Qualcomm Talks Up Graphics on New Chip in Bid for Market Rebound

Qualcomm Inc., seeking to win back lost orders in the market for smartphone processors, said its next flagship chip will shake up the way mobile devices take photos, shoot video and play games.

Snapdragon 820, which will start appearing in phones in the first half of next year, is getting enhancements to its Adreno graphics systems that the San Diego-based company will show off for the first time this week.

“We’ve tried to make sure that still photos or videos are never blurry, that they’re always focused on what the user wants to see,” said Tim Leland, a Qualcomm vice president.

For Qualcomm, the 820 chip needs to do a better job than its predecessor, the 810, of impressing phonemakers and consumers. Samsung Electronics Co. rejected that chip for its flagship Galaxy devices in favor of its own silicon, and other phones based on the 810 have struggled to compete with Apple Inc.’s iPhone, which also uses an in-house processor.

Following the Samsung order loss and a decline in licensing revenue as the company struggles to get Chinese handset makers to pay fees, Qualcomm posted its worst sales decline in five years in the third quarter and unveiled plans to cut its workforce by 15 percent.

Lifelike Colors

The new Snapdragon version will try to help make phones behave more like digital cameras, which have the advantage of bigger lenses that feed more light to their sensors and dedicated chips to process that information.

Consumers will get phones capable of taking pictures that have a wider range of more lifelike colors. They’ll be faster to focus, especially indoors or in low-light situations.

Qualcomm has also designed the 820 to shoot high-definition video, known as 4K, and to display it at faster frame rates on large screens.

All of the graphics enhancements will also help the chip’s chances of winning orders outside of the phone market, in devices such as virtual-reality headsets and cars, where visual processing is becoming increasingly important, Qualcomm’s Leland said.

The chip has also been designed to be more power-efficient, making it less likely that the handset will become warm to the touch when the processor is running full-bore, he said.

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