3D is no longer just for gaming, we are in the midst of a massive digital revolution from 2D to 3D and Computer-Generated Images (CGI). From digital influencers to 3D commerce to AR/VR training, 3D is taking over and for good reason—3D e-commerce has proven to more than double conversion rates and reduce returns by up to 40% while 3D training has proven to provide 75% better retention and cut training time by 40%. 

Currently, the most accessible forms of 3D are 3D on the web (mobile & desktop) and mobile AR because both computers and smart phones are almost ubiquitous. So now the question becomes, “If I need to deliver 3D experiences on desktop and mobile, what are the requirements?”

3D assets are made up of polygons, that define the shape, and texture maps, that define the color, pattern or specific visual effects. The number of polygons that make up a 3D model is something that affects the performance of the GPU. We break down the Mobile GPU Market so you can better understand where it’s headed and what that means for your 3D model’s polygon limit.

Mobile GPU Market

The growth in demand in the mobile device market has driven increases in mobile GPU capabilities and performance. There are thousands of devices from hundreds of vendors in the mobile market but there are only a few GPUs common to all phones globally. In fact, there are 6 major GPUs that make up over 60% of the worldwide market. The next 20% of the market is made up of 9 other GPUs. Therefore, over 80% of the market uses 15 unique GPUs:

Of these 15 unique GPUS, about 70% are capable of running advanced 3D games and graphics with the performance of game consoles of only a few years ago. For example, iPhone 7 is estimated to have 240X the graphics performance of the original iPhone. As another example, the top 40% of the GPU mobile market have GPUs of similar capabilities to the Nintendo Switch. In addition, these numbers are for worldwide market share. In the US and European markets, the market share of capable GPU phones is even higher, so if you are a brand that primarily sells in these markets polygon count is even less of a concern.

Rendering Capabilities

The rapid advances in rendering and performance capabilities in the mobile market are shaping the requirements for new industries. The constraints that historically limited mobile 3D experiences and modeling are changing. For example, best practices for asset optimization will often require polygon counts of 10-40k polygons for 3D assets. While this constraint may still apply for mobile game/animation assets where there are tens or hundreds of objects on screen, it does not apply in other experiences like online shopping. In these experiences, where only a single model is being viewed at a time, polygon counts of 100k even to 1 million polygons does not significantly impact performance of these modern devices. While texture sizes (typically 2048×2048) and model size in MB overall are still important considerations both for download speed and rendering performance, polygon counts are not as significant. Further, mesh compression techniques like Draco compression (https://google.github.io/draco/), can compress mesh geometry by 6-10X which means that 3D model mesh geometry has even less of an impact on file size and therefore network bandwidth.

Future Performance Trends and Market Share

In 2019 1.37 billion smartphones were sold. This represents 42% of the 3.5 billion total smart phones that existed in the market in 2019. This also represents a replacement rate of about 2.5 years per smartphone. This represents a rapid turnover in devices every year but is also consistent with the trend of 2 year mobile contracts and agreements.GPU performance can be measured using FLOPS – floating point operations per second. gigaFLOPS (a billion FLOPS) or GFLOPS is a useful metric for comparing processors between vendors and over time. As an example below, two Qualcomm SnapDragon processor GPUs are listed below with their GFLOPS:

DateProcessorGPUGFLOPS
April 7, 2014Snapdragon 810Adreno 430324
November 17, 2016Snapdragon 835Adreno 530 (S7 Edge, Google Pixel)567

This represents an increase of about 1.75X over less than 2 years – which is consistent with Moore’s Law and observations of computing over the last few decades. Combined with the replacement rate of cell phones this means that in 2.5 years from the 2019 statistics for mobile performance about 70% of the smartphone market will have the high-performance graphics capabilities of a Nintendo Switch console and 85-90% of smartphones will have GPUs capable of rendering models of 100k-1M polygons in real-time for 3D immersive experiences and e-commerce.

Conclusion

The mobile market, driven by consumer demand for 3D games and experiences, has experienced exponential growth in GPU performance in the last few years. These GPU improvements, combined with compression techniques like Draco compression, mean that the historical constraints on mesh compression and optimization have significantly changed while not impacting performance or file size. These advances in hardware and compression, combined with the replacement rate of cell phones, leads to the conclusion that traditional 3D model optimization may be less of a concern for 3D e-commerce & AR Advertising platforms now and will rapidly diminish with new capabilities and phones in the near future.

References:

https://deviceatlas.com/blog/most-used-smartphone-gpu

https://gflops.surge.sh/

https://google.github.io/draco/

https://opensource.googleblog.com/2017/01/introducing-draco-compression-for-3d.html

https://www.statista.com/statistics/263437/global-smartphone-sales-to-end-users-since-2007/

https://www.canalys.com/newsroom/canalys-global-smartphone-market-q4-2019

https://www.kimovil.com/en/list-smartphones-by-processor/qualcomm-snapdragon-835

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