Can the mobile phone driver be updated with the next app? Maybe not so simple

As standard on this year's Android flagship phone, Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 not only provides outstanding performance in the field of mobile products, but also supports GPU driver updates through the app store.

In other words, in the future, you can update the GPU driver of your phone with one click, just like updating other applications, without waiting for the new system to be pushed.

I believe that many people still have doubts about the usefulness of this feature, so I will introduce the purpose of this feature and possible problems.

Get better performance in time

Updating the GPU driver has already appeared in Android phones, but it is usually completed following the system update. SoC providers such as Qualcomm and various mobile phone brands will perform software maintenance on the products after the introduction of new phones. This includes not only enhanced security and patching system vulnerabilities, but also performance improvements.

Taking AMD graphics cards as an example, we often see related issues in the driver update description to modify issues and improve some game performance.

△ Description of a certain driver update

As a Qualcomm Snapdragon Adreno GPU that is the same as the AMD Radeon graphics card designer, updating the driver can also allow them to achieve better performance in the game, or add new features. This is also one of the reasons why mobile phones and tablet computers will gradually increase their scores in the early stages of distribution.

However, following the system's GPU driver update is often procrastinating. After the new driver is launched, manufacturers need to integrate the driver into the latest system updates, plus other improvements and bug fixes, so it takes a long time.

In addition, some brands only promote new products, regardless of the subsequent system maintenance, so that users cannot get the corresponding updates at all.

The implementation of the separate driver update is closely related to Google's launch of Project Mainline. In order to solve the fragmentation problem, Google's Android system is further modularized, that is, the system itself is separated from the driver and software, allowing each component to be updated separately.

For example, you can upgrade the graphics card driver from v1 to v2 without changing the system, or you can upgrade the system from Android P to Android Q with the same driver, as long as they are compatible with each other.

As the first person to eat crabs, Qualcomm added this feature to the Snapdragon 865, and can implement related operations directly through the app store. To put it simply, there is almost no difference in downloading software in peacetime.

What else besides improving performance?

Let me explain in advance that this part of the content is based on my computer driver updates, so it does not represent the actual situation.

In addition to fixing bugs and improving performance, Nvidia last year provided the Nvidia Studio Driver for the GeForce series of graphics cards for mass players.

These drivers not only support 30-bit color display, but also provide optimizations for many content creation software to achieve better stability.

Although the only SoC that currently supports independent update of the GPU driver is Qualcomm Snapdragon 865, I believe this technology will be popularized in more products in the future. For example, the 7 series for mid-to-high end and even the 4 series for mid-to-low end.

At the same time, the related optimization may no longer be an optimization in terms of games, but will be oriented to more use cases. Gaming phones were initially put on gimmicky hats by many people, but after years of development, they now have a certain market and fans.

With the development of 5G and even the next generation of mobile networks, more categories such as AV phones may emerge in the future. At that time, manufacturers may also optimize the driver in the direction of streaming media, video output, and camera, and provide corresponding drivers for different products.

For example, video phone drivers can be targeted for optimization in terms of frame rate, resolution, HDR, stereo, etc .; products for business users can mainly optimize the office experience, wireless projection screen, etc.

Summary: Need to consider domestic status

For users, being able to update the GPU driver independently is naturally a good thing, but the actual performance of domestic products must be discussed in conjunction with the status quo.

First of all, although Qualcomm does not specify the use of Google Play for driver delivery, at present there are few other more suitable platforms. Although there are other three-party software markets in China, most users should still mainly use the application store that comes with their mobile phones, which will undoubtedly have a great impact on the popularity of this feature in China.

Secondly, domestic mobile phone manufacturers often perform in-depth customization based on the Android system, adding a large number of localized functions and software, and removing some of the less commonly used functions. This may cause the driver to be incompatible. In severe cases, the user may need to re-flash the machine.

So I think that being able to independently update GPU and other drivers can not only help mobile phone manufacturers fix bugs and improve the performance of the entire machine. For example, improve game compatibility, frame rate, and achieve more functions.

But for domestic users, the actual performance depends on the adaptability of mobile phone manufacturers and whether the driver will be added to their own application stores.

In any case, it offers a possibility for smartphones to achieve PC-level experiences.