Google Seeks More Control Over Android Phone Chips Report

2015/11/07 | Source: Forbes

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Google doesn’t want to sit around while its Android ecosystem becomes ever more fragmented. It’s apparently looking at ways to exert more control, Apple-style, of Android smartphones by having a say in the creation of their processors.

Google has been talking to chip manufacturers about building smartphone processors that are based on Google’s own designs, according to a report in The Information.

The report didn’t specify which chip manufacturers Google was talking to, but Qualcomm, MediaTek and Samsung are the biggest vendors for Android phones. Qualcomm is the most ubiquitous, MediaTek is focused on lower-cost Android phones and Samsung’s Exynos chipsets go into its own devices.

It’s hard to see Qualcomm agreeing to this sort of partnership with Google, since ceding control over design would start to commoditize its business and make it harder to differentiate from other chip makers. Qualcomm is already dealing with weakening demand for its chips and pricing pressure on its IP licensing business. For smaller chip makers though the stamp of approval from Google could make it easier to win business with smartphone manufacturers.

Google wants to make Android more competitive with Apple’s iOS ecosystem, which has been gaining market share over the last year while still-dominant Android has declined slightly.

Apple standardizes nearly every aspect of the iPhone with its own stamp of approval. It designed the A9 chips going into the latest iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, boasting that the new processors led to greater CPU and graphics performance for the phone overall.

This isn’t the first time Google has explored making its own chips. In 2013 the company was reportedly looking at designing its own server chips based on licensed designs from ARM Holding, presumably to use at its own data centers.

Having a say in the chips that go into Android-phones could be crucial for Google if it wants to release compelling new features that could wow consumers away from iPhones or keep them on Android phones. Google is looking at chip designs that would allow Android phones to feature virtual and augmented reality services, along with more powerful sensors, according to The Information.

Making cool features like these work well on phones isn’t just a matter of pushing out a new update to Android, but fundamentally improving the phones’ processing power to make such features work properly.

In its talks with chipmakers, Google has been asking them improve to the computational power of camera sensors to weed out the milliseconds between taking photos, creating a video-like stream of pictures, The Information reports.

Google also appears to want future Android chips to support cutting-edge sensors. Some might seem redundant now but are likely to get more use in future, such as sensors that measure distance to help enable virtual-reality environments.

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