Pixel 5a and successors will not get new Google Tensor SoC

The new Google Tensor SoC will not be present within the mid-range Pixel ‘a’ smartphones, Google has confirmed.

The new, homegrown processor geared towards maximising Google’s AI and machine learning technology will power the new Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro later this year.

However, in an interview with Wired, Google’s hardware chief Rick Osterloh said future Pixel ‘a’ handsets will continue to use the generic Qualcomm Snapdragon processors. That’ll be the case for the forthcoming Pixel 5a, perhaps launching as soon as this month, and subsequent releases thereafter.

Why Google has made the distinction and isn’t kitting out all of its phones with the same processor isn’t yet clear. A lot of it will probably be down to keeping costs down for mid-range shoppers, while giving the flagship range a real chance to shine.

Until now, one of the Pixel ‘a’ series main selling points has been the competitiveness of the camera experience compared to the flagship model. However, Google confirmed today that the Tensor processor will bring the computational photography experience on significantly.

Osterloh told Wired that the Tensor-powered camera system is adept at learning when multiple lenses need to be used to capture an image, depending on the situation. It can combine the best elements of the same photo shot on the main and ultra wide sensors, while also correcting motion blur and ensuring faces are in focus.

“This is done with a series of different sophisticated machine learning models running parallel in real time, fusing images from multiple different sensors at once,” Osterloh says. “That’s what we wanted to do with Tensor, and it’s what makes it possible.”

Google isn’t giving away too much more at this stage. We know it will boost speech recognition performance to the point of being able to transcribe and translate video in real time.

We don’t know anything about clock speed or the number of cores yet, but Google is promising to keep people posted on the finer details, as well as the security enhancements offered by the new Titan M2 co-processor.

Unfortunately, none of this will be of benefit to Pixel ‘a’ shoppers for the mid-term future.

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