Disclosure: Qualcomm is a client of the author.
This week saw Qualcomm’s coming out party for its new Snapdragon 888 platform, and it is impressive. There isn’t anything in it that hasn’t been improved significantly: performance (both processing and network); photography; sound; image quality; battery life; gaming; AI; and awareness of its surroundings (the Qualcomm Sensing Hub).
But when I sit back and think about what these premium phones will be capable of next year, I can envision them coming close to the ideal collaboration platform — and be on track to change how we do Zoom meetings.
Let me explain.
Most of us do our videoconferencing with PCs, which means that we rush into our (home) office if we have a desktop PC and wind up with an excellent video shot of the top of our heads. Or if we have a laptop, we have to power it up, find a suitable place to do the call, and then worry about the last time we trimmed our nose hairs. (Some laptops are worse than others.)
But a meeting can kick off at any time from any place, and we certainly don’t have our desktop PCs with us when we’re out and about. And most people leave their laptops at home, as well. But smartphones, which are with us pretty much all the time, would be ideal for videoconferences, both because their cameras can be more easily located at eye level and they are certainly more convenient.
Of course, ambient sound can become a problem when we’re out and about. And holding a phone so the image is stable and the framing just right can be more complicated than using a fixed desktop camera or a laptop on a table.
What Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 888 offers
As already noted, Qualcomm went crazy, improving its 888 solutions beyond what was available in premium smartphone lines this year. Let’s take sound, for instance. There is a massive improvement in the platform’s ability to apply active noise cancellation to remove ambient sounds such as other voices, animals, background noise, and anything else that might disrupt the meeting.
In terms of video, AI was showcased doing automatic framing, which should also provide digital image stabilization while holding the phone during a call. The 5G improvements (along with improvements in the network) should provide for higher frame rates, fewer dropped frames or freezes, and far higher video quality for both sides of the conversation. And the new Sensing Hub could be used to identify people attempting to eavesdrop on a call, alert users to anything around them that might put them at risk, and potentially guide a user to a safer location for the call.
If you couple these advancements with foldable phones like the Samsung Fold — it can fold out to create a larger display, which works better for videoconferences — a coupled headset so that people around you can only hear what you say, and a Bluetooth camera or portable phone stand, you can get away from having to physically hold a phone. Voila! You’re close to what might be the ideal smartphone videoconferencing solution.
Even with Qualcomm introducing its Snapdragon 888, I do miss Hawaii, where it traditionally does launches. But I’m impressed with the improvements the company appears to be driving into the premium smartphone segment for 2021. The Qualcomm Sensing Hub alone is a potential game-changer because it could, on its own, keep users safer while out and about and even automatically call for help if necessary.
And when you consider the camera, the AI, and the sound improvements, it looks like high-end smartphones are on the cusp of becoming the ideal videoconferencing (and collaboration) solution. Not only is it likely to be with you when you need to jump on a call, but it can better address the typical problems of doing so without a dedicated room.
Not that we need it given the travails of 2020, but this is yet another reason to look forward to 2021.