Looks like even 2021’s Android phones will fall behind iPhone 12 in one vital area

New Snapdragons are super-speedy – but Apple’s A series is already faster

Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
(Image credit: Qualcomm)

The battle for smartphone supremacy in 2021 has taken an interesting turn: benchmarks have been published for the Snapdragon 888, the chip that’ll power some of the best Android phones in 2021. It’s a huge upgrade and it’s blazingly fast, but Apple’s processors are still faster. That’s not Apple talking. It’s Qualcomm. 

Qualcomm has taken the unusual step of sharing its own benchmarks with the press, and Anandtech has published them in detail. The benchmarks, which include Geekbench, GFXBench and many others, consistently show the Snapdragon 888 outperforming other Android devices, usually by a significant margin. But the iPhone 12 Pro scores even higher, and in some cases the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone SE (2020) do too.

A faster engine for Android's flagship phones

The new Snapdragon 888 is a huge improvement over existing Systems on a Chip (SoCs). CPU performance is up 25%, and GPU performance has increased by 35%. But the benchmarks also show how much faster Apple silicon has become in recent years: not only does the current A14 SoC run faster than the Snapdragon, but in many cases the older A13 does too.

The numbers are really interesting. In Geekbench, the Snapdragon 888 achieved 1,135 for single-core performance and 3,794 for multi-core. That’s great, but the A14 chip in Apple’s iPhone 12 Pro hit 1,604 and 4,187 respectively (in these benchmarks, bigger numbers are better). The Snapdragon 888 did beat the A13-powered iPhone 11 Pro in multi-core, albeit by a small margin, but the older iPhone outperformed it in single-core.

It was a similar story in graphics performance. The GFXBench scores show superb performance from the Snapdragon 888, achieving 86fps, but the iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 11 Pro Max, iPhone 11 and even the iPhone SE were faster.

Apple could still lose the mobile performance crown

It’s not all good news for Apple. One area where the Snapdragon 888 may be able to outperform Apple’s chips is in power consumption and battery life. The published benchmarks show you peak performance, not sustained performance – so any throttling to reduce temperature and preserve battery life will affect real-life results. 

According to Anandtech: “While the Snapdragon 888 doesn’t look like it’ll match the peak performance scores of the A13 or A14 SoC used in Apple’s iPhones, sustained performance will depend quite a bit on the power consumption of the chip. If this lands in between 4 and 4.5W, then the majority of flagship Android phones in 2021 will be able to sustain this peak performance figure and allow Qualcomm to regain the mobile performance crown from Apple.”

Ultimately what these benchmarks show is something we should all be impressed by: whether you’ve nailed your flag to Apple or Android, the pace of change and innovation in mobile processors is truly impressive. The best phones in 2021 are going to be very exciting indeed.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written more than a dozen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote seven more books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (havrmusic.com).