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Google Pixel 6 Whitechapel chip could prioritize AI over raw power

Google Pixel 6
(Image credit: Jon Prosser x rendersbyIan)

As we get closer to the Google Pixel 6's launch, we're bound to get more information on the in-house Whitechapel system-on-chip likely to power Google's phone. And thanks to some new Product Validation Test (PVT) units, we've learned a bit more about what Google's working on with the Pixel 6.

Previous leaks have suggested that Whitechapel, internally referred to as GS101, won't match the Snapdragon 888, which powers the leading Android phones that have come out this year. Instead, estimates for these PVT units land Whitechapel right in line with the Snapdragon 870, which is still quite respectable. That said, Google is supposedly aiming for top-tier AI and machine learning performance instead of making the fastest chip possible as Apple does with its iPhone-powering A series chips.

As previously reported, Google is said to be working with Samsung to develop the chip. It looks like Whitechapel could be manufactured on Samsung's 5nm LPE node. That could theoretically mean a more power-efficient SoC, potentially extending battery life a bit longer than larger processes. That said, we can't make that assumption now until we see real-world performance and metrics.

How Whitechapel will perform

Whitechapel supposedly uses two Cortex-A78 cores, two Cortex-A76 cores, and three Cortex-A55 cores. Rumors also suggest that the chip uses the Mali-G78 GPU, though Google might have figured out how to get around the GPU's infamous throttling problem.

So Whitechapel isn't likely to match the Snapdragon 888 or Snapdragon 888 Plus, let alone the rumored Snapdragon 895. But in real-world use, most users aren't likely to notice a performance difference. 

Actually, we expect Google to really fine tune Whitechapel to boost performance to the max with software optimizations. Since the company would control the hardware, it could eke out the most out of the chip, much like Apple does with the iPhones and A Bionic chips. That said, we don't expect the Pixel 6 to go head-to-head with the upcoming iPhone 13 in terms of performance, but Google could take the lead in AI and machine learning capabilities. We'll just have to see.

All of this means that the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro should have more than adequate performance, offering a platform for Google to truly flex its AI and machine learning muscles. It could also allow the company to support the phones for longer, a pipe dream for Android users up until this point. 

Whitechapel and Android updates

Whitechapel could help Google match Apple's level of support, which can go for well beyond five years. This fall's iOS 15 update, for example, runs on iPhones that came out in 2015. On the Android side of things, Qualcomm has stood in the way for longer update policies, meaning that three years of platform updates have been the best most Android manufacturers could manage.

Last week, leaker Jon Prosser published specs for the upcoming Pixel phones, wherein he mentioned five years of updates. While Google has yet to confirm that, we're quite hopeful.

Finally, rumors suggest that Whitechapel could have a new security chip called Dauntless, which is set to replace the Titan-M chips currently found on Pixel phones. We don't know a whole lot about Dauntless right now, but it ought to further bolster the Pixel 6's security chops.

We're likely still a few months out from the Pixel 6 launch, and leaks and rumors have already revealed a lot. Even so, it seems like Google is prepping a big launch, bringing the Pixel 6 back into the spotlight at the definitive Android experience.

Jordan Palmer

Jordan is the Phones Editor for Tom's Guide, covering all things phone-related. He loves nothing more than relaxing in his home with a book, game, or his latest personal writing project. It's hard to nail down one thing that Jordan is passionate about, since his attention span for a single given topic or activity doesn't last long. Jordan tends to lurk on social media, but you can best reach him on Twitter: @jccpalmer — his Instagram feed is mostly photos of his cat.