Update, March 25 2020 (1:50AM ET): Qualcomm has confirmed more GPU driver update details, and it looks like you shouldn’t expect these updates to arrive every month.
“Qualcomm is committing to a quarterly cadence for release of updated drivers to the OEM,” the company told Android Authority in response to an emailed query.
The OEM then needs to push out this GPU driver update to the Google Play Store or app stores in China, and Qualcomm says it’s hoping device manufacturers stick to a quarterly release schedule too. But how long will these updates last for a given processor though?
“While we can commit to supporting chipsets for two to three years post-launch, the OEM has the final say in rolling out the new drivers to their customers,” the silicon designer says. “Some OEMs have a good track record in supporting legacy device software updates whilst others don’t.”
In other words, a manufacturer that doesn’t deliver updates in general likely won’t deliver GPU driver updates via the Play Store. But you’re still looking at a more seamless update process than a security patch or general firmware update.
Original article, March 24 2020 (5:33AM ET): Qualcomm announced the ability to deliver GPU driver updates via the Play Store back in December 2019, initially saying it would be limited to new chipsets (starting with Snapdragon 865 and 765 series).
Now, the firm has announced that several Snapdragon 855 phones will be first to get GPU driver updates in this manner (h/t: 9to5Google). These phones are the Samsung Galaxy S10, Samsung Galaxy Note 10, and Google Pixel 4 series, with Qualcomm saying more devices will get the feature “later.”
The announcement comes as part of a partnership with Google for the Android GPU Inspector tool for developers. This profiling tool allows developers to inspect mobile GPU usage (including Qualcomm’s Adreno GPU) in games to figure out where improvements can be made.
In fact, Qualcomm claims that Google and a developer partner used the tool to deliver 40% GPU utilization savings in an unnamed game on the Pixel 4 XL. The silicon designer said this optimization resulted in a faster frame-rate and better battery life.
Qualcomm also confirmed that it would make a beta version of the Adreno GPU driver available to select developers, who can then give their feedback and suggestions for future driver updates.
“The final drivers will also be available in the Google Play store on select devices. Consumers will be able to update their Adreno GPU driver just like an app,” the company reiterated.
We’ve contacted Qualcomm to find out more about GPU driver updates via the Play Store, and will update the article when they get back to us. We’ve also asked Samsung whether this feature is restricted to Qualcomm devices and await a response. But it certainly seems like a welcome feature, as it’s poised to deliver smoother performance for budget phones and for flagship devices (especially as time goes by).