Pixel 6 may use Google-made chip instead of Qualcomm processor

Update 1 (04/02/2021 @ 03:09 PM ET): We can corroborate that Google is testing GS101 silicon for its 2021 Pixel phones. Click here for more information. The article, as published earlier today on April 2, 2021, is preserved below.

Google will reportedly launch a custom smartphone chip this fall, presumably with the Pixel 6, according to a new report. The company has been rumored to be exploring development of its own custom system on a chip (SoC), and this year might finally be when it debuts.

9to5Google reported on Friday the Google-made chip, internally known as Whitechapel, will debut this year as the first of many custom SoCs destined for future Google devices. That includes smartphones such as the Pixel 6 and Chromebooks — similar to Apple’s lineup of iPhones, iPads, and Macs, which feature custom chips.

Google is reportedly developing Whitechapel in coordination with Samsung Semiconductor’s system-large scale integration (SLSI) division. That means Google’s chip may share similarities to Samsung’s Exynos, including software components, 9to5Google said. Google CEO Sundar Pichai previously teased that the company would make “some deeper investments in hardware,” and Whitechapel could be it.

9to5Google claims it saw a document that confirmed Google’s upcoming plans. “In the document, Whitechapel is used in connection with the codename ‘Slider’ — a reference we’ve also found in the Google Camera app,” 9to5Google said. “From what we can piece together, we believe that Slider is a shared platform for the first Whitechapel SoC. Internally, Google refers to this chip as ‘GS101,’ with ‘GS’ potentially being short for “Google Silicon.”

According to previous reports, Google’s chip will have an octa-core ARM CPU with two Cortex-A78 + two Cortex-A76 + four Cortex-A55 cores. It’ll also have an off-the-shelf ARM Mali GPU, and be fabricated on Samsung’s 5nm manufacturing process. Based on this, we expect Whitechapel will be an upper mid-range chip that can be compared with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 7 series.

The main benefit of switching to custom silicon will be greater control over driver updates. Google will no longer be reliant on Qualcomm for driver updates and can thus update drivers to be compatible with newer versions of Android for longer. We may even see the new chips be supported for 5 generations of Android OS updates compared to the current 3 generations of support that Pixel devices currently receive.

Google has built custom chips before, collaborating with Intel in 2017 to develop the Pixel Visual Core for the Pixel 2. Speaking of which, Google could integrate the Pixel Visual Core into the SoC, possibly enabling new camera capabilities in the upcoming Pixel 6. Creating a custom SoC will likely also be cheaper to make and use compared to buying a chip from Qualcomm or Samsung.

Featured image is the Pixel 5


Update 1: Corroboration

Having seen some internal documentation related to Google’s next Pixel devices, XDA can now corroborate that Google is working on new GS101 silicon for its 2021 Pixel phones. According to our source, it seems the SoC will feature a 3 cluster setup with a TPU (Tensor Processing Unit). Google also refers to its next Pixel devices as “dauntless-equipped phones”, which we believe refers to them having an integrated Titan M security chip (code-named “Citadel).