Every year, Qualcomm shows off newer, faster smartphone processors that are used in the latest Android phones. This year is no different, but Qualcomm is switching things up. While we don’t know every detail about the company’s latest Snapdragon CPU, we do know that it will have a new name: Snapdragon 8-series.
Qualcomm is no longer referring to the chips inside smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S21 and the OnePlus 9 Pro by three numbers (for example, Snapdragon 888). Instead, Qualcomm will use a single digit to differentiate between generations of processors, similar to how Intel categorizes its chips.
According to an official press release (there’s also a video!), Qualcomm plans to “transition to a single digit series and generation number,” beginning with the Snapdragon 8-series platform. It’s also separated the Qualcomm and Snapdragon brands. The latter will be a standalone product, and you won’t see the name Qualcomm emblazoned on logos or graphics any longer.
It’s trimming off the excess in other parts, too. Qualcomm will use a gold-colour palette on its packaging to indicate its highest-performing products. It’s also doing away with the 5G branding, adding that moving forward, “5G will be a given.”
For the uninitiated, Qualcomm’s three-digit name was a way to identify the chip in a mobile device. In the Snapdragon 888, for instance, the first number is generally related to the “tier” of the chip, like whether it’s flagship worthy or in the mid-range. For instance, Snapdragon 800 referred to the family of chips for use in high-end devices, and the second-to-lowest number, Snapdragon 400, referred to entry-level hardware.
The second and third numbers typically refer to which generation and release cycle the chip is in — the higher the last two numbers, the more recent the release. But Qualcomm’s been nearing the end of the number line, so going down to one digit effectively starts the count from the beginning, giving the brand more runway to increase version numbers.
Qualcomm’s done a similar rebranding before, but this time it sounds like more than just a number rest. It’s a chance for the brand to restart as it takes on more competition, with companies like Google moving away from Snapdragon to develop custom silicon.
Manufacturers like Samsung have long made their own chips for their devices (though Samsung uses Qualcomm for phones sold in the U.S.). But the mood shifted once Google announced it would customise its own SoC to advance the AI in its Pixel lineup of phones. And this was just in the Android sphere. Apple has long made its own chips for iPhones, but when the company started developing custom silicon for Macs, it seemed the bat signal needed for other brands looking for more control over their manufacturing lineup.
Qualcomm will offer more details about its new chipset at its Snapdragon Summit at the end of November.