AI power won't be exclusive to the best Android phones in 2024. It's coming to mid-range models too. By the end of the year it's going to be harder to find an Android that doesn't have impressive AI power than one without it.
It's all down to Qualcomm, who have just announced the latest mobile chipset to join their product range. It's called the Snapdragon 7 Gen 3 and, as you'd expect, it's the successor to the Snapdragon 7 Gen 2. That's the processor you'll find in mid-range phones from the likes of Xiaomi, Realme, Oppo and Motorola; Honor and Vive are already signed up to use the new generation, but Samsung is likely to stick to its own Exynos chips for its mid-range handsets.
Although AI is the star here, the specs of the new processor are impressive. You're looking at peak CPU speeds of 2.63GHz, 50% better GPU performance over the current generation and what Qualcomm says is "incredible power efficiency" to boost battery life. It also promises better 5G and improved camera capabilities too.
What does AI power mean for midrange phones?
Qualcomm says that the neural processing unit in the new generation will deliver 60% faster AI performance per watt. In practice that's going to mean smooth performance for features such as Qualcomm's Sensing Hub, which can detect whether you're nearby as well as listening for your spoken commands. But the big draw is likely to be in improved photography, because the most obvious applications of AI in smartphones are currently in computational photography.
Some of the biggest benefits of in-camera AI aren't always the most obvious, so for example improved AI should mean much better autofocus and colour control. That might not get the headlines, but it's the kind of improvement you'll benefit from every day.
This isn't the only Qualcomm phone chip with AI smarts. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 has gone big on AI too, promising powerful on-device large language models and machine learning. Expect to see phones with that chip on sale before ones with the midrange, as manufacturers tend to push new tech to their flagships first.