After a disappointing 2020 in terms of Pixel flagship hardware, Google might surprise fans with a few great Pixel 6 features. According to reports, Google is already developing a foldable Pixel phone and making its own system-on-chip (SoC) processor. The latter is likely to debut this year, powering at least one Pixel 6 device. Dubbed Whitechapel (GS101), the 5nm processor is being developed in collaboration with Samsung. The SoC won’t merely help Google reduce its reliance on Qualcomm, it’ll also let it offer customers a feature that has only been available on iPhones so far. A custom SoC made for the Pixel would let Google fine-tune Android performance and control more aspects of the hardware, just like Apple does with iOS and iPadOS.
A new finding suggests that Google might add another chip to the Pixel 6 series that’s already available on iPhones — an ultra-wideband (UWB) processor that could power some exciting new Pixel features.
The iPhone 11 was Apple’s first iPhone to feature UWB technology. The new wireless protocol lets Apple offer something called “precision finding” for lost devices. The tech allows users to locate their lost objects down to a few inches, whether it’s an iPhone or the new AirTag tracker that comes with a built-in U1 chip. UWB tech is also used in other applications, such as handing off content between iPhone and a HomePod mini speaker. AirDrop functionality can also be improved if both gadgets feature UWB chips like the U1.
Samsung added UWB support to the Galaxy S21 series, and ultra-wideband chips will probably be included in future devices.
Google’s interest in the technology is hardly surprising. Google wouldn’t just ensure that the Pixel 6 phones are on par with the iPhone 12 and Galaxy S21 by adding a UWB SoC in its new handsets. The technology might also have an immediate use. Google could rely on UWB to improve connections between Pixel phones and smart home devices, and also for tracking purposes. That’s not to say that Google will be building an AirTag-like tracker of its own, as that’s just one of the various UWB-based features available to users. All of this is just speculation at this point though, as Google won’t announce the Pixel 6 until October. It’s unclear whether it plans to talk about UWB during its big Google I/O 2021 event in a few weeks.
All we have for now is evidence that Google is testing support for an Android 12 UWB API on “Raven,” one of the internal codenames used for the Pixel 6.
I don't have any more details to share, such as confirmation that a next-gen Pixel will indeed support UWB, if Google is working on any UWB/BT trackers, whether "raven" is the Pixel 6 or 6 XL, etc.
— Mishaal Rahman (@MishaalRahman) April 30, 2021
Mishaal Rahman from xda-developers and 9to5Google have both revealed various aspects of Google’s interest in UWB tech. The latter claims to have seen documentation that Google is working with Qorvo on UWB hardware.
Google is expected to release three Pixel phones this year. The Pixel 5a phone that appears to be almost identical to the Pixel 4a 5G will roll out first. Two Pixel 6 devices are then expected in the fall. Aside from Raven, there’s also an “Oriole” codename belonging to an unreleased Pixel handset. All Pixel 6 phones will likely support ultra-wideband connectivity, if these recent reports from reliable sources are accurate.