The Snapdragon 865 chipset is now official, and it comes with a slew of upgrades in key areas. The chipset features ARM's latest Cortex-A77 cores, delivering a 20% boost in performance from last year, and the Adreno 650 GPU has more cores that result in a massive 25% uptick.
But one feature in particular stands out: Qualcomm will start delivering regular GPU updates to OEMs, who will then update phones through the Play Store, similar to what NVIDIA and AMD do on PCs. These updates were previously delivered via annual platform version updates or bundled with monthly security updates in the case of hotfixes, and in both cases had several roadblocks before they made their way to users.
So it's a big deal that Qualcomm will roll out these updates via OEMs, meaning they'll be seeded not just to the Play Store or Samsung's Galaxy storefront, but also the dozen or so app stores managed by Chinese brands. That means that the updates will be delivered regardless of where you're using your phone.
But the fact that Qualcomm is able to do so in the first place is all because of Project Mainline. Mainline is a massive change in the way Android updates work, with Google making the update process more modular so your phone can get essential updates sooner.
By leveraging Mainline, Qualcomm will be able to deliver driver updates to OEMs so they can pass them along seamlessly from the Play Store or its equivalent — just like app updates. The install process itself is ingenious, and you'll have to read our own Jerry Hildenbrand's excellent take on it to get an idea of how Mainline works on your phone.
But why does your phone need regular driver updates? One reason is to enable support for new titles that debut on the Play Store. NVIDIA does this regularly with its Game Ready drivers that ensure any new AAA title will run without any issues, and Qualcomm will likely follow a similar strategy here.
Android games are also constantly updated with new features, so Qualcomm could roll out a update to better support the new additions. This change also gives Qualcomm more flexibility in addressing specific game-related issues, like frequent crashes or gameplay lag. Qualcomm also has the ability to roll out optimization-related fixes to ensure games run smoothly.
It is great to see Qualcomm take control over driver updates, and the manufacturer has confirmed that the feature is being rolled over to the mid-tier Adreno 620 on the Snapdragon 765/765G as well, ensuring more devices will be able to take advantage of the feature.
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Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor overseeing Asia at Android Central. He leads the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, contributing to reviews, features, and buying guides. He also writes about storage servers, audio products, and the semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.