Pixel 6 ditches Qualcomm for Exynos modem chip
Google is leaving Qualcomm fully behind for the upcoming Pixel 6, reports Reuters, quoting insider sources. For all previous generations of the Pixel series, Google has stuck to Qualcomm as the sole manufacturer of not only its Snapdragon processors, but also its modem chips. The Pixel 5 already sports the Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G SoC, and the Snapdragon Qualcomm X52 modem enabling 5G connectivity.
The Qualcomm chip reliance isn't surprising, as the U.S. comprises one of Google's biggest customer bases, and for 20 years, Qualcomm has held a tight monopoly over wireless chip technology in the country. All smartphones within the United States have been manufactured exclusively with Qualcomm modem chips, a fact that became even more prominent with the emergence of 5G.
This is partially because out of the only three 5G modem chipmakers in the world, Qualcomm has the best 5G networking technology, employing a variant called Millimeter Wave (MMW) which can currently harness the fastest speeds on 5G networks.
Qualcomm was also first to the wireless scene and holds multiple CDMA patents, making it very difficult for potential competitors to approach them prior to the 5G frontier.
After Qualcomm, the other two 5G-capable chip manufacturers are MediaTek, a Taiwanese fabless semiconductor company, and Samsung. The latter has been developing its own modem tech for over a decade, and has been using it on its own smartphones within Europe and Asia ever since, although those chips never made it to the United States.
It seems one of Samsung's recent Exynos 5G modems—namely the Exynos 5123—has evolved far enough to attract Google's business, however, if the multiple rumors prove correct.
Despite debuting in 2019, the 5G multi-mode Exynos 5123 modem is well advanced, supporting sub-6GHz and up to 256-QAM in Millimeter Wave for both uplink and downlink.
This is truly a historic breakthrough in the mobile modem chip industry, as with Samsung's Exynos 5123, the Pixel 6 will become the very first smartphone in the United States to feature a non-Qualcomm wireless modem, breaking Qualcomm's nation-wide monopoly—from 3G to LTE and 5G—for the first time.
This is also going to be a different kind of breakthrough for Samsung, as this is the first time we will be seeing its Exynos modem chip in a non-Samsung phone.
The modem chip isn't the only Samsung component that we'll be seeing on the Pixel 6. On the contrary, the length to which Google has gone to adopt Samsung's technology for its latest Pixel flagship has made some suspect a collaboration between the two tech giants—although when questioned, both have kept mum on the subject.
Apart from the modem, the display, camera, and processor of the Pixel 6 will also feature Samsung tech.
In some previously leaked code, the main camera was revealed to be either the GN1 or the more modern GN2 ISOCELL sensor by Samsung.
The display is also said to come with a Samsung-manufactured 6.4-inch 90Hz AMOLED screen (at least for the regular Pixel 6; the Pixel 6 Pro may possibly come with an LG-branded P-OLED screen instead).
And the SoC, the heart of the coming smartphone, is set to be the 5-nanometer Tensor chipset, which is in fact designed by Google, but whose production will be wholly handled by—you guessed it, Samsung.