New AI-powered Android phones set to launch

The Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 is among the first mobile chips to offer on-device generative AI capabilities (Qualcomm)
The Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 is among the first mobile chips to offer on-device generative AI capabilities (Qualcomm)

It may be wise to hold off on buying a fancy new Android phone if you’re someone who likes to have the most cutting-edge tech.

Even as the likes of OnePlus and Google are launching their latest handsets, a new crop of devices is waiting in the wings with powerful AI features.

New mobiles from Oppo and Xiaomi will take advantage of a new chip that can perform AI tasks on the device itself, instead of remotely over the cloud. Qualcomm revealed the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 processor on Tuesday at an event that was all about artificial intelligence.

Because the chip doesn’t need to beam info to a remote data centre, it can complete AI-powered tasks much faster than most other phones, according to the company.

The Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 supports a chatbot trained on Meta’s Llama 2, which is a language model similar to the system that powers ChatGPT. You’ll be able to text and speak to the bot, and even ask it to create images.

Speaking of which, the chip can also generate an image in less than one second using a popular AI tool called Stable Diffusion. Normally, the process would take about 15 seconds, or a couple of minutes on a decent laptop.

Best of all, these enhancements will arrive in the coming weeks on a crop of new phones. By next year, the chip will become more commonplace as it will inevitably pop up on flagship handsets from Samsung, Motorola and Sony. Meanwhile, Qualcomm rival MediaTek is releasing its own AI-centric chip that will cater to the rest of the Android market.

That only leaves one major outlier: Google. The company’s Pixel phones run on its custom-built Tensor processor, and boast impressive camera tricks that allow you to customise photos using AI in weird and wonderful ways.

To give Google a run for its money, Qualcomm’s chip will also allow you to remove people and objects from photos with a tap. While speech recognition will allow you to edit images and video using your voice. Another crazy new feature called Vlogger’s View will let you combine video from the selfie and rear cameras together. With it, you can put yourself in front of the view your rear camera is capturing.

Messing around with your personal photos is one thing, but what about people who use AI to dupe others? Well, Qualcomm thinks it has an answer for that: The company will let you tag your photos with a cryptographic seal that won’t allow others to tamper with them.

It’s working with a firm called Truepic on the tech, which is compliant with an open standard for content authentication used by the likes of Adobe, the BBC and Microsoft.

But, it’s not just about AI. The new chip should also improve mobile gaming with support for Unreal Engine 5.2 and hardware-accelerated ray-tracing. That means you should see more “lifelike, multi-source lighting” in games.

Meanwhile, Qualcomm is touting a 10 per cent bump in power savings compared with the previous tech. There’s also a new feature called Snapdragon Seamless that will make it easier to pair accessories with different devices and operating systems. It should come in handy when you want to switch your headphones from your PC to your mobile to take a call, for instance.