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Secret Google Pixel 2 chip will be activated with Android 8.1 in coming weeks

Google has revealed that its first-ever custom-designed system-on-chip (SoC) has been included in the Google Pixel 2 and 2 XL, but it won't be active on release.

Published onOctober 17, 2017

The Google Pixel and Pixel XL are already known for having excellent photography capabilities, and their unreleased sequels are already making headlines based on their photography chops. The Pixel 2 camera situation may be even better than we first thought, however.

In a press release the company issued earlier today, Google has revealed its Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL include an octa-core chip specifically designed to assist with photography processing. The Pixel Visual Core chip, which happens to be Google’s first ever custom SoC, is said to run HDR+ “5x faster” and use “less than 1/10th the energy” compared to running it on a typical application processor, though neither the Pixel 2 nor Pixel 2 XL are making use of it yet.

Apparently, come the Android 8.1 Developer Preview arriving in the next few weeks, users will have the choice to enable it.

HDR+ is a photography technology that Google has been working with for some time now and can be taken advantage of to improve both low-light and shots with high dynamic range. Google says the Pixel Visual Core chip has been designed to “expand the reach of HDR+, to handle the most challenging imaging and machine learning applications, and to deliver lower-latency and even more power-efficient HDR+ processing.”

Why the Pixel Visual Core chip won’t be available at the Pixel 2 launch in a couple of days isn’t known, but The Verge speculates that Google probably just didn’t have time to finish its implementation ahead of release.

The Pixel Visual Core’s focus is firmly on HDR+ for now, but Google has stated that this is only the first application to make use of the chip, and it is already “preparing the next set of applications” to make use of it. Further, Google intends to update the Android Camera API to provide access to HDR+ for third-party developers down the line too, opening up the Pixel 2’s HDR+ tech to other apps.

While owners of the original Pixels might be disappointed to learn that they don’t have a sweet Google chip waiting to be unlocked in their handset, this looks like it could be very exciting news for prospective Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL buyers.