If you’ve shopped for a smartphone, you probably know the name “Qualcomm Snapdragon.” The vast majority of Android phones are powered by Qualcomm. But now Google has made its own processor and it’s called “Tensor.”
Google is joining the ranks of Apple—and Samsung, to a lesser extent—as a phone maker that also produces its own processor. Typically, companies such as OnePlus, LG, and even Samsung, manufacture phones that use processors from Qualcomm or Mediatek.
Following Apple’s Lead
Apple has been making its own processors for iPhones since the very beginning. The company is even transitioning Mac computers to its own chips. This allows Apple to do things with iPhones that simply aren’t possible if they used other chips. It’s a very deep level of integration between hardware and software.
Google has historically been known for its software, but the Pixel phones and devices like the Google Nest Mini were the company’s first steps toward making its own physical devices. Now, it’s following in Apple’s steps and making an important component for those devices.
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What Is Google Tensor?
In the most basic definition, Google Tensor is simply a “system-on-chip” (SoC) or what is commonly referred to as a “processor.” It’s the same thing as a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 or an Apple A14 Bionic. These are all chips that power their respective devices.
“Power” is a very simplified purpose of a processor. The Google Tensor chip also contributes to photo and video processing, voice-to-speech translation, and much more. Tensor will allow devices to run more machine learning and AI tasks without burning up.
If you’re interested in the nitty-gritty specifications of the Google Tensor chip, we don’t know all the details at the time of writing. The chip is alleged to be 8-core, five-nanometer, and ARM-based. According to 9to5Google, it was co-developed with Samsung.
What Tensor Means for Pixel Phones
We’ve talked a lot about power and integration, but what will Google Tensor actually mean for you and your Pixel phone? Tighter integration between hardware and software allows Google to optimize even more of the experience.
Photography has always been a big part of the Pixel devices and Tensor allows Google to do even more with that. Some examples include snapping photos from multiple cameras at once, recording from multiple cameras at different exposures, faster shutter speed, and more processing happening while you record video.
Beyond photos and videos, Tensor is also be used to improve voice and speech recognition. This means better dictation with keyboard apps, including the ability to use commands like “Send” or “Clear” while narrating the message. You’ll even be able to edit typos with your voice.
In short, think of all the things Pixel devices are known for, those are the things Google will be focusing on improving with the Tensor chip.
When Will Tensor Be in Devices?
The first devices to feature Tensor will be the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. Google has already teased these smartphones and it is expected to officially show them off this Fall. The Pixel 6 series will launch along with Android 12 sometime in the fourth quarter of 2021.