Snapdragon 710 chips mean nobody has to spend $1,000 on a phone

I've always been a fan of "mid-range" silicon. Whether that means overclocking the living daylights out of a Intel Core i5 or AMD FX CPU or optimizing software parameters for middle of the road SoCs in mobile (my HTC Hero was hella fast with my own version of Android on it), squeezing every last drop out of a clock cycle is my kind of fun. Most of the time any optimization also scales upwards and downwards, meaning low-end hardware becomes more usable and high-end hardware seems like magic when you turn it on.

More importantly, I'm a fan when a company that makes these parts does it itself. And Qualcomm looks to have outdone itself with the coming Snapdragon 710. It's more than a better Snapdragon 600 series; it's an entirely new type of product that has the potential to change buying habits.

Snapdragon 845 "lite"

On paper, the 710 looks like a really good mid-range SoC. In reality, it's more like an inexpensive high-end SoC and shares more features with the Snapdragon 800 series — the chips that power the Pixel phones and Galaxy S phones and every other phone creeping towards the $1,000 line — than it does with the tried-and-true 600 series.

This chip is not an improved Snapdragon 660. It's a Snapdragon 835 that's been sensibly scaled back.

I thought the Snapdragon 600 line was a great value. By using one, a manufacturer could shave money off the price and still have enough hardware at its disposal to do almost anything you would want a smartphone to do. But there was a fairly large performance gap between the 600 and 800 series of chips, especially when it came to the things other than raw performance per clock cycle. Other, equally important performance metrics like image processing and network speeds were far superior on a phone with a Snapdragon 800 series than any other chip Qualcomm had to offer.

That's where the 710 shines. From the ground up it's designed to deliver flagship-class performance without the flagship price. Its built on the exact same 10nm process as the 845 (and future 800 chips), which means it's incredibly power-efficient. This is more than "better battery life" because power efficiency affects thermal performance and longevity of almost every other component on a phone's board and the battery. If this were the only change from the 600 line of SoC, it's enough; better battery life, better performance for a longer time, and an increased life for all the hardware is nothing to sneeze at.

10 nanometer fabrication is the biggest advancement in chip design in the past 10 years. Sometimes less is more.

It's not the only change though. A mobile SoC (System on Chip) isn't the CPU. It's a piece of hardware that can be soldered to a board that includes the CPU, the GPU, various signal processors, and networking components, all in one module. The 710 is using the newest generation of individual components inside the SoC just like the 845 is, which nobody expected and makes me very happy.

A quick peek into the specs — don't worry, I won't let it get too boring here — shows a BIG.little CPU configuration with the same high-powered cores as the 800 series paired with a new set of efficiency cores based on the A55 CPU design. There's a 600 series Adreno GPU, a 685 Hexagon DSP, a 200 series Spectra ISP, on-board system cache, an upgraded X15 LTE modem package and pipes for 10-bit HDR. These components are what you would expcet to see in an 800 series chip, not a mid range chip.

In real world usage, that all translates into a few important upgrades over the previous mid-range champ, the Snapdragon 600. Your photographs will be processed using the same engine that the Galaxy S9 uses, as will the effects engine for features like bokeh and portrait mode.. So will your phone audio. Modem features like 4X4 MIMO and LAA (License-Assisted Access) are also something we see in the 800 series chips and will mean better data speeds, though capped at only 800 Mbps. The 10-bit wide pipelines mean HDR capture and display, which should pair well with a GPU capable of 4K-30/60 playback while using less power than a 660 chip to do so.

This isn't a mid-range chip the way we know mid-range chips.

A new class of phones

I think the 710 will also do something you can't list on a spec sheet — allow companies to build phones we want to buy that don't cost $1,000.

Allow me the liberty to use Apple as an example here. Apple's iPhone 8 is the company's bread and butter flagship for 2018. It's an engineering marvel, and ranks up there with the Galaxy S9 and Pixel 2 as the best phones you can buy in 2018. But it's not the expensive model — that's the iPhone X.

Unless Samsung starts adding a bunch of COM overhead to Android, the next Galaxy phone does not need a Snapdragon 855. (Please don't do that, Samsung.)

A Snapdragon 710 would let Samsung build a Galaxy SX (yes, I went there) that does everything we expect and does it very well without driving the price any higher than the Galaxy S9 retail. The Note X could then use the newest breed of Snapdragon 800 chip for users who wan't the most performance possible and are OK with paying more for it.

The Snapdragon 845 was designed to power a Microsoft Windows laptop, complete with overhead like Direct X and about a gazillion mismashed 32 and 64-bit background processes running. Many of the components used in an 845 SoC aren't being used to their full potential when it's inside a phone. In plain English, that means you don't need a Snapdragon 845 to power your Galaxy S9, but a Snapdragon 660 just isn't going to cut it. In comes the Snapdragon 710 to fill that void with hardware fully capable and everyone is happy and Timmy was rescued from the well.

Am I dreaming out loud here? Of course, that's what I do best. Odds are the next big thing from the next company to release a flagship smartphone will use the newest Snapdragon 800 SoC and be sure to tell us all about it in product sheets and an unveiling event. But you need to know it doesn't have to, and that the phone not getting all the attention which uses the Snapdragon 710 chip is probably everything you ever wanted and needed. And it won't be $1,000.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

  • I completely agree. The 710 is a perfect sweet spot for most people, the 845 is always there for the hardest of hardcore users
  • Yep, this all sounds good to me. I want a phone with this!
  • It becomes a spec war, that's really what's going on. You don't need that massive amount of power, it's probably disabled because it will drain battery unnecessarily. The clock speed is lowered for best battery performance.
  • So SnapDragon 710 going to cost half the price? £500?
  • I agree. I'd rather sacrifice a little performance for better battery life anyway. The Mi 8 SE looks really good to me.
  • Xiaomi are going to sell it in China for the equivalent of $280. That's astonishing.
  • It is a great price that should be bumped up on the resellers, unless you can get it in China. I saw this interesting TechAltar video about Xiaomi wanting to make money on their services, rather than their handware, as the traditional Android makers do. It's good because I can get a cheaper phone and still use Google's much superior software and not be locked into Xiaomi's underwhelming software ecosystem. If I was in the market for a phone I'd love to buy this affordable Android based iPhone clone.
  • i feel you man but if you end up owning a xiaomi mobile you will love miui 10 . also xiaomi pretty much does not have a software ecosystem outside china and its software ecosystem is not underwhelming there. what they do have is the biggest IOT (connected) hardware ecosystem with over 100 million devices. also 190 million people use miui and most of them love it if you have a couple of minutes check this out
    miui 10 is best of both words it is fast,beautiful and practical as ****. finally going towards stock andorid though to be fair stock andorid also goes toward their side as they have just now implemented some features that were present in miui from a long time.
    an official pre IPO xiaomi video
    for most honest and unbiased coverage check out xiaomify that nibba makes some great quality content. As a xiaomi fan i can't help but get annoyed when people say they hate xiaomi's software just try it for a couple days you will fall in love. also xiaomi's global rom comes preloaded with all the google and microsoft apps. though i only use the browser,gmail and Ytube.
  • I definitely agree, this processer may help the prices of 1,000 phones drop. Could be very interesting!
  • Maybe Nokia will use this in the Nokia 7.1 later this year.
  • Ideal phone for next year, to replace my 2 XL:
    - Oneplus build quality
    - Pixel software experience and camera
    - 710 performance and PRICE Kind of a "refined" Nexus
  • I don't think that's how business and economics works. Price points don't go down. A good example is Prime or cell phone contracts. The technology and subscriber base is only getting better and more wide spread, yet prices go up. Think how long cell carriers charged for txt messages even though they cost them nothing. They aren't going to lower bills. If they can get us to buy a $1000 phone, there's no reason to think they will ever be cheaper than that. Sad, but true.
  • Sadly this is correct. As long as suckers continue to buy these trendy shiny gimmicky phones just because all their friends do, they will continue to charge the same prices or more. Even though there is NO REASON they should be charging these prices. The only difference between flagships and midrange anymore is the camera. That's not worth 3 times the price.
  • Yup. Something is only worth what people are willing to pay for it. Unfortunately the leasing or payment plans have been used to fool alot of people that don't know any better.
  • How does it compare to the snapdragon 820?
    It seems like older flagships are a better buy than mid range phones like moto g series.
  • Nobody has to spend? Well OEMs please take note and never use SD 845 😉 Personally, I think it's great that chips are improving so much and good to have great choices at various price points. I still always choose the greatest and latest specs available and cost isn't a concern for me.
  • But when will it get to the US ?
    I don't think the SD 660 ever made it to a US-offered device, even as an unlocked phone.
    Still the SD 710 looks great and hopefully Qualcomm gets orders for it on US devices.
  • That's the rub. None of this stuff ever makes it to the US. Sure you can roll the dice on unlocked phones from Amazon and eBay, but very stores here stock QUALITY affordable midrange devices. Carriers sure as heck don't bother, Best Buy is full of Samsung and Apple, and other physical retailers aren't much better off.
  • Next time you are in Best Buy make sure to explore all of the phone section. It is laid out to make it look like it's all Samsung and Apple. The unlocked phone section is actually pretty large, but it is often spread out in a wide area.
  • I'd love to see comparisons between QC 800s (821 etc) and the 710.
    Also: is it conceivable that OEMs may offer an 855 vs 710 in a similar model handset?
  • Well Xiaomi in China has just unveiled a version of the Mi 8, called Mi 8 SE that's running SD710 while the other version are running in SD845. So if other OEMs are not pushed by greed too much, they could do this and allow us to choose the version we need.
  • I don't think I could step down from an Snapdragon 845 for a Snapdragon 710 or an 835 for that matter which my future phone, the Pixel 2 XL has.
  • Too bad it is too late to get this into the upcoming blackberry key2!
  • Qualcomm's naming scheme is getting more and more confusing. They really should rethink it.
  • At least it's not as bad as when Nokia was producing their Lumia series. Yet.
  • I'm just wondering why the author thinks this is going to drastically affect phone prices? The difference in price between mid-range chips and 800 series is already only $10-$40. So now the 700 series will be in between that. So the phone manufacturer is going to save about $20 per device in bulk. How is that going to translate into them dropping the phone price by hundreds per device? Did the author think high end mobile processors bought in bulk, were priced similar to high end desktop processors sold individually at retail for $300? The highest estimate for a smaller bulk order of Snapdragons 800 series is $70. But the author points out Samsung. Big guys like Samsung are estimated to pay around $40 per top chip from Snapdragon. Around $20 for midrangers.
  • Bingo. You nailed it.
  • If the 710 is really an 845 minus extra stuff needed for Win10, they screwed the naming up. The should have called the 710 the 845p (for phone) and then other 845 the 845L (or similar for Laptop). Then people focused on the "chip name" and see 845 is higher than 710 would not be improperly swayed. Do it this way and phone makers still sell to the gearheads but make about $20 a phone more (and $20 per phone X 5M phones adds up).
  • Now we just need a decent phone to use that chip
  • Hopefully the 700 series will still be around in a couple years because I finally scraped together the cash and ordered a Nokia 6.1. Not gonna complain about the end product, but that release timing for the 700's sure sucked.
  • Thanks for the article Jerry, this is suck great news. You really made my jaw drop with about the SD845 being made for Windows not phones. This is interesting, as long as power and GPU performance doesn't dip and there is an increase in battery life ( the one area that has not improved since 2014), this is a major announcement.
  • It's a bit of exaggeration to say the chip was made for Windows and not phones. The "made for Windows" part is mainly x86 emulation. Qualcomm also added features for AI, enhanced graphics and image processing, improved 4K video, better VR, and more.
  • Bad article.
    Who are you to tell me what I need?
  • Also, the Xiaomi Mi8 proves that the very top chip and specs can be had for $450.
  • I'm excited. Bring it on!!
  • You can get the flagship from last year's or the year before that or 3 years ago and it will be STILL far superior. Why make mid-range when they can sell the old model at the same price (or lower)? At the time, a ZTE Zmax Pro launched at $100 and it had a Snapdragon 617, still great today.. you can probably get one for cheaper. Mid-range phones are around $300-400, not worth it.
  • Old flagships do not get many updates, while a brand new mid-range can give you 2 or 3 years of updates.
  • There is a slightly overclocked version of the 710, the 730. And I'm trying to hang on with my Z2 Play for devices in the U.S. to use it (*AHEM, Sony could use these chips to refresh the XA2 and XA2 Ultra and actually command that $449 price point with zero complaint), BUT I doubt U.S. OEMS will pick this up. To compete with Chinese alternatives, I think they should. Hell, nothing wrong with selling a better model and dropping the price to bargain basement prices on the current models. EDIT: I know the big argument will be..."what about last year's flagships?" Any device on Nougat that was upgraded to Oreo has one last upgrade cycle to P and that will be it. The new midrangers will actually have Oreo and P/Q. Plus, too many of last year's flagships compromised on features (headphone jack, app to SD, etc) that make buying them a dealbreaker. The midrange is more exciting, but the pricing should fall. Also, last year, the argument would have been to get a phone with a SD 820. The 820 throttled in every device it was featured in, which was a performance and heat concern. Now, few phones went with the 821 (G6, Google Pixel 1) and I would have recommended those. But not an 820. Before that, we had to deal with the issues of the 810 and the 808 (remember the Priv )? So I don't buy the logic of "just buy last year's flagship," especially when you'll be lucky to see two major upgrades and security updates. That works in Apple's world, but not in Google's world.
  • Awesome news for Asian markets. We love our mid rangers. For us, $50/mo for 2 years is not drastically less expensive compared to $1k up front. :)
  • Oh "Gerald" I do hope you are right. I really do not want to enter into another installment plan that finds me eventually underwater on my phone (The balance on my S7 is more than the phone sells new on Amazon, wince). But I also do not want to shell out $750+ for a piece of tech that will inevitably slow WAY down *cough, Samsung* and won't get support much past two years *cough most Android phones* just so I can keep the features I really enjoy on my current "flagship" device.
  • Hey Motorola. Remake the Moto X4 with a 710, a killer camera and 6GB ram. $499 it. sell more phones in a quarter, than LG in a year.
  • Android phones and their chip sets in my opinion should be like cars and how engines are sized depending upon the size of the car. In 2015 I came off a Pontiac with a V-6 making 175 horsepower and needed a new car. Because of my budget I priced into a compact Chevy with an inline-4 and turbo making 138 horsepower. I expected to be a slowpoke having been used to a reasonable size V-6, but damn if the little inline-4 in my Chevy doesn't rocket down the highway with the best of them. I later (and unsurprisingly) learned that Chevy has rated their inline-4 engines depending upon the size of the car - the inline-4 (138hp in 2015, 153hp in 2018) in the Chevy Cruze is smaller than the what's in the Malibu (160hp) which is smaller than what's in the Impala (197hp). This way you don't end up with one engine for all and an way over powered Cruze compact or an under powered Malibu or a very under powered Impala. It begged the question, just how much horsepower do you really need? You use the bulk of it for acceleration - getting off the line at a light, passing, getting on the highway. Once you're going you'd be surprised at how much horsepower that you're not using. Guess phones are the same way. I justify my purchases and can easily justify a mid-range device as I don't do extensive work on my devices but someone else like my younger brother demands a flagship as he claims he does so much on his devices. I'm sure I'd get by very nicely with a flagship device, but for what I do with my devices I'd be feeling I wasted about five-hundred dollars and not using my flagship device to its full potential...
  • That's a decent analogy, and most cars use between 11 and 14 horsepower at cruising speed (IIRC). Weight is the other primary factor, but at least you can enhance fuel economy by driving reasonably, and almost cancel out the drawbacks of having more power. We had two cars of the same model and year, and one was setup for road course racing with 200 hp naturally aspirated (my preference), the other for drag racing with a turbo and 338 hp. We found that we could get similar fuel economy from either, but the non-turbo car got about the same mileage whether it was being driven like a granny or being raced at the redline. The turbo car CAN get similar mileage, but when you crank it open, economy goes to heck. However, I will say that I do use the power, and it's nice to have on hand.
  • When an articles starts talking about overclocking, you KNOW it's Jerry. It's great that the modems have been upgraded, but the 10 bit pipes will be a big plus as well.
    I don't think the iPhone 8 is a good example of cost savings here because it uses the same A11 Bionic as the iPhone X. The price difference comes from the screen, Face ID hardwardware and other features, and for the "Privilege" tax to enhance your social status ;) It should be noted that when you have 2.2GHz performance cores, it does not mean the core runs at that speed all the time when it's turned on. The core operating frequency is controlled from 0 to 2.2GHz, and may be running at 0.1 GHz if that's what the demand is called for. The algorithms used to control the cores plays a key role in efficiency, and is why the S9 with the Exynos SoC is doing poorly in battery life this year. However, all control algorithms aside, a more efficient chip is a more efficient chip unless the software is screwing things up, and I'm looking forward to see what the standby times are with the 710. I still remember my old One Mini with the SD 400, and it's 692 hour standby times.
  • How much does processor affect phone price? You can get an 845 in a op6 at $530 or an s9+ for $840. I suspect Qualcomm doesn't like this and wants the 8xx locked to $1000+ phones. So 7xx will push 8xx to super flagships.
  • I'll definitely look out for lower priced options with the 710. I'm not thrilled with the direction flagships have gone (plus-sized, fragile glass for a $1,000), so a smalller midrange device might be a good fit for me.
  • Finally the are some improvements in mid-range chips and this one makes significant improvements. I have a Pixel 2 and love it (I have a paralyzed left arm, so anything bigger than my Pixel is too big for me). Hopefully the mid-range pixels that will be released in India will be released here as well, because this 710 will more than meet my needs. Hopefully Motorola uses these because I love their durability (and not being forced to use a case. I drop my phone every day and my old Droid Turbo 2 was pretty much unbreakable.). If the mid-range Pixel uses this chip & gets great battery life I might buy it right away. Durability & battery life are extremely important for me.
  • I know this is a year old article but I've changed my mind since I no longer have my Pixel 2 XL anymore the SD 710 seems a great SoC.
  • I just got a Nokia 8.1 which is one of the few phones with the SD710 which is pretty powerful for. Midrange SoC from what I've seen of it.