Home Android Why Google making its own Pixel chips could matter for you

Why Google making its own Pixel chips could matter for you


It’s tough to talk about chips without venturing deep into spec-infested geeky waters. Unless, that is, we’re talking about the Cool Ranch variety of chip — in which case, I’ll take two bags, please.

Salty snacks aside, though, chips are a sometimes-important, if highly technical, part of the smartphone picture. They’re the hearts of our coddled and beloved mobile devices and the pieces of technology that let these modern wonders do all the incredible things they’re able to do.

And while most normal folk certainly don’t need to have words like “Snapdragon,” “gigahertz,” or “gelatinous gherkin” in their vocabularies (for obvious reasons on that last one, despite its lack of relevance to our current conversation), the notion of Google building its own custom chips to power its Pixel and possibly even Pixelbook products is something that could have a significant, practical impact on all of us — and something well worth understanding.

The subject of custom Pixel chips is top of mind right now for a couple of reasons: First, there’s that whole magical and revolutionary Apple event announcing that company’s plans to bring its own processors into its [insert another over-the-top adjective here] Macintosh computing appliances. But beyond that topical connection, we heard some cryptic hints just days ago from Google CEO Sundar Pichai that seemed to suggest Google’s own homemade Pixel chips (not to be confused with homemade pickle chips) could be right around the corner.

As I wrote in my most recent Android Intelligence newsletter issue:

With the heavy caveat that we’re totally reading between the lines here, what Pichai said was that Google was “doing some deeper investments in hardware,” some of which take “two to three years to come together.” And that in 2021, some of those “deeper investments” will “come into play.” Now, remember when we learned a while back that Google was on the brink of having its own homemade processors ready for Pixel and Pixelbook devices and how that could come to pass as early as next year? Yuuuuup — sure seems to add up.

That report I alluded to at the end there came from the smart folks at Axios earlier this year. Back in April, they said Google was on track to have its hopefully-not-too-crunchy custom chips finished and ready to ship in a Pixel phone by sometime next year — and then in a Google-branded Chromebook at some point later down the road.

But the question still remains: Outside of tech-heads, industry goofuses, and the general super-geeks among us, who cares? What difference would it actually make to us, as mostly human person-mammals, if an upcoming Pixel were to have a Google-made processor instead of the more typical Qualcomm-made model?

Well, my goodness, am I glad you asked. Specifically, I’d say there are three broad areas where Google making its own Pixel chips could very much matter and have a meaningful impact on those of us who use the devices.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.


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