Samsung and AMD: Android’s best attempt at giving you an iPhone?

Let me preface this by saying that this piece isn’t supposed to talk about the rivalry between Android and iPhone by telling you which one is better. Really, the answer to this question will always be subjective.

However, there’s no denying that there are a few areas in which one side has always dominated over the other. While for Android, this would be areas like customization, notification handling, as well as a much bolder approach to design and experimenting, Apple’s strength has always been most felt in three key areas – software support, raw processing power, and of course, the “ecosystem”.

Let’s establish that “copying” is exactly how we got to the state of having great software experience on both iOS and Android. The two operating systems constantly borrow features from each other, and that’s actually brilliant! No one would like to go back to the original iOS or, let’s say, Samsung’s TouchWiz from back in the day.

It’s similar when it comes to CPU and GPU power. If we didn’t have Qualcomm, Exynos, Kirin, and Apple’s “A” series competing, the market would be entirely dominated by one company, which is never good for our favorite things – progress and innovation.Anyway… For this story, let’s leave out Apple’s ecosystem and focus mainly on the “software support and processor” area of interest.

Software support on Android: Narrowing the (big) gap

Everyone’s heard of the great software support on Android… “Great” – meaning bad, and “bad” meaning really bad.

Now, before I trigger anyone, let me tell you that I’ve been using Android for years and loved it despite its shortcomings. Currently, I’m using an iPhone alongside the Huawei P30 Pro, which is still going strong despite Huawei’s insatiable state.

But! That doesn’t change the fact that it received Android 11 about eight months after Google’s software was originally released! Eight months!!! I’ve been there before – it happens every year. The new Android version comes out, I see it, I appreciate it from afar, and I move on – because if I get caught up, I’ll convince myself it’s a good idea to buy a new phone, because I know my software will be outdated for a while…

Well, Samsung’s planning to do something about it! It is now confirmed that the South Korean tech giant will start supporting some current and future devices for 3-4 years with software and security updates. That’s about on par with Google’s own Pixel devices, which promise at least three years of Android version updates and at least three years of security updates. In fact, Samsung’s promise tops Google’s when it comes to security updates.

Just recently, OnePlus also jumped on the same train wagon, promising three years of software updates and four years of security updates for flagship devices. While this is certainly no match for Apple’s (at least) 5 years of software support for the iPhone, with security updates often reaching devices released 7-8 years ago, it’s a step forward! Not a leap, but a step…

This certainly doesn’t change the fact that specific devices (often from carriers) might take significantly longer to get updated when compared to unlocked models. It also doesn’t change the fact that here we’re talking only about two brands that swear to up their software support game.

What about the rest of the Android phones? Currently, most of them stick to the usual two years of software updates and three years of security updates (if you’re lucky). Not to mention phones that aren’t… flagships. They are even less likely to get blessed, while devices like the iPhone SE (2020) will keep getting timely updates until at least 2025!

All in all, the gap is narrower, but it’s not gone. Still, Samsung and OnePlus’ efforts are commendable. Research shows that most people are likely to buy a new phone in about three years from when they purchased their existing one, so it looks like Android manufacturers are trying to adhere to that rule.

Samsung & AMD to Android’s rescue: Monumental leap or momental lead?

A Samsung and AMD/Nvidia partnership has been rumored for a while, but it never came about. Well, now, it’s pretty much inevitable that Samsung and AMD are going to collaborate on Samsung’s “next flagship product”. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear like this is going to be the flagship foldable – the Galaxy Z Fold 3, but likely the Galaxy S21 successor – the Galaxy S22.

The revelation took place during Samsung’s Exynos 2100 event back in January, and it’s been a topic of discussion ever since. It’s important to note that Samsung said AMD’s GPU is coming to the “next flagship processor” made by the company – not the next flagship product – whether that’s a phone, a tablet, or a laptop.

Rumor has it that Vivo is in talks with Samsung to adopt one of their processors for a future Vivo phone, which is said to feature AMD graphics. That’s not surprising. Manufacturers like Vivo and Motorola have been using Exynos chips in some of their devices for a while (sorry, Qualcomm).

What’s more exciting is that we recently saw the first leaked benchmarks of the new Exynos 2200 with RDNA 2 graphics by AMD. This one points to a significant gain in raw performance, which puts the GPU on this chip on par with the iPhone 12’s A14 Bionic.

As you might know, Apple’s expected to hold an event to reveal the new iPhone 13 (or 12S) in September. This will certainly put some additional pressure on Samsung to deliver on the promise of better performance.

The good news is, this new CPU and GPU combo benchmarks higher than Qualcomm’s current Snapdragon 888 and certainly better than the Exynos 2100. It’s also likely that it’s going to outperform Qualcomm’s next flagship SoC.

Furthermore, the alleged benchmarks shared by IceUniverse, are said to have used the A77 architecture, while the Exynos 2100 – Samsung’s current flagship chip uses A78. This means the benchmarks based on the tested Exynos 2200 in collaboration with AMD might not be the final form of the CPU and GPU combo!

Why a better CPU & GPU should matter to you:

This one might seem pretty obvious at first, but there’s certainly more to it. A better CPU and GPU combo doesn’t just make your smartphone “faster”. While that’s certainly very much true, the arguably more significant gains come in all other shapes and sizes:

  • Camera quality and performance for photos, and especially for videos with HDR, stabilization, and support for newer and more capable camera sensors. This one is mainly aided by the CPU.
  • Stronger CPU & GPU will keep your phone going strong for longer since new software will be easier to keep up with if you have a powerful device.
  • Improved gaming performance with higher sustained frame rates

Don’t forget that the main job of a GPU is to aid the CPU for tasks that have to do with “displaying” content. AMD has an established record of providing high-performance graphics for all kinds of devices. Of course, most notably with the Ryzen series and their graphics, which give Intel lots of trouble.

The RDNA architecture, which is said to be used for the next Exynos GPU, is also found in similar devices, which require lots of graphics power. More precisely, this is likely going to be the RDNA 2, which is more power-efficient than the first iteration.
AMD’s RDNA’s featured in devices like the Sony Playstation 5 and some desktops. Of course, we aren’t going to have the same GPU in the next Samsung flagship, but it’s going to be made of the stuff, so to say. The architecture will be similar.

It’s also good to note that this AMD GPU (and likely future versions) are also expected to be used in laptops and tablets. Certainly, this mobile GPU will have to be a beefed-up version of the one found in future Galaxy flagships since it has to compete with the likes of Apple’s M1 processor, which has already broken all kinds of records for performance per watt.

Conclusion

In the end, we are looking forward to seeing the first smartphones which will feature dedicated AMD graphics. The iPhone and its PowerVR GPU have been dominating the smartphone world for a very long time. Competition is always good for the end-user, and it’s certain that Samsung and AMD have the best shot at reaching iPhone levels of performance.

With the new AMD GPU, the promise for extended software support, and the already incredible hardware on Samsung devices, it’s likely that the Galaxy S22, or whatever’s next to come from the Korean company, will finally challenge Apple in some key areas, which the Cupertino company has dominated for a while. That’s exciting!

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