Qualcomm is currently the mobile chip leader in the market thanks to many factors, like the fact that they produce chips from devices that are at the low-end and made for volume, and up to the high-end for $700 devices. What really started making their chips popular was the introduction of the Nexus One with their 1 Ghz Snapdragon CPU, which was a first at the time. The Snapdragon S4 chip has also overwhelmed Qualcomm with demand until the end of the year, thanks to its high performance, battery efficiency, and integration with a LTE modem.

But there is one area where Snapdragon chips have been consistently behind the others, and that’s GPU performance. Even when the benchmark scores show similar performance with the others, like say with Nvidia’s Tegra 3 chip, the games on the Snapdragon chips still look visually worse. Nvidia has put a lot of effort into gaming a lot of visually impressive games in their Tegra Zone, by leveraging their relationship with game developers.

Qualcomm has tried to do the same with their GameCommand store, but I haven’t felt like they are on the same level as the games on Tegra Zone yet. Now Qualcomm is launching an Android SDK for their Snapdragon chips that can take full advantage of the specific features their chips have, whether it’s from the CPU, GPU or other accelerators they are using. The SDK will only support S4 and future chips, though.

“The most powerful applications in mobile are those that are tightly integrated with the underlying hardware,” said Rob Chandhok, president of Qualcomm Internet Services and the company’s senior vice president for software strategy. “Qualcomm is always striving to enable developers and device makers to differentiate their offerings via the unique capabilities found in its industry-leading Snapdragon mobile processors. With the Snapdragon SDK for Android, developers and manufactures can now more easily utilize these features as they work to set their products apart in a crowded ecosystem.”

Developers can take advantage of the new SDK’s by also buying the MDP development devices from them (phone and tablet), so they can test them directly on hardware. Some of the features of the SDK include:

Some of the new features and benefits of the Snapdragon APIs in the preview release of the SDK include:

  • facial processing, such as blink and smile detection, which makes it easier to take better pictures of people in groups;
  • burst capture, which leverages zero shutter lag to photograph a stream of images at once to select the best shot;
  • surround sound recording for better audio capture;
  • hardware echo cancellation for better real-time audio experiences;
  • sensor gestures (tap-left/tap-right, push/pull, face-up/face-down, tilt) that enable developers and device makers to push the envelope on new, differentiated user interfaces;
  • low power always on geofencing capabilities; and
  • indoor location that enables apps to continue providing accurate location information even when the user is indoors.

Qualcomm must have realized that software is as important as hardware, so they are helping developers make better apps, while maintaining compatibility with other chips in the market, and that’s always a good thing. I’m a fan of chip makers and manufacturers pushing the market forward with innovations, but I’m also a bigger fan of cross-compatibility, and making sure your new technology doesn’t break stuff.

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