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Google Android Cellphones Hardware

Report: Google Wants To Design Its Own Smartphone Chips (arstechnica.com) 90

An anonymous reader writes: Google has been stepping up its efforts to build higher quality Android phones, and one thing holding it back is Qualcomm's SoC technology. According to two reports in The Information (paywalled: [1], [2]) Google is now looking for other partners, and may even jump into chip design itself. The company has already done some design work, hoping to co-develop it with a manufacturer. "The new chips are reportedly needed for future Android features that Google hopes to release 'in the next few years.' By designing its own chips, Google can make sure the right amount of horsepower gets assigned to all the right places and remove bottlenecks that would slow down these new features. The report specifically calls out 'virtual and augmented reality' as use cases for the new chips."

Another big area Google wants better hardware for is video processing tech. The article notes, "Qualcomm has a near monopoly on Android SoCs, but it is more marketing driven than performance driven and has been doing a disservice to the mobile space lately. It rushed to get 64-bit support out the door when it was beaten to the punch by Apple, which resulted in the very hot Snapdragon 810 SoC."

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Report: Google Wants To Design Its Own Smartphone Chips

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  • by faragon ( 789704 ) on Friday November 06, 2015 @06:34PM (#50880539) Homepage
    ... and fill the "Q" letter in their "Alphabet".
    • They could add hardware scrolling to their chip and not be dependent on mutli-core processors! /s

    • Why do they need Qualcomm? Just use MediaTek. The story itself is pretty misleading, implying that there's only one solution, and that's QCOM:

      If youâ(TM)re using a relatively recent, non-Apple, sold-in-the-US smartphone, odds are good that it contains some kind of Qualcomm SoC.

      No, actually, vast numbers of non-Apple phones (why not just come out and say "Android" there) use MTK chipsets (and others, AllWinner, etc).

      Another thing they conveniently forget to mention is just how hard it is to design a full mobile phone SoC. It's not like you can get a bunch of enthusiastic coders, lock them in a room for a few months, and a full-featured mo

      • Are you being intentionally dense the quote you pulled explicitly says "sold-in-the-US smartphone". Please point to these "vast numbers" of US sold smartphones with MediaTek and Allwinner SoCs.

        • My sold-in-the-US smart phone has a MTK chipset. My previous sold-in-the-US smart phone had a MTK chipset. Several friends of mine with sold-in-the-US smart phones have MTK chipsets. Other sold-in-the-US brands using MTK chipsets are Acer, Alcatel, Cubot, Gigabyte, Huawei, Lenovo, LG, Philips, Oppo, and ZTE (among others). You may have heard of some of those multibillion-dollar companies, .

          Thank you for your well-thought-out, insightful comments though.

          • Way to dodge the question. You didn't actual list a single smartphone model or provide sales figures to prove your "vast numbers" of sales claim. Yes, you can buy some niche junker phone with such a SoC but the only Android phones topping sales charts in the US pretty much exclusively use Qualcomm.

      • by Dahamma ( 304068 )

        Except Google is perfectly capable of hiring away mobile SoC designers from anyone they want. Or, of course, just going the Apple route and buying an entire mobile semiconductor company. Remember, they already bought Motorola and kept most of the IP.

        • They'd pretty much have to buy an existing product/company if they wanted to bring it to market in any reasonable amount of time, and buying Qualcomm ($80B market cap) as the subject line suggests probably isn't feasible. A better option would be a strategic partnership with one of the smaller, more flexible Asian manufacturers, perhaps Allwinner, which is losing market share to MTK and Rockchip and may be more amenable to having Google get their hooks into them (besides, Rockchip is already tied up with I
          • by Dahamma ( 304068 )

            I'm surprised no one hast mentioned nVidia. $15B market cap (totally in Google's price range), and they already have a tablet and Android TV STB that kicks everyone else's ass. Guess it's currently too expensive, but there's no question it blows away the Android high end...

      • by Dahamma ( 304068 ) on Saturday November 07, 2015 @12:51AM (#50881769)

        Also - did you read the article and understand the point?

        Qualcomm is the only SoC manufacturer for Android pushing the high end - MediaTek, etc are focusing on the mid-range. Google wants to push the high end to compete with the latest Apple chips, and MTK and others aren't even close. Right now it's either push Qualcomm or do it themselves.

        • Qualcomm is the only SoC manufacturer for Android pushing the high end

          NVIDIA might like a word with you. They may not have much traction, but it's not for a lack of effort in pushing the high-end.

          • by Dahamma ( 304068 )

            I have had "words" with Nvidia - and in fact am working with them on a project for their Android TV-based Shield. They have great hardware for STBs and high end tablets.

            But this article was about smartphones, and they gave up on the Android phone market months ago...

      • Another possibility: they owned Motorola previously, now they can buy Freescale, or at least the mobile part of its CPU business and run w/ it. Might gain access to Power (as in IBM's CPU) IP.

      • Isn't MediaTek horrible in terms of support (i.e. driver updates for newer Android versions etc.), like even worse than Qualcomm?

        I'd assume that's one of the things Google is trying to avoid, so as to open up the possibility of longer term handset support a la Apple iOS.

    • ... and fill the "Q" letter in their "Alphabet".

      Insightful indeed. If Google can buy Qualcomm, it would give them all patents related to not just CDMA, but also recent cellular technology. Which would be a huge thing going for it.

      Other thing I'd like Google to do is to build chips outside the ARM ecosystem - bring back some variety in the microprocessor market. We already have x64 and ARM, so I'd like to see them make something based on another chip - such as MIPS. The latter has the most experience in its development, and Google could leverag

  • Report: Google Wants To Be One Step Closer To Taking Over The Wrold
  • I don't buy it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kaiser423 ( 828989 ) on Friday November 06, 2015 @06:51PM (#50880629)
    I don't buy these reports at all. I just don't see it. I would imagine that Google would like to partner a bit closer with some of the chip vendors -- get some low power extensions added, more direct hardware accelerations of some of the effects that are done in Android, maybe help define some other extensions, etc. But I seriously doubt that they're looking to get into the chip design business. To do so they would have to buy a slew of chip designers, and we just haven't seen them hiring or acquiring in that arena.

    Chip design is very hard and unforgiving. Google knows this, and can't be looking to jump into the business. They might want to help tailor something, but that would be about it...
  • Well played (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Friday November 06, 2015 @06:54PM (#50880649)
    Tracking you will be much more efficient. Built in, unblockable analytics.
    • by xombo ( 628858 )

      To be fair, most filtering apps seem to run as fake VPN configurations, routing connections through the App's VPN "server" running on localhost to do the blocking. Putting Apps in a VM with the virtual network hardware hooked directly up to the hypervisor's networking stack, and the VPN config by extension, could make it even harder for apps to bypass that sort of filtering.

    • Tracking you will be much more efficient. Built in, unblockable analytics.

      No.

      I work on the Android security team, and we actively block any attempt to build tracking into the core platform. It's not hard to do, either. Mostly what happens is that people design new features which they don't realize could be used for tracking, we point them out, and they say "Oh, right, guess I need to find another way."

      Google doesn't really want to track you, except as voluntary quid-pro-quo for using some service you value.

      • Tracking you will be much more efficient. Built in, unblockable analytics.

        No.

        I work on the Android security team, and we actively block any attempt to build tracking into the core platform.

        There's only one problem. No way in hell I believe you. I wouldn't be surprised if you aren't even lying, you could be plausible deniability bait. But in a world where us civilians are the product to be monetized, or where the government wants to know all about us, it's almost impossible to believe that either group isn't trying to make their job as easy and convenient as possible.

        • I wouldn't be surprised if you aren't even lying, you could be plausible deniability bait.

          That would imply there's someone else behind the scenes, hidden from me and subverting my work. But there's simply no room for that to be true.

          • I wouldn't be surprised if you aren't even lying, you could be plausible deniability bait.

            That would imply there's someone else behind the scenes, hidden from me and subverting my work. But there's simply no room for that to be true.

            Which still wouldn't imply that I or many others believe you.

            I mean, why wouldn't Google do this? Seems this design is coming out about the same time as more people are becoming savvy to the invasion of trackers, and maladware and are installing software to get around the practice.

            Any group I was involved in, especially the one who is the biggest player in monetizing users internet habits, would want to preserve their cash cow, and work at ways to defeat the tracking - indeed - just imagine "total user

            • I wouldn't be surprised if you aren't even lying, you could be plausible deniability bait.

              That would imply there's someone else behind the scenes, hidden from me and subverting my work. But there's simply no room for that to be true.

              Which still wouldn't imply that I or many others believe you.

              Sure, you can just believe that I'm lying. But that's only possible because you don't know me.

              I mean, why wouldn't Google do this? Seems this design is coming out about the same time as more people are becoming savvy to the invasion of trackers, and maladware and are installing software to get around the practice.

              There are many, many reasons why Google wouldn't want to. Included among them is the fact that both the founders and a large percentage of the employees would rebel for both moral and business reasons (though, honestly, the moral reasons are more important). Google has never been particularly comfortable with advertising. Larry and Sergey refused to do it for the first portion of Google's history, until they hit on

  • According to two reports in The Information, Google is now looking for other partners, and may even jump into chip design itself.

    All they have to do is contact Apple, I've heard they've been designing their own chips for a while now.

    Fight for your bitcoins! [coinbrawl.com]

    • I thought that was what their little Motorola adventure was about

      • by Macrat ( 638047 )

        I thought that was what their little Motorola adventure was about

        It was more about buying the patents that Motorola owned.

        • It wasn't so much about acquiring Motorola's patents as it was about stopping Motorola from attacking anyone and everyone with them including other Android manufacturers. Motorola had been on a downward spiral for a long time and was threatening to hoist the black flag and Google bought them out to stop it from happening.

          Having that patents does protect them from litigation as they have plenty of stuff for a counter-suit, but they ended up paying a lot. They probably would have been a lot better off buyi
          • There are two items missing from that analysis, worth $5.5 billion.

            First, Motorola had $3 billion in the bank. When Google acquired Motorola, they aquired those bank accounts. Second, Motorola had paid $2.5 billion too much in taxes, deferring their losses until later. The last time I checked it wasn't entirely clear, but Google should have been able to reap those losses.

            Before somebody gets their panties in a wad, that's money Motorola had paid in taxes, but wasn't actually owed. Basically Motorola's tax

  • >Google has been stepping up its efforts to build higher quality Android phones

    Then they shouldn't have ruined the Nexus 5X by giving it 4-year-old storage options and 4-year-old memory options and removing the wireless charging.

    Just because some of us don't want a huge phone, doesn't mean we want weak specs. I was very disappointed because I have loved the Nexus 5 for two years and wanted to upgrade. Now, what is the point?

  • Near monopoly?! (Score:5, Informative)

    by aNonnyMouseCowered ( 2693969 ) on Friday November 06, 2015 @07:39PM (#50880877)

    "Qualcomm has a near monopoly on Android SoCs"

    What about Mediatek, Samsung (Exynos SoCs in many of their top-selling phones and tablets), the Chinese fabless semicons like Rockchip, Allwinner, etc, even Intel (Asus Zen phones/tablets)? Statistics please without qualifiers like, a near monopoly on tablets sold by LG, Moto, and so-and-so company.

    • Correction: Qualcomm has a near-monopoly on SoCs capable of doing LTE on American mobile networks in all licensed bands without additional chips. If you want a single-chip 4+ core Android device that works with 100% support for all relevant bands & data modes on Verizon, Sprint, or even AT&T, you basically have one viable choice: Qualcomm.

      Renesas had a competitive alternative chipset ~2 years ago, but the new owners seem to have no real interest in trying to compete with Qualcomm in the US anymore f

  • by jddeluxe ( 965655 ) on Friday November 06, 2015 @07:40PM (#50880885)
    These pukes make up some sensational shit 3 or 4 times a year, get it re-blogged on all the Android and many tech sites and morons subscribe to read the bullshit stories...

    Nothing to see here, move along.....
  • The thing is, Google doesn't make enough of anything to make it worthwhile to do this. You gotta make a gazillion chips to break even. Unless they plan to sell them to the Android OEMs... hmmm...
  • We talk about Google as though it is a single monolithic entity. But Google is so big and so vast it would be more correct to say that some project manager manged to get approval of a chip design project or some manager decided to fund a technology demonstrator.
  • Qualcomm may hold a near monopoly, but Android runs so much smoother on Atom chips. I switched from a galaxy S5 (snapdragon 801) to an Asus ZenFone 2 (Atom 3580) and it's a world of difference. That's not only due to touchwiz, also compared to CM and other custom roms. Intel has done a great job of optimizing Android for their x86 processors. Google should just partner with the experts: Intel.
  • We're in a constant rush to get a better processor in to a smartphone, and yet the current gen chips are still heavily underutilized. I have an old Galaxy S2 i9100 in my desk that still performs well enough to do all modern tasks. My aging HTC M8 which is coming up on its second birthday is still as zippy as ever.

    What exactly are we racing towards more powerful phone hardware to do?

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