What is Qualcomm Snapdragon?


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Snapdragon is a suite of system on a chip (SoC) semiconductor products designed and marketed by Qualcomm for mobile devices. The Snapdragon central processing unit (CPU) uses the ARM RISC instruction set, and a single SoC may include multiple CPU cores, a graphics processing unit (GPU), a wireless modem, and other software and hardware to support a smartphone's global positioning system (GPS), camera, gesture recognition and video. Snapdragon semiconductors are embedded in devices of various systems, including Google Android mobile and Windows Phone devices. They are also used for netbooks, in cars, wearable devices and other devices.

The first Snapdragon product to be made available to consumer device manufacturers was the QSD8250, which was released in November 2007. It included the first 1 GHz processor for mobile phones. Qualcomm introduced its "Krait" microprocessor architecture in the second generation of Snapdragon SoCs in 2011, allowing each processor core to adjust its speed based on the device's needs. At the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show, Qualcomm introduced the first of the Snapdragon 800 series and renamed prior models as the 200, 400 and 600 series. Several new iterations have been introduced since, such as the Snapdragon 805, 810, 615 and 410. Qualcomm re-branded its modem products under the Snapdragon name in December 2014.



Qualcomm announced it was developing the Scorpioncentral processing unit (CPU) in November 2005. The Snapdragon system on chip (SoC) was announced in November 2006 and included the Scorpion processor, as well as other semiconductors. This also included Qualcomm's first custom Hexagon digital signal processor (DSP).
According to a Qualcomm spokesperson, it was named Snapdragon, because "Snap and Dragon sounded fast and fierce." The following month, Qualcomm acquired Airgo Networks for an undisclosed amount; it said Airgo's 802.11a/b/g and 802.11n Wi-Fi technology would be integrated with the Snapdragon product suite. Early versions of Scorpion had a processor core design similar to the Cortex-A8.

Early Snapdragon products

The first Snapdragon shipments were of the QSD8250 in November 2007.  According to CNET, Snapdragon's claim to fame was having the first 1 GHz mobile phone processor.  Most smartphones at the time were using 500 MHz processors. The first generation of Snapdragon products supported a 720p resolution, 3D graphics and a 12-megapixel camera. By November 2008, 15 device manufacturers decided to embed Snapdragon semiconductors in their consumer electronics products.
In November 2008, Qualcomm announced it would also compete against Intel in the netbook processor market with dual-core Snapdragon system-on-chips planned for late 2009.  It demonstrated a Snapdragon processor that consumed less power than Intel chips announced around the same time and claimed it would also cost less when released. That same month, Qualcomm introduced a Snapdragon-based protoytpe netbook called Kayak that used 1.5 GHz processors and was intended for developing markets.

In May 2009, Java SE was ported and optimized for Snapdragon. At the November 2009 Computex Taipei show, Qualcomm announced the QSD8650A addition to the Snapdragon product suite, which was based on 45 nanometer manufacturing processes. It featured a 1.2 GHz processor and had lower power consumption than prior models.

By late 2009, smartphone manufacturers announced they would be using Snapdragon semiconductors in the Acer Liquid Metal, HTC HD2, Toshiba TG01 and the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10. Lenovo announced the first netbook product using Snapdragon SoCs that December.  According to PC World, mobile devices using Snapdragon had better battery life and were smaller in size than those using other SoCs.

By June 2010, Snapdragon chips were embedded in 20 available consumer devices and incorporated into 120 product designs in development.  Apple had a dominant market position for smartphones at the time and did not incorporate Snapdragon into any of its products. The success of Snapdragon therefore relied on competing Android phones, such as Google's Nexus One and the HTC Incredible, challenging Apple's market position.  Android devices did end up taking market share from the iPhone and predominantly used Snapdragon. As of July 2014, the market share of Android phones had grown to 84.6 percent.

There was an "unconfirmed but widely circulated report" speculating that Apple was going to start using Snapdragon SoCs in Verizon-based iPhones. As of 2012, Apple was still using their own semiconductor designs.  Support for the Windows Phone 7 operating systems was added to Snapdragon in October 2010. By 2011 Snapdragon was embedded in Hewlett Packard's WebOS devices  and had a 50% market share of a $7.9 billion smartphone processor market. By 2015, Snapdragon was used in most non-Apple smartphones.

Snapdragon chips are also used in most Android-based smartwatches, Snapdragon products have also been used in virtual reality products, in vehicles like the Maserati Quattroporte and Cadillac XTS and in other applications.

                  Snapdragon S4 Processor - Qualcomm MSM8225

Later models

In June 2010, Qualcomm began sampling the third generation of Snapdragon products; two dual-core 1.2 GHz system on chips (SoC) called the Mobile Station Modem (MSM) 8260 and 8660. The 8260 was for GSM, UMTS and HSPA+ networks, while the 8660 was for CDMA2000 and EVDO networks. That November Qualcomm announced the MSM8960 for LTE networks.
In early 2011, Qualcomm announced a new processor architecture called Krait,  which used the ARM v7 instruction set, but was based on Qualcomm's own processor design. The processors were called S4 and had a feature named Asynchronous Symmetrical Multi-Processing (aSMP), meaning each processor core adjusted its clock speed and voltage based on the device's activity in order to optimize battery usage. Prior models were renamed to S1, S2 and S3 to distinguish each generation.

The S4-based generation of Snapdragon SoCs began shipping to product manufacturers with the MSM8960 in February 2012. In benchmark tests by Anandtech, the MSM8960 had better performance than any other processor tested. In an overall system benchmark, the 8960 obtained a score of 907, compared to 528 and 658 for the Galaxy Nexus and HTC Rezound respectively. In a Quadrant benchmark test, which assesses raw processing power, a dual-core Krait processor had a score of 4,952, whereas the quad-core Tegra 3 was just under 4,000. The quad-core version, APQ8064, was made available in July 2012. It was the first Snapdragon SoC to use Qualcomm's Adreno 320 graphics processing unit (GPU).

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