Qualcomm has now decided to answer the claims that have been made about its octa-core, Snapdragon 810 processor. Qualcomm confirmed earlier this year that a major manufacturer wouldn’t be using its Snapdragon 810; many picked Samsung as the secret manufacturer, and Samsung witnessed to it when the Korean manufacturer announced its Galaxy S6 and S6 edge on March 1st at Mobile World Congress 2015.
Qualcomm has responded to a number of questions with its own answers – but the answers don’t make sense. Let’s examine them now.
The Snapdragon 810 issues were on pre-release devices
Forbes sat down with Qualcomm recently to get the processor chipmaker’s own response to the so-called overheating issues with what was to be Qualcomm’s most advanced processor chip yet – the Snapdragon 810. Qualcomm claims that the Snapdragon 810 overheating issues are “rubbish,” practically nonexistent – even though Forbes itself had overheating problems with its own HTC One M9 test unit. When the company called out Qualcomm about its own HTC One M9 overheating issues, Qualcomm Marketing VP Tim McDonough responded,
Everything you’re saying is fair. But we all build pre-released products to find bugs and do performance optimisation. So when pre-released hardware doesn’t act like commercial hardware, it’s just part of the development process.
Qualcomm’s statement makes sense on the surface; sure, a number of pre-released units tend to have bugs that need fixing in future updates. But overheating is not a normal sign for smartphones – whether in a pre-released production unit or otherwise, and pre-release issues tend to remain when devices arrive to market (not disappear).
We’ve heard of a number of smartphones that blow up after being purchased by customers, overheat and burn customer hands, and so on. And the units that are released for market purchase don’t just get problems when they arrive to market; the same problems likely existed within pre-production units. The idea that Qualcomm can blame the issues on pre-release units sounds like nothing more than minimizing its responsibility rather than just simply acknowledging it.
Pre-release devices help lead the way when the same devices arrive on the market. If the Snapdragon 810 overheated in pre-release devices, and that’s not a big deal, then I shudder to think of what issues would greatly concern Qualcomm.
The Snapdragon 810 processor is a false rumor designed to provide a news story
The next claim Qualcomm’s Tim McDonough made about the Snapdragon 810 rumors is that I think someone artfully took that [the rumor] and used it to fuel the rumors and took something that’s completely normal and sent it to some less sophisticated news outlets to give them a story.
It’s true that the tech world is all about news, but McDonough’s answer dodges the issue completely. The question is not about how the rumor came to be, but instead, whether or not the rumor is true. McDonough claims that the rumor is false, but again, this answer dodges the question. McDonough’s response is called the genetic fallacy.
The genetic fallacy takes a given claim and says, “since it’s from a particular source, it’s not credible.” It would be similar to a criminal whose testimony is discounted in open court because “he’s a criminal,” nothing more. Even the criminal has eyes and can see a crime if it’s committed in his or her face. So, with that said, the Snapdragon 810 rumor isn’t necessarily false, even if someone did decide to feed a juicy tidbit to a few news agencies. The rumor may be true, despite a person’s attempts to capitalize from Qualcomm’s misfortune.
Samsung stands to gain from the Snapdragon 810 rumor
According to the Forbes-Qualcomm interview, Samsung’s name popped up in the discussion surrounding the Snapdragon 810. The way the statement goes is as follows: Samsung stands to gain from the Snapdragon 810 fiasco because the company can gain clients in processor manufacturing while showcasing its own Exynos 7420 (and other octa-core processors). Samsung designed this rumor in order to directly benefit, since its profits had fallen off the map from a lackluster 2014 financial record. The stellar performance of the Galaxy S6 and S6 edge’s processor is just another piece of the puzzle to aid Samsung’s financial growth in 2015.
This, too, seems legitimate on the surface – until you look at some other facts. The major fact to decide the truth or falsehood of this rumor goes back to Samsung: did Samsung need to broadcast a “tiny” inconvenience such as the Snapdragon 810’s overheating on pre-release production units to make a name for itself? Not likely. After all, Samsung’s octa-core processors have made their way into smartphones and tablets outside of the US and UK for the last few years. Samsung’s Galaxy S and Note smartphones have had Samsung’s own Exynos processors in them in some regions worldwide for the last few years, and the company’s Exynos processors have performed equal to or better than its Qualcomm counterparts.
If the company’s processors were already making their way into select devices, why would Samsung need to create a false rumor in order to place its processors into other variants of its own devices? Up until this point, Samsung had been relying on Qualcomm’s processors for devices outside of select regions. While there are Gear S smartwatches utilizing the Exynos processor, the Gear S in the US, however, utilizes the Snapdragon 400 processor (Qualcomm’s own processor). The Galaxy Note 4, released in September 2014, runs on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 805 processor in certain locations. There are a number of Galaxy tablets that run Samsung’s own Exynos processor as well, so it’s not as though Samsung needed to spread a false rumor to create an excuse as to why it would proceed with its own processors.
The idea that Samsung forged this rumor to capitalize in sales doesn’t make sense when you consider that Samsung’s always pushed its Exynos processors in its most recent tablets and smartphones. And no, Samsung doesn’t have to use Qualcomm’s processors in any of its devices; after all, why should a company proficient in manufacturing its own rely on Qualcomm simply because Qualcomm needs its business?
What are the facts that can be drawn from the Snapdragon 810? This is a good question because Qualcomm’s interview leaves much to be desired and provides more questions than answers.
The facts are as follows. First, there is an overheating issue with the Snapdragon 810 – and its not just with pre-release production units. LG’s G Flex 2, released earlier this year, contained the Snapdragon 810. A number of tech reviewers noted the overheating problems with their units. Tech site Digital Trends spoke with LG back in January about the heat issues in its G Flex 2:
LG did admit it ran into some problems with the initial batch of Snapdragon 810 processors from Qualcomm. However, the company said the issues have been dealt with…This jives with previous comments by LG, where the performance of the Snapdragon 810 processor was described as ‘quite satisfactory’.
LG is not the only manufacturer who’s had to deal with the Snapdragon 810 issues; you can add Taiwanese manufacturer HTC to the mix. An XDA Developers member said that his source, owning an HTC One M9, received an OTA update that included “thermal improvements.” PhoneArena’s own HTC One M9 benchmark test showed that the One M9 was running at a temperature of 132 degrees Fahrenheit, 30 degrees hotter than the One M8 (102 degrees) and 32 degrees hotter than the Galaxy Note 4 (100 degrees). The One M9 OTA update issued by HTC dropped the temperature down to about 104 degrees, which is still hot but more acceptable than the pre-update temperature.
There are a number of legitimate tech sites that have confirmed the issues with the Snapdragon 810 processor, but I won’t detail them here. What we do know, however, is that there have been problems with the Snapdragon 810 processor overheating. To make matters worse, anyone that has used or is currently using an earlier device with a Snapdragon processor can attest to the occasional overheating situation.
I have a Galaxy S5 running the Snapdragon 801 and it has had a few random situations with overheating. My Galaxy Note 3, running the Snapdragon 800, has had the same at times (although occasionally, less than once every three months). The Snapdragon 805, released last year, is not immune from overheating, as CNET’s own Motorola Droid Turbo review from five months ago found that the Droid Turbo’s 805 processor overheated (and rather quickly) at times. With the Snapdragon 800, 801, and 805 processors all overheating at times, it’s not farfetched to see the severity of the situation with the latest 810 processor. There may not always be fire where there’s smoke, but the suspicion itself is worth consideration.
LG G4 and the Snapdragon 808
LG’s G4 may have a leather back, f/1.8 camera aperture, a microSD card slot, and other tech goodies to catch your eye, but it comes with a surprising Snapdragon 808 processor instead of the notorious Snapdragon 810. The G Flex 2, LG’s phone from earlier this year, bears the Snapdragon 810. McDonough claims that the decision to implement the 808 processor was a decision made in advance and that LG didn’t design the G4 to have the same power as the G Flex 2:
The decisions get made 18 months before a phone shows its face. When we were working with LG on the G Flex 2 and G4, Qualcomm produced the 810 and 808 around the same time. The simple reason is the design goals of the G4 2K experience.
The Snapdragon 808 has not even had so much as a whisper in the news until around the time LG unveiled the G4. In fact, the Snapdragon 810 was still rumored to make its appearance in the device until the week leading up to the Korean manufacturer’s announcement. Additionally, the Snapdragon 808 is a hexa-core (6 cores) processor, not an octa-core (8), meaning that it won’t handle multitasking as well as the Snapdragon 810 (but it won’t overheat, either, which is a good sign). While the Snapdragon 808 may handle single core tasks as efficiently as an octa-core processor, it won’t be the king of multitasking.
The Snapdragon 810 also handles native 4K viewing, and while the 808 will allow 4K viewing, the 808 will not allow for it natively. Some users may not care about native 4K viewing, but the native 4K viewing of the 810, in addition to its octa-core processing, does give it the raw power needed to prevail over the 808. Tech diehards will notice, believe me.
So, why would LG use the 810 with the G Flex 2 but revert back to a lower-performing processor (808) for its flagship released a few months later (and is the company’s latest device)? Digital Trends’ statement about the Snapdragon 810 makes sense, in light of LG’s decision to forgo its use in the G4. Perhaps LG’s keeping the 810 around until the announcement of its Galaxy Note competitor, the “G Note,” later this year. At any rate, it’s also safe to say that by the end of the year, the Snapdragon 810 problems will have been resolved – an indication that the 810 really wasn’t ready for primetime.
Last but never least, is the fact that Samsung’s Exynos 7420 processor in the Galaxy S6 and S6 edge is blowing away the competition. The Snapdragon 810 can’t keep the pace with Samsung’s Exynos octa-core processor, leading the tech rumors to now point toward Samsung securing Qualcomm as a client in its processor chip manufacturing. Samsung’s Galaxy S6 and S6 edge have been the only devices (so far) to reach over 60,000 points in AnTuTu benchmark scores. The HTC One M9, by contrast, stands at around 52,000 points in the same benchmark test. If Samsung’s gone with its own processors to make a statement, it’s making that statement in excellent fashion.
In the end, the questions surrounding the Snapdragon 810 could’ve been cleared up if Qualcomm simply issued a statement and promised to do better; then again, however, that wouldn’t make for a juicy story, would it?