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Qualcomm to Android users: Apple's iris scanning is NBD

Apple, shmapple. The chipmaker reassures Android users its next generation of processors can match, if not outperform, its rivals.

Qualcomm is pumped up. The San Diego, California-based chipmaker, whose flagship Snapdragon 835 chipset is featured in the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S8, HTC U11 and OnePlus 5, is anticipating 2018 to be a big year for Android phones.

Though the company's main launch for its next chipset (the successor to the 835) is scheduled for later this December, Qualcomm unveiled today a few tidbits of what its new chip technology will be capable of. Namely, it advanced its image signal processors (ISP) and improved the depth-sensing capabilities of camera phones.

Early iterations of this technology debuted in 2015 with the Snapdragon 820, and we've already seen some depth-sensing technology in a few phones. The OnePlus 5, for example, uses two cameras to produce short depth-of-field "bokeh" shots with dramatic and artsy blurred backgrounds. The Lenovo Phab 2 Pro uses depth-sensing technology to merge augmented reality images on a touchscreen with real-world images through the camera. And the Galaxy S8 uses the technology for iris scanning, which unlocks the phone.

But Qualcomm promises that the next generation of Snapdragons will be overhauled to do more, or at least the same things but faster and more accurately. Its new chipset can use infrared light, for instance, to measure depth and render high-resolution depth maps for facial recognition, 3D reconstruction of objects and mapping. The IR light will come attached to the camera module on a phone. (See the video above for this in action).

Clearer HDR photos, video image stabilization and a phone's ability to track movement in a VR headset, are areas that will also get a boost from Qualcomm's new depth-sensing technology.

This comes at a time when Android's biggest rival, Apple, may be readying itself for its upcoming iPhone 7S, 7S Plus and a special 10th anniversary iPhone 8. Apple typically outfits its phones with a proprietary 64-bit processor, which in the past has outperformed Snapdragon processors on some of our benchmark tests. Apple and Qualcomm are also currently duking it out in the courtroom over patent disputes.

Rumors are swirling that the new iPhone lineup will include iris scanning to unlock the phone, signaling a turn that fingerprint unlocking may be on its way out. If these speculations turn out to be true, Qualcomm is reassuring Android users that all these biometric security features will be readily available on an array of upcoming Android phones too, not just the high-end Galaxy S8 or the upcoming Galaxy Note 8.

So if you were worried that the next iPhones would leave Android users in the dust -- rest easy. Qualcomm says the new Androids coming through the pipeline at the end of this year or the beginning of next will have the hardware to do some of the same things.

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