How Windows Phone 8 will benefit from the Snapdragon S4 processor

There is plenty to look forward to with the new crop of Windows Phones. For example, with the Nokia Lumia 920 you have the Pureview Camera, the PureMotion screen, and the color choices. You can also add the Snapdragon S4 processor to the list of anticipated features--but you may be wondering what's so great about the S4 (MSM 8960) anyway?

The Snapdragon S4 won't be an exclusive to the Lumia 920. The Lumia 820, HTC 8X, HTC 8S and Samsung ATIV S will also bear Qualcomm's latest SoC. The new processor will benefit all our new Windows Phones across the board.  So what are those new perks?

Here's what Nokia's Conversations has come up with and to which we agree:

  1. Lower Power Consumption: The S4 has been transitioned to a 28nm (nanometer) process which gives it more transistors than the older 45nm processors. This reduces the leakage so that the S4 consumes very little energy. It also keeps the temperature of the S4 a lot cooler.
  2. Better Performance: With Windows Phone 8 supporting multi-core processing, that means our new Windows Phones will take full advantage of the S4's dual cores.
  3. Faster 4G Connectivity: Combine the lower power consumption with the improved performance and the S4 will let you enjoy the speed of 4G LTE without such a noticeable drain on your resources and battery.
  4. Higher Definition: Paired with the S4 CPU is the Adreno 225 Graphics Processor. This will improve the overall graphics performance with the S4. Animations and video play back will be smoother making way for an much better multi-media experience.
  5. Security Improvements: The Snapdragon S4 incorporates Qualcomm's Secure MSM. It is a hardware and software based security protocol that provides encrypted boot, secure code signing service, and other features to keep your Windows Phone safe from hacking.
  6. Improved Camera Performance: With the Nokia Lumia 920, the S4's image signal processor improves the overall image quality and video capture. It will be curious how the ISP on the S4 will compare with HTC's stand alone graphic processor for the 8X's camera.  Either way, look for an improved experience with our Windows Phone cameras.
  7. Faster Location Services: With the S4 boosting 4G LTE and software performance, your Windows Phone will acquire your location faster and more accurately. You'll still have the advantage of both GPS and GLONASS networks but the S4 will give things a little more zip.

In essence, the S4 is a rather large step up in terms of CPU power--not just because it supports dual-core but because it's a redesign, allowing better graphics (GPU) and more efficient battery consumption even when on LTE 4G. Heck, even GPS will be "faster" in theory.

Current Windows Phone 8 devices will only have the S4 chipste, but Qualcomm is already moving beyond that with the 'Pro' version, which supports quad-core and a faster GPU. Yes, that means that the 2nd generation of Windows Phone 8 devices will potentially be even more aggressive for raw power--though it remains to be seen how much of that will be needed.

From what we've seen so far, 1.5GHz CPU with dual-core should rock the user experience, resulting in fast load times. Likewise for games. But it will only be when we run some real benchmarks will we truly know if the S4 is all that it is cracked up to be.

Regardless of which Windows Phone the Snapdragon S4 is soldered into, it is sure to be a welcome addition. Our current crop of Windows Phones aren't shabby by any means but the S4 is just one more reason that these new phones can't get to store shelves quick enough.

Source: Conversations Nokia

George Ponder

George is the Reviews Editor at Windows Central, concentrating on Windows 10 PC and Mobile apps. He's been a supporter of the platform since the days of Windows CE and uses his current Windows 10 Mobile phone daily to keep up with life and enjoy a game during down time.

  • Longer battery life will be great.
  • +1
    From what I've seen, the S4 should make a great companion for WP.  Lower power consumption is an excellent feature, while my 900 already gets excellent battery life for an LTE device, it gets HOT!  I'd love to have a phone that stays cool, and you don't have to worry about too much heavy usage because of heat problems.
    Improved performance should also be a welcome addition, while the single core 1.4 GHz snapdragon inside WP 7.5 devices isn't slow by any means, having dual core would be great.  MS did a good job optimizing their OS to run on lower end, lower power consumption hardware to keep the cost down, and don't get me wrong, zipping around the OS is faster than any other devices I've seen (iOS included!).  However, navigating 3rd party apps and launch times could stand to be improved; the OS is fast enough, but application speed is a little slow.
    Faster location services is also great, currently my Lumia takes quite a while to find where I am on Nokia maps.  Bring on the S4 powered handsets!
  • with native coding available to devs, 3rd party app speeds should increase significantly
  • I know what you mean. I had the DVP and although nice in the hand, it did used to get hot. So after awhile, I'd either have to change hand or put it down.
    However the Titan changed that. No matter what application or game I used, or how much I surfed, It never got as hot. The most that would happen would be for the lower third of the front to get slightly warm. Very nice!
  • Hope it will ditch apple A6 processor :)
  • I don't think the S4 will be as powerful as the Apple A6, but who cares? The iPhone 5 sucks, regardless of its CPU :D
    WP8 ftw :)
  • btw, Apple clocked the A6 to have both cores running at 1.2 GHz. So NO, it is NOT faster than the S4. However the A6 destroys the S4 in GPU tho. Oh and apple went with a 32nm size instead of the 28nm the S4 is built on.
  • You do not compare processors by clock speed.
  • With one core, Windows Phones are already pretty fast at doing everyday tasks faster than most phones.  I'm thinking that with the extra core, the OS will be blazing!  Hopefully.
  • I am actually surprised that Apple didn't use the Qualcomm S4. I guess it was cheaper for them to design the A6 which is basically the same. Halfway between the A9 architecture and the A15 architecture.
  • Nope. Their A6 has customized handmade layout, which costs a lot to develop, but has greater performances and less power consumption compared with standard layouts. So they definitely paid more to in research to develop that CPU, which in fact is even more efficient than the S4.
  • I hope your wrong as a few of my family members got the iPhone 5 and there battery life sucks.
  • That's because the iPhone 5 has a worse battery than the Lumia 920. That, and the fact that the iPhone 5 also has crappy programs running in background and sucking energy (example: Siri).
    But as for the CPU itself, the Apple A6 should be a little faster than the S4.
    But again: who cares?
    The Lumia 920 kicks ass :)
  • To be fair, Siri doesn't run endlessly in the background.
  • Actually, Qualcomm customizes its layouts too, unlike NVidia who basically sticks a bunch of  Cortex A9 cores on a die. That's how they get great performances out of a simple Dual Core. Don't get me wrong, the Tegra 3 is a very good CPU, especially for gaming, but in terms of efficiency the Krait is a step higher. Now the only way you can compare the Krait S4 to the A6 is to run benchmarks using the same OS with the same level of optimization for both CPUs. We obviously can't do that, so we are going to have to rely on Microsoft to see how well they are going to use the S4 with WP8.
  • Apples big gain on iPhone 5 comes from the qualcom Gobi platform radio chip. Basically apple only has 1 hardware that programmable to almost any carrier in the world. That translates into huge savings and a damn good reason not to use a soc solution.
  • Except the GPU in the A6 absolutely crushes the Adreno 225
  • How so? This being Shader Model 3 is incredible as far as I know and all I can find on the A6 is this press release:
    Do you have anything conclusive?
  • All the iPhones so far have PowerVR GPUs and all the Windows Phone have Adreno GPUs. Apple won't change to Snapdragon SoC which have Adreno GPUs in them. I would be very surpised if Apple used the Snapdragon S4. Android is a mess with hardware fragmentation.
  • Lets not forget about gaming! The S4 that's in the new Windows Phones has already been shown games made with the Unity engine & with Direct X 11, Unreal, etc coming gaming will be stellar. I wrote a post about it here: Check it out.
  • Don't get me wrong, I like wpcentral. Its my premier source for WP news and I read it every (!) day. But sometimes I get the feeling that they are either selling Microsoft products and belong to the Redmond PR division or are selling Nokia Products and belong to the PR division in whatever city they got up there.
    You probably know hat I mean ;)
  • Dude this is a windows phone information and fan site so of course they will slide towards WP, it's a welcome addition compared to sites that bash WP. Don't like it go somewhere else.
  • Lol
  • You do know they have sister sites for other OS's
  • It's Windows Phone Central. What part of that doesn't make sense? :P
  • The difference between being in PR business and news one.....?
  • Geez, are you for real? smh
  • There ' ALWAYS ' has to be 1.
  • OMG! How dense can you get!
  • Seems like they never about my Subaru's boxer engine on this site ... what gives?
  • They sometimes tend to bash a few function aswell tho.. Or get pissed at microsoft.. :-P
  • Quick Question.
    We heard Belfiore say they tested WP8 on 64 cores.  Does that require a re-write by MS, or would an OEM choosing to deliver a quad core S4Pro be able to do it with very little additional work?
  • I think an OEM would choose to use quad core if needed. but that is likely showing next year. but MS and the OEMs are focusing on dual core since it offers better battery saving
  • Belfiore never said that. What he did say was the NT kernel that underlies it in theory could run 64 cores.
  • But is there any reason why OEMs can't use S4Pro right now?
  • With the Lunia 820 presumably having the same camera as the Lumia 900 (see Lumia 820 Q&A on, I wonder how much new camera software and new ISP will improve photo and video quality on the Lumia 820 vs the Lumia 900. (Price could still make me choose the Lumia 820 over the Lumia 920 )
  • Considering the 8X is expected to undercut the 920, Nokia needs to be really aggressive with the price of the 820 to make it competitive.
    I suspect there may be some improvements to be had with the sensor in the 820. However we need to remember that the same sensor was in the nokia n9, l900, l800 and was considered a bit substandard in all of them. Though perhaps there were limitations in the ISPs used in phones at that stage that didn't allow the sensor to shine, but I wouldn't be expecting any miracles :(
  • @terantek: Considering that the 8X is being priced at $199 for 2 years, it would be a MAJOR shocker if it undercuts the Lumia 920 (the 900 was priced at $99 to begin with). 
    All these theories about the 920 either being super expensive or the 8X being priced nicely end up looking really stupid when you compare them with the competition: Galaxy SIII was priced at $199 at launch and the iPhone has the same price.
    Yeah, I get it, in the Lumia's case it is 32 GB vs. 16 GB but I'm not too certain a price higher than $199 will fly with consumers (unless it comes with a free pet dolphin).
  • That's what you call OPTIMIZATION. What do you expect from the best? Well done Microsoft. :)
  • The wp7 has been well optimized, but there are many areas that highlight the flaws of the single core phones. Web browsing and video playback are god awful.
  • Web browsing and video playback are fine on my HD7, don't know what you're talking about
  • Web browsing and video playback are great on my first Gen WP (HD7). I think you have an Android =D
  • Dont got any problems with that either on my omia 7.. :-P
  • Very nice write up on these processors, and like everyone else I'm really looking forward to getting my hands on one! :)
  • Nokia lumia 1k will have s4 pro
  • Ha ha
  • HTC Zenith too
  • No the 940...2 cores= 920 4 cores = 940 lol
  • Got it
    L900=1 core
    L920=2 core
    L940=4 core
    L960=6 core
    L980=8 core
    L1000=? How many core you guys reply
  • Oo can't wait to plays games on my HTC 8x
  • Hmmm, quad core on WP. That's a huge 'wow'. However, I just like to enjoy the dual core at the moment ;-)
  • i was hoping wp8 ended up using the s4 pro dual core version just for the adreno 320 which is actually comparable to the iphone 5's gpu while the adreno 225 is actually slower than the 4s which is a disappointment
  • Agreed. 
    50% faster than nothing isn't much of an improvement.  It's like going from 1 to 1.5.... while apple was already 250% faster than the adreno 220.
    The 225 is STILL based on the 220 architecture which is like 3 years old at this point.  It's merely clocked faster with a few tweaks.  I found it really frustrating these companies are gobbling up these crap S4 'play' chips simply for the built in LTE support.  Basically, androids and windows phone 8 are all going to be running graphics chips that are inferior simply because they want to cut costs.  They should have been putting a shitload of pressure on qualcom to get the S4 'pro' chips with adreno 320 to them.  I've considered the S4 'play' chips to be a joke since they first came out early this year.  It should never have taken qualcom 3 quarters to manufacture a better version of the S4.
  • That is the exact problem I'm seeing and IMHO cpu isn't going to make as much of a difference as a better gpu with. Anandtech's preliminary benchmarks of the iphone 5 show that krait and the a6 are on par in cpu but in gpu there is no comparison. This makes me mad because we have a product that hasn't even been released yet but we have slower hardware than our main competition. I understand that software optimization can do a lot but when hardware is limited it's limited nothing can be done other than changing it
  • Stop judging before benchmarks
  • the adreno 225 has already been benchmarked (ala android but even with better optimization it wouldn't increase performance by a large margin).. Cpu wise we're going to be on par with the iphone 5 but gpu wise we get destroyed and it has gotten to a point where gpu matters far more than cpu.
  • Guys S4 plus is just for first wave of wp8 phone coming after 4-5 month second wave
    When second wave hit market that will destroy ever other phone in every aspect
  • STFU about iPhone!!!
  • The Adreno 225 GPU is fast enough to play all the games on Android right now.
  • >Cpu wise we're going to be on par with the iphone 5
    What are you smoking dude? A6 chip is clocked at 1200Ghz and S4 is at 1500. A6 is worse at CPU.
  • Looking at the benchmark above, most current WPs are either scorpion 1Ghz or 1.4Ghz, and krait is >4X faster. Hoping the speed improvements are reflected in third party apps.
  • With the Lumia 920's large battery this is all looking great. Along with wireless charging. Microsoft + Nokia= best partnership ever!!! But we already knew that :)
  • Write more George Ponder. Great style man and fresh approach to technical parlance. Well done.
  • I can remember a review by the Verge where they downrated the Lumia 900 considerably because of it's ecosystem. It caused a lot of discussion but they made a fair point in the fact that non-native apps have been performing horribly on the WP platform so far.
    So besides developers stepping it up to optimilize their apps, the new processor power is cerrtainly no luxury on the the WP platform. 3rd party apps have been lagging behind so far in performance and this has got change in order to make this platform succesful.
  • This article can only amuse a non technical person.
    Writer said being 28nm fabrication leakage will be less....!!!!
    Didn't he knew that as going into small sizes leakage drastically increases and reduction in power can be achieved by low power supply only
  • What the hell are you talking about?!
    Sorry, but you're wrong here. With 28nm, the transistors will be smaller than before, hence they will require less power to activate and change state. So, the overall power consumption will be lower :)
    Same as with desktop CPU and GPU.
  • Unfortunately, the S4 processor does not support the 41 mp sensor the 808 sports. If it had, it would have been great!
  • I'm particular curious how the startup time of the >100.000 WP7 apps will be with WP8. 3rd party apps really are quite slow on starting up with current WP7.5 devices. Although there are apps that actually start up quite fast like Wordfeud and HTC's hub. I wonder why that is...