Google Pixel 6 secret weapon just leaked — and it’s a very big change

Google Pixel 6 leak
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It sounds like Google is ready to take a page out of Apple's book with the Pixel 6 and build its own processor to power its latest smartphones.

That's the word from 9to5Google, which claims that this fall's Pixel lineup will be the first to feature the GS101 Whitechapel chip developed jointly by Google and Samsung. 9to5Google bases that report on documentation confirming the move away from Qualcomm's Snapdragon system-on-chip.

This news didn't drop out of the blue. An Axios report last year claimed that Google and Samsung had launched a partnership to develop a custom chipset.

Previous Pixel phones have all used Qualcomm's Snapdragon chipset, though the Pixel 5 marked a bit of a departure for Google. 

With that phone, Google went with the Snapdragon 765G, a solid piece of silicon but not part of Qualcomm's high-performance 8 series chipsets that power the leading Android phones. 

As a result, the Pixel 5 costs less than many phones running on the Snapdragon 865, but it also lagged behind those devices when it came to performance.

Making its own processors would give Google more control over its own hardware, potentially helping to further differentiate the Pixel from other smartphones. Presumably, the chips could also be used in other Google products down the road, including Chromebooks.

For an additional explanation as to why Google might go its own way with processors, look no further than its chief rival Apple. Its iPhones have been powered by Apple-designed silicon for years, giving Apple an edge when it comes to designing its devices.

The iPhones powered by Apple's A-series chips routinely outperform the best Snapdragon chipsets in benchmark tests. Apple has even taken chip making a step further by starting to move its Mac laptops to in-house M1 processors.

Based on the documents 9to5Google saw, Google is referring to this chip as the GS101, with "GS" apparently standing for Google Silicon. The chip is expected to power two Google phones this fall — the Pixel 6 and a second model that could be an XL version of that phone.

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.