Why it matters: Google’s rumored “Whitechapel” SoC looks to be an attempt to emulate Apple and gain greater integration between software and hardware. This also could put a dent in Qualcomm’s near monopoly on smartphone processors and clear the way for more innovation in the mobile SoC market.
Current Pixel phones (and most Android smartphones in general) are all powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon SoCs. It looks like Google may take the Apple route and ditch Qualcomm in favor of its own custom-designed silicon per a report from Axios. This would give Google greater integration between software and hardware.
This rumored Google-designed chip, codenamed Whitechapel, was designed in cooperation with Samsung, who also makes its own Exynos chips and manufactures Apple’s SoC for the iPhone. Google has allegedly already received a working copy of the chip though it’s not expected to show up in any shipping hardware until next year.
Spec-wise, not much is known except that it’s being built on Samung’s 5nm process and features an 8-core ARM processor. Axios claims that part of the chip will be optimized for machine learning and enhancing the capabilities of the Google Assistant. This doesn’t come as a surprise as Google has made artificial intelligence and machine learning the pillars of its software strategy.
Google is definitely no stranger to custom silicon inside their devices. In 2017, the company unveiled the Pixel Visual Core, a custom-designed SoC built into the Pixel 2 to enhance the phone’s imaging and HDR+ capabilities. Google later upgraded the Visual Core to the Neural Core in the Pixel 4 which added powerful machine learning capabilities.
The increased efficiency and control is at the heart of why Apple designs both their hardware and software. It allows Apple to tightly control the experience of every iOS device while ensuring security and reliability. Google likely wants this level of control over the Android experience, at least when it comes to the Pixel.
Google has not yet commented on the claims of the story.