For some of us, the only things that maters when it comes to a new phone is the raw hardware performance. I agree, just not in the same way you probably think I do. That’s why Google’s Tensor G3 is, in my opinion, the best phone chip on the market right now.
It’s not the fastest, not by a longshot. Chips from Qualcomm and MediaTek are faster or have a better GPU, and that’s not saying anything about the iPhone which ships using a SoC that’s faster than a lot of laptops. But being fast isn’t everything.
I think it all comes down to what the chip is supposed to be doing, and the Tensor G3 has a big lead there. Its hardware is specialized to do some very specific things when it comes to processing what Google thinks is most important.
When you also write software that can take advantage of these things in ways that just don’t work on other hardware, you end up with something different. And maybe just a little bit better.
I’m not a big fan of Google’s phones; the last two Pixel devices I’ve used were a bit disappointing, if I’m being honest about it. I’m also not a fan of Qualcomm, MediaTek, or Apple though. I’m a fan of consumers and users just like you and me. Companies should be doing more to earn our money.
I can’t deny that Google has a vision, though. You may not agree with it, or I may not agree with it, but Google has shown exactly what it thinks is important when it comes to the software for a phone, both inside the operating system itself and its apps.
The next logical step was to make that software work best on typical phone hardware. Here’s where Google steps away from the mainstream.
Inside the chip in your phone, there are several processors, and some of them are designed to do specific things. By designing some of those co-processors in a specific way and then writing software to take advantage of that unique set of instructions, Google’s own phones have an advantage that no amount of raw power can beat.
Even Apple’s new A17 Pro and its seemingly unlimited amount of horsepower can’t run Google’s own MOL and AI algorithms as well as the Pixel 8 and its relatively sluggish Tensor G3. Qualcomm and the rest really aren’t even playing the same game. Since Google feels that these AI and ML algorithms are what’s really important, the Pixel 8 wins by default.
Except that it doesn’t in the real world. But I think Google finally understands that.
Ask yourself when was the last time you bought something because it does one thing better than anything else, yet it is a bit mediocre when it comes to everything else. The answer is probably never.
This matters even more when it comes to something so personal and necessary, like a phone. In 2023, you have to have a smartphone to do even simple things like pay the taxes on your car, so you obviously want the best one you can get.
You’re probably going to look at the “big picture” when you buy your next phone, and whatever you decide, being the best when it comes to Google’s unique AI and ML routines isn’t going to be part of that equation. No matter how cool the AI things are. I’m a total nerd when it comes to stuff like building a “special” chip to run AI software, but even I won’t buy a phone based on just that.
This is where I think Google needs to step it up and make the rest of the phone work as well as its new AI stuff does. And I think Google knows it.
The Tensor G3 and the Pixel 8, especially the Pro, are the first of a new breed of Pixel products: one where Google acknowledges its own shortcomings and begins to correct them, one piece at a time. It’s starting with the Tensor G3 and its ability to make Google magic happen so well is the right path.
We’ve seen it before — at one time the iPhone seemed unbeatable because Apple’s tight integration of hardware and software meant a truly optimized experience. Android simply lagged behind. As much as I hate to see it, I think we’re going to see Google do the same thing until a Pixel is the best option out there, and having the best chip will mean a lot more than it does today.