Qualcomm unveils Snapdragon 8s Gen 3 chip to bring AI features to more affordable Android phones

Snapdragon 8s Gen 3
(Image credit: Qualcomm)

More Android phones are going to start featuring on-device AI capabilities, thanks to a new chip introduced by Qualcomm today (March 18). The chipmaker is showing off the Snapdragon 8s Gen 3, an addition to its top-of-the-line silicon, where it joins the higher-end Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 that debuted late last year.

It sounds like the S variant of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 is a lower-cost version that puts the emphasis on generative AI features as well as higher-end gaming and photography capabilities. In announcing the new system-on-chip, Qualcomm senior director of product management Ken Mok emphasized that it would make the flagship experience "more attainable" for a greater number of devices.

Qualcomm executives didn't elaborate on the reasoning behind expanding its silicon lineup to include the Snapdragon 8s Gen 3. But earlier this year when Samsung introduced its Galaxy S24 lineup, not every new Samsung flagship featured Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8 Gen 3. The Galaxy S24 Plus and S24 models released outside of North America feature the Exynos 2400 instead — reportedly as a way for Samsung to save costs.

With smartphone prices on the rise, presumably the Snapdragon 8s Gen 3 offers a lower-cost alternative chipset for phone makers who still want to deliver a premium handset with on-device AI capabilities among other features.

To that end, Qualcomm really isn't emphasizing the performance capabilities of the Snapdragon 8s Gen 3, as it's not listing speed or power efficiency improvements compared to the previous generation of silicon. Instead, company executive only said that the new chip's performance should land somewhere between the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 and the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 that powered many of last year's best Android phones.

Snapdragon 8s Gen 3

(Image credit: Qualcomm)

Instead, Qualcomm is touting features like on-device generative AI that will be able to create things from spoken, written or visual prompts with the help of an AI-powered assistant. The Snapdragon 8s Gen 3 chipset includes support for 30-plus large language modules and large visual models. It can also offer a photo expansion feature that can generate backgrounds and other content outside of the captured photo's frame.

Speaking of imaging features, the Snapdragon 8s Gen 3 features Qualcomm's Spectra Triple Cognitive image signal processor with support for up to 200MP image sensors. Like the regular Snapdragon 8 Gen 3, the new chipset supports semantic segmentation, splitting images into 12 layers that can be individually optimized. There's also support for low-light imaging to remove graininess from your shots and an always-sensing camera to speed up unlocking your phone.

\Gaming features on the Snapdragon 8s Gen 3 support for real-time hardware-accelerated ray tracing to support better lighting, shadows and reflections in game graphics. The chipset can support refresh rates up to 144Hz. The chipset comes with the Snapdragon X70 modem-RF system, a step back from the more power-efficient X75 modem on the Snapdragin 8 Gen 3 system-on-chip.

According to Qualcomm, device makes such as Honor, iQOO, Realme, Redmi and Xiaomi are adopting the Snapdragon 8s Gen 3 for future products, with the first phones featuring the new chipset expected to arrive this month. None of those device makers release phones in the U.S., though Qualcomm tells us that it sees the Snapdragon 8s Gen 3 having a global reach.

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Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.