As the incremental march of technology continues, processor firms such as Intel, AMD, or more recently, Qualcomm, have become low-key giants. Companies such as these largely drive the pace at which consumer-facing technology advances by supplying CPUs to personal computers, smartphones, wearables, IoT devices, and so much more besides. Naturally, the announcement of the newest flagship SoC from venerable processor company Qualcomm has garnered some attention as journalists and pundits attempt to determine how the 845 will affect mobile computing. Specifically, graphics processing and machine learning seem to be highest on the company's list of priorities for its redesigned Adreno graphics cores, which will certainly allow for higher quality VR and AR experiences on mobile devices.

The Numbers

The "Bionic" processor currently enjoys a massive lead over current Snapdragon flagships in terms of graphics processing capability.

Qualcomm, touting improvements in both power and energy efficiency around 30%, is pursuing VR and AR aggressively. One likely impetus behind this direction, apart from a growing interest in XR in general, is increased pressure from competitor Apple, who have gained significant ground in the AR processing arms race with the A11.

The situation Qualcomm finds itself in is hardly dire; several hundred unique device designs across various categories rely on Snapdragon processors, (with more yet to come) and the company's market share remains dominant, with Apple struggling to clinch second place. Moreover, the sheer size of the Android ecosystem when compared to iOS means that Qualcomm has a much greater range of devices on which to market the 845, with much more headroom to negotiate device costs. But while competition might be limited at the moment, the A11 is poised to bring Apple some sizable growth if quality AR proves to be a smartphone feature that consumers value in 2018.

Next Steps

The general industry trend fueling the production of processors such as the 845 and the A11 indicates that mobile XR remains important to manufacturers, and further innovations in mobile computing will continue to explore ways to deliver discrete graphics quality in a small form factor.  Hardware manufacturers eagerly awating the 845 in order to power their 2018 flasgships would to remember to invest significantly in creating a robust content pipeline for VR and AR. Lessons have been learned in the past regarding otherwise stellar platforms running into problems due to a lack of engaging content.