Google is reportedly taking a page out of Apple's playbook and expressing interest in co-developing Android chips based on its own designs, according to a report today from The Information. Similar to how the iPhone carries an Ax chip designed by Apple but manufactured by companies like Samsung, Google wants to bring its own expertise and consistency to the Android ecosystem. To do that, it would need to convince a company like Qualcomm, which produces some of the top Android smartphone chips today using its own technology, to sacrifice some of its competitive edge. Google did not respond to a request for comment.
The discussions around Google-designed chips, which The Information say occurred this fall, originated around the company's desire to build an "enterprise connectivity device" — possibly the Pixel C laptop-tablet hybrid unveiled in September — that would rely wholly on in-house technology. Soon, Google was discussing the possibility of designing its own smartphone chips as well, the report states. One benefit of Google's strategy would be the ability to bake in cutting-edge features into future versions of Android, like support for augmented and virtual reality, that would require more closely integrated software and hardware.
A Google-designed chip may find its way to Nexus phones first
However, finding a chip co-developer may prove difficult. Though Google may find a willing partner from the pool of low-cost Android manufacturers, that partner may not be able to produce the highest-quality chips capable of powering high-end smartphones. The high-end market, which Apple dominates, is where Android fragmentation may be costing Google precious sales. One possibility, if chip makers don't agree to use Google designs, is requiring manufacturers of Google's Nexus line use only its own designs — all the way from the chip to the body of the device.