Google may be planning to take a page out of Apple’s playbook by developing its own custom processors for Google-branded smartphones and laptops.

Axios reports that Google “has made significant progress” toward that end, and that we could see Pixel smartphones with Google processors as soon as 2021, with Chromebooks featuring the company’s chips later on.

Google Pixel 4

According to Axios, Google’s first smartphone processor is:

  • Code-named “Whitechapel”
  • Designed in cooperation with Samsung
  • An octa-core processor with AI features and support for Google Assistant always-on features

There’s… nothing all that surprising in any of those details. Most Google Pixel phones already use chips with dedicated hardware for artificial intelligence processing and detecting “OK Google” voice commands even when the screen is off and the phone is in a low power state.

Even the decision to partner with Samsung isn’t all that surprising. Sure, Samsung makes it own Exynos mobile processors, but the company also has a history of manufacturing chips for other companies — including Apple.

What is a little surprising is that Google may be taking this step at all. While there are a number of companies making ARM-based processors for Android smartphones, the space is largely dominated by Qualcomm (in the US and Europe at least), MediaTek and companies like Samsung and Huawei that make chips that are typically only used in their own phones.

But by emulating Apple and taking control over development of its own custom processors, Google could have more control over the hardware its software runs on, enabling the company to optimize performance. We’ve already seen Google do this with custom co-processors like the Pixel Neural Core which assists with photography features in recent Pixel phones.

Switching to an entirely custom processor would still be a big step though, and just because the company is reportedly inching closer to that goal doesn’t mean that everything will go according to plan. Axios says Google recently “received its first working versions of the chip,” but there’s likely a lot of testing that still needs to take place before the company can confirm that they’re ready for mass production and use in consumer products like smartphones and laptops.

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  1. As for the pixel SOC, anything that can make photos look significantly better is worth custom silicon.
    As for the chromebook SOC, other than battery life or security features, there is no need for a custom SOC.

  2. I wonder if this is an indication of more commitment from Google towards a more persistent and diverse product line?

    Aside from the core Pixel phones, Google tends to release a cool device, and then completely abandon that segment and kill off the product very quickly (their tablets, and Pixel-branded Chromebooks, etc).

    I don’t see much need for a company with a two-SKU smartphone lineup to need their own in house SOC. Maybe we will see a line of Chromebooks, or Chrome OS tablets with these chips?

    1. Bang on.
      Google is a software company, and not even too competent at that. They’ve never been great at hardware, and going into custom chips is just a whole nother kettle of fish.

      Personally I think the rumours are real. But there’s very little Goog can accomplish in which Samsung hasn’t. So I’m thinking these are either custom AI chips that get married to a Qualcomm SoC/Motherboard for their flagship phones. Or this is a mid-range chipset using off-the-shelf ARM cores and an AI co-processor.

      If Google goes to compete against Apple A14 chipset, I welcome them, but have zero faith in it. At best they’re going to go on-par with the Kirin 980. Whereas with the mid-range segment they could do pretty swell and beat the Snapdragon 765G.