The new 8S Gen 3 is not a flagship phone

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Qualcomm just launched a new chipset that’s designed to sit just below its current flagship in terms of capabilities and price.
The Snapdragon 8S Gen 3 aims to bring most of the 8 Gen 3’s features — including support for on-device generative AI models — to more affordable phones.
It represents a new tier for the top-of-the-line 8-series chips, and it’s also a little bit confusing.
Before we get into all that, let’s start with the straightforward stuff: the 8S Gen 3 includes a GPU similar to the standard 8 Gen 3, though it has one less performance core and runs at a lower frequency — the prime core runs at up to 3.0GHz versus 3.4GHz on the 8 Gen 3.
The new 8S Gen 3 also uses a previous-gen modem, the X70 5G, which includes Wi-Fi 7 support.
There’s also support for hardware-accelerated ray tracing so photorealistic games run more smoothly, which seems to be kind of a benchmark of phone flagship-iness these days.
Naturally, there’s AI.
The 8S Gen 3 supports multimodal generative AI on-device and can run large language models of up to 10 billion parameters — that includes the likes of Llama 2 and Gemini Nano.
It doesn’t offer all of the AI capabilities of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3, but it does support gen AI virtual assistants and image expansion.
The way Qualcomm’s Deepu John, senior director of product management, explains it, each Snapdragon high-level tier can be broken down into three sub-categories.
There are Snapdragon 8, 7, 6, and 4 series chipsets, and within those, up to three different offerings.
This “S” series chip sits just below the standard 8 Gen 3, and if Qualcomm ever releases an 8 Plus Gen 3, it would sit on top.
Naturally, there’s AIGot it?
Great, it gets even more confusing when you remember that phone manufacturers are still using 2022’s flagship, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 in not-quite flagship phones like the OnePlus 12R.
There’s also the Snapdragon 7 Gen 3 sitting just below the 8S Gen 3, though it has only turned up in a handful of phones.
Qualcomm seems to be slicing the high-end phone market awfully thin, maybe in an attempt to keep OEMs from turning to MediaTek for their less-than-flagship devices.

A new chipset from Qualcomm was just released; it is intended to be priced and feature-wise slightly less than its current flagship. Most of the 8 Gen 3’s features, such as support for on-device generative AI models, are intended to be available on more reasonably priced phones with the Snapdragon 8S Gen 3 processor. In addition to being a little confusing, it signifies a new tier for the best-of-the-best 8-series chips.

First, the basics before we delve into anything more complex: the 8S Gen 3 has a GPU that is comparable to the standard 8 Gen 3, but it has one fewer performance core and operates at a lower frequency (the prime core can reach up to 3.0GHz as opposed to 3.4GHz on the 8 Gen 3). A previous generation modem, the X70 5G, which supports Wi-Fi 7, is also utilized by the new 8S Gen 3. Additionally, hardware-accelerated ray tracing is supported, which improves the performance of photorealistic games and seems to be a modern benchmark for what makes a phone flagship worthy.

AI is present, of course. Including Llama 2 and Gemini Nano, among other large language models with up to 10 billion parameters, the 8S Gen 3 supports multimodal generative AI on-device. While it lacks some of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3’s AI features, it does support image expansion and generation AI virtual assistants.

Each high-level tier of the Snapdragon family can be divided into three subcategories, according to Deepu John, senior director of product management at Qualcomm. Up to three different Snapdragon 8, 7, 6, and 4 series chipsets are available. Qualcomm’s 8 Plus Gen 3 would take the place of this “S” series chip, which currently sits slightly below the standard 8 Gen 3.

Of course, artificial intelligence exists.

You got it? Good. Things get even more confusing when you consider that phone makers are still using the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, the flagship processor for 2022, in phones that aren’t quite flagships, like the OnePlus 12R. Although it has only been seen in a small number of phones, the Snapdragon 7 Gen 3 is also present, sitting just below the 8S Gen 3. It appears as though Qualcomm is trying to keep OEMs from switching to MediaTek for their less-than-flagship phones by drastically cutting down on the high-end phone market.

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