Qualcomm is currently the biggest chip maker in the mobile market thanks to its popular Snapdragon brand.
The first series of Snapdragon SoCs came equipped with the ARMv7-based Scorpion core, which was similar in performance and functionality to ARM's own Cortex-A8. However, because it arrived earlier (thanks to Qualcomm’s licensing of the ARMv7 architecture), the San Diego, California-based company dominated the space. Its Snapdragon branding also seemed to be more effective in winning mind share. The arrival of the first Snapdragon chips synchronizes well with Android's rapid ascent back in 2010.
We've seen three Scorpion-based processors: S1 with Adreno 200 graphics, S2 with the Adreno 205 GPU, and the dual-core S3 with Adreno 220 on-board.
In 2012, Qualcomm introduced a brand new custom processor core called Krait, which heralded large performance and efficiency improvements. The first incarnation of Krait was the dual-core S4 that came with an Adreno 225 engine. A cutting-edge ARM-based core and an early move to 28 nm manufacturing further entrenched Qualcomm in its leadership position. The S4 Play, Plus, Pro, and Prime followed in an expansion of the family to allow for a greater variety of models.
The year after, Qualcomm rebranded its portfolio, creating Snapdragon 200, 400, 600, and 800. Many of the SoCs previously belonging to the S4 line were re-categorized. Small changes, such as the introduction of LPDDR3 system memory, were made, too.
Since then, we've seen a handful of incremental releases, including the Snapdragon 410 (December 2013) with four Cortex-A53 cores, the quad-core 602A, the 610 with hardware-based HEVC decode acceleration, an octa-core Snapdragon 615, an 801, 805, 808, and hexa-core 810, the latter three boasting next-gen Adreno graphics, too.
The Snapdragon 801 is one of Qualcomm’s latest and greatest SoCs seeing real availability. It's currently shipping in smartphone flagships like Samsung's Galaxy S5, HTC's M8, Sony's Xperia Z2, and LG's G3.
Unfortunately, the 801 isn't a radical departure from the Snapdragon 800, and only has slight improvements in performance for its CPU and GPU. For instance, it runs at up to 2.45 GHz compared to the 800's peak of 2.26/2.36 GHz. Its Adreno 330 engine now runs at up to 578 MHz instead of 450 MHz, also.
Compared to the Snapdragon 800, the newer 801 also comes with support for faster eMMC 5.0 flash storage. Everything else remains mostly unchanged until the arrival of Snapdragon 805 later this year, which will come with Adreno 400-series graphics.