processing power -- into a tinier chip. The process deals with an almost unfathomably small scale; 10 nanometers is 6,000 times shorter than the diameter of a strand of human hair.

"Obviously it's more and more complex as time progresses to move to more advanced nodes," said Qualcomm's senior vice president of product management, Keith Kressin. "You see other vendors backing off but we're very proud to be partnering with Samsung on 10 nanometers."

The result is a processor that can do more in a smaller package, meaning handset makers can fit the Snapdragon 835 in a thinner phone. Or they can use the extra space to pack in a larger battery or other bells and whistles. The chip is also expected to be more power-efficient.

The stats are compelling. The companies say the chip will use 30 percent less space, perform 27 percent faster and use 40 percent less power than the previous Snapdragon 820 and 821 processors, which utilized a 14-nanometer manufacturing technique.

Snapdragon processors are found in many high-profile phones made by Samsung, LG and HTC. But they aren't inside the iPhone. Apple designs its own processor, though it uses a radio from Qualcomm.

Qualcomm said the chip is in production now and should show up in devices in the first half of next year. The chip is its flagship product with mobile devices, and will likely found in upper-tier products. The phones will likely make their debut at the Mobile World Congress trade show next February. The Samsung Galaxy S7 was among the first phones that debuted with the Snapdragon 820 processor at MWC this year.

The processor illustrates the progress of Samsung's chip manufacturing business, which the Korean giant has quietly nurtured over the past several years. The business keeps a far lower-profile than Samsung's work with televisions or phones.

"This collaboration is an important milestone for our foundry business as it signifies confidence in Samsung's leading chip process technology," Jong Shik Yoon, executive vice president and head of Samsung's foundry business, said in a statement.

CNET's Alfred Ng contributed to this report.