Google has been shipping Pixel smartphones with Google Tensor-branded processors since the company launched the Pixel 6 in 2021. Up until that point, Google had used Qualcomm processors for its smartphones.
Using its own processors gives Google more control over the performance and feature set of its phones. But so far all of the Tensor chips used in smartphones are only semi-custom parts based on existing Samsung designs with some extra features like Google’s NPUs (neural processing units) for enhanced AI performance. But according to a report from The Information, Google is planning to move to fully custom chips. The company just won’t be ready to do that until 2025.
Apparently that wasn’t the original plan. According to The Information’s sources, Google had been hoping to move away from Samsung designs in 2024.
But things are said to be taking longer than anticipated, so the first fully custom Google Tensor chip for smartphones will only be produced in small quantities to allow Google engineers to test the processor before moving on to a next-gen chip that could debut as the Google Tensor G5 in 2025.
That means that unless plans change again, we could see an Google-designed processor in the Pixel 10 line of smartphones, and maybe other devices from the company (if the Pixel Tablet and/or Fold stick around long enough to have third-generation models, for example).
Moving away from Samsung designs will not only give Google even more control over the features of its processors, but it will also allow the company to switch from Samsung to TSMC for manufacturing, which could bring performance and efficiency improvements. The Tensor G5 is expected to be manufactured using TSMC’s 3nm process.
While we may have to wait a few years to see what completely Google-designed processor looks like, that doesn’t mean that the next few Tensor chips will just be rebranded Samsung parts. The Information notes that Google “heavily modifies the Tensor, and with each new generation engineers are gradually replacing Samsung parts responsible for everything from communications and audio to image and graphics processing with Google’s own intellectual property.”
And that’s on top of the AI/machine-learning features that have been baked into Tensor chips from the start, which Google leverages heavily for the photography capabilities of its Pixel phones.
One thing to keep in mind is that while Google plans to move away from Samsung’s chip designs, not every part of the chip’s architecture will come from Google alone. The chips will still be based on designs licensed from ARM.
Read more at The Information