Gemini may be the biggest, most powerful large language model, or LLM, Google has ever developed, but it’s better suited to running in data centers than on your phone. With Gemini Nano, though, the company is trying to split the difference: it built a reduced version of its flagship LLM that can run locally and offline on your device. Well, a device, anyway. The Pixel 8 Pro is the only Nano-compatible phone so far, but Google sees the new model as a core part of Android going forward.
If you have a Pixel 8 Pro, starting today, two things on your phone will be powered by Gemini Nano: the auto-summarization feature in the Recorder app, and the Smart Reply part of the Gboard keyboard. Both are coming as part of the Pixel’s December Feature Drop. Both work offline since the model is running on the device itself, so they should feel fast and native.
Google is starting out quite small with Gemini Nano. Even the Smart Reply feature is only Gemini-powered in WhatsApp, though Google says it’s coming to more apps next year. And Gemini as a whole is only rolling out in English right now, which means many users won’t be able to use it at all. Your Pixel 8 Pro won’t suddenly feel like a massively upgraded device — though it might over time, if Gemini is as good as Google thinks it can be. And next year, when Google brings a Gemini-powered Bard to Assistant on Pixel phones, you’ll get even more of the Gemini experience.
Nano is the smallest (duh) of the Gemini models, but Demis Hassabis, the CEO of Google DeepMind, says it still packs a punch. “It has to fit on a footprint, right?” he says. “The very small footprint of a Pixel phone. So there’s memory constraints, speed constraints, all sorts of things. It’s actually an incredible model for its size — and obviously it can benefit from the bigger models by distilling from them and that sort of thing.” The goal for Nano was to create a version of Gemini that is as capable as possible without eating your phone’s storage or heating the processor to the temperature of the sun.
Google is also working on a way to build Nano into Android as a whole
Right now, Google’s Tensor 3 processor seems to be the only one capable of running the model. But Google is also working on a way to build Nano into Android as a whole: it launched a new system service called AICore that developers can use to bring Gemini-powered features into their apps. Your phone will still need a pretty high-end chip to make it work, but Google’s blog post announcing the feature mentions Qualcomm, Samsung, and MediaTek as companies making compatible processors. Developers can get into Google’s early access program now.
For the last couple of years, Google has talked about its Pixel phones as essentially AI devices. With Tensor chips and close connection to all of Google’s services, they’re supposed to get better and smarter over time. With Gemini Nano, that could eventually become true for lots of high-end Android devices. For now, it’s just a good reason to splurge on the Pixel 8 Pro.