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Here’s the first phone with the Snapdragon 888 — and it’s not the Galaxy S21

Snapdragon 888 features
(Image credit: Qualcomm)

The Snapdragon 888 figures to be the engine on the leading Android phones coming out in 2021, with the Samsung Galaxy S21 likely to be one of the first major phones to sport Qualcomm’s latest system-on-chip. But it looks like Samsung’s flagship won’t be the very first one to feature a Snapdragon 888.

Instead, that honor goes to the Xiaomi Mi 11, which is going to make its debut before 2020 is even over. Chinese phone maker Xiaomi has set a Dec. 28 date to unveil its new hardware, which is confirmed to feature Qualcomm’s latest silicon.

The presence of the Snapdragon 888 inside the Xiaomi Mi 11 is no surprise. Xiaomi was among the phone maker’s at Qualcomm’s launch event pledging to feature the new mobile processing platform, even going so far as to say the Snapdragon 888 would power the Mi 11.

But it’s a little bit of surprise that Xiaomi will be first out of the gate, as opposed to Samsung. In recent years, Samsung’s Galaxy S series has usually been the first to feature the latest silicon from Qualcomm, at least in the U.S. versions of the phone. (Samsung often uses its own Exynos chips for models released elsewhere.)

It could be hard getting your hands on the Xiaomi Mi 11 if you live outside China. That’s where the phone will launch initially. So the Dec. 28 launch event will likely be geared entirely toward a Chinese audience when the festivities get underway at 7:30 p.m. CST. (That’s 1:30 p.m. GMT and 8:30 a.m. EST.)

A rollout of the Xiaomi Mi 11 to other countries is likely after the phone hits the Chinese market, but it’s unclear when. TechRadar speculates that it could be in late January or early February, if past Xiaomi rollouts are any indication. The Xiaomi Mi 10 appeared outside of China roughly six weeks after it debuted in that country.

That could give Samsung some time to introduce its own Snapdragon 888-powered flagship. Rumors point to a Jan. 14 event for the Galaxy S21, though there’s no official word on that from Samsung just yet.

For that reason, it could be worth keeping an eye on the Xiaomi M11 launch to get a sense of just what the Snapdragon 888 will bring to smartphones in the coming year. Qualcomm has already told us to expect gains in performance and graphics over last year’s Snapdragon 865 and even released benchmarks showing how the chip performed on reference device. But there’s more to the Snapdragon 888 platform than just a CPU and GPU — Qualcomm is also touting advances with artificial intelligence and the image signal processor on the chipset for improved photography.

It isn't clear just yet where the Xiaomi M11 will launch after China, but we could end up hearing about a debut in the UK around the time of the Dec. 28 event. And perhaps we’ll have a better idea of what to expect from rival Android flagships once we hear more about that phone’s mobile processor.

Brittany Vincent

Brittany Vincent has been covering video games and tech for over 13 years for publications including Tom's Guide, MTV, Rolling Stone, CNN, Popular Science, Playboy, IGN, GamesRadar, Polygon, Kotaku, Maxim, and more. She's also appeared as a panelist at video game conventions like PAX East and PAX West and has coordinated social media for companies like CNET. When she's not writing or gaming, she's looking for the next great visual novel in the vein of Saya no Uta. You can follow her on Twitter @MolotovCupcake.