While most Pixel fans are eagerly anticipating the upcoming Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro — confirmed to be an overhaul of the Made by Google phone series — the Android 12 Beta includes clues to what Google phones will come after that. These possibly include a foldable Pixel and the presumed Pixel 6a.
Digging into the various apps included in the most recent Android 12 Beta, we were able to uncover a trio of unfamiliar codenames. We believe them to be for Pixel devices as they were found alongside codenames for other Pixel devices — like “Oriole” for Pixel 6 and “Redfin” for Pixel 5.
The new codenames are “Whitefin,” “Pipit,” and “Bluejay.” Right off the bat, the most interesting part of these codenames is that the latter two are types of birds, just like the Pixel 6 series of “Raven” and “Oriole,” while “Whitefin” is obviously a type of fish, like every past Pixel codename. Let’s take a closer look at what each of these devices might be.
Thanks for all the fish
The first codename we want to focus on is “Whitefin,” as it’s the odd one out for being the only fish.
The leading belief for why Google is changing from fishy codenames to bird-related ones is because of the shift from using Qualcomm Snapdragon processors to their own “Google Tensor” chips. Previously known as “Whitechapel,” the Tensor chips are being built in collaboration with Samsung while integrating some of Google’s own hardware smarts like the “TPU” (Tensor Processing Unit) to accelerate machine learning.
If this major hardware shift is indeed the reason for a switch from fish to birds, it would imply that Whitefin is a Snapdragon-based device. So far, though, we’ve found no strong evidence about Whitefin’s processor, whether it’s Qualcomm or Google Tensor.
Generally speaking, Google Camera’s code groups together Pixel phones that come from the same batch. For example, the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL are paired together, as are the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G.
The grouping of codenames most recently added to Google Camera consists of four devices:
- Oriole — Pixel 6
- Raven — Pixel 6 Pro
- Slider — The internal name for hardware shared by the two Pixel 6 models
One possibility is that Whitefin is a testing device, which would in theory allow Google’s engineers to test out the Pixel 6 series’ new cameras and/or its next-generation Neural Core chip on Qualcomm hardware while the Google Tensor GS101 chip (previously known as Whitechapel) was still in development.
Another possibility is that Whitefin is similar to the “Needlefish” codename which surfaced in 2019. Despite all signs pointing to it being a device that would release alongside the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL, perhaps as a “Pixel 4 5G,” it never saw the light of day.
For now, that’s where the trail runs cold on Whitefin, though we’ll continue tracking it to see what crops up.
Birds of a feather
Next we have the two bird-related codenames, “Bluejay” and “Pipit,” which we first found side-by-side. As mentioned above, it’s possible — though far from confirmed — that the bird codenames point to running on Google’s own Whitechapel/Tensor hardware, rather than Qualcomm Snapdragon chips.
Within the Android 12 Beta, there is only a single reference to “Bluejay,” found alongside every codename that Google has used for a phone from the Pixel 3 through to the Pixel 5a, as well as upcoming ones like the Pixel 6 series of “Raven” and “Oriole.”
However, there is one codename notably missing from that list: “Passport,” which we originally reported was Google’s internal name for an in-development Pixel foldable. Since then, Passport has even appeared in the Android 12 Beta, with a Japanese model number attached to it. Conversely though, the aforementioned “Needlefish” device also had a model number but was never released.
With current rumors placing the production of the foldable Pixel beginning in October, it seems just a bit odd for Passport to be missing from the above list, but there may be more to the story.
In documentation previously viewed by 9to5Google, there were references to Google using the codename “Blueport” for some Android hardware. At this time, we believe that “Blueport” is a combination of “Bluejay” and “Passport,” following a long tradition of Google using joint codenames. For example, Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL’s Flame and Coral became “Floral,” while Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G’s Redfin and Bramble became “Redbull.”
If this theory is correct, it’s possible that Bluejay may be the new codename for the upcoming Pixel foldable, while Passport is an early development prototype rather than a final product. Another possibility is that Bluejay (whatever it may be) and Passport (the Pixel foldable) will be sold side-by-side later this year or early 2022.
In any case, we can confirm that “Blueport” is set to run on the same Google Tensor GS101 chip as the upcoming Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. Now that Google is making their own chips, it would make a great deal of sense for a foldable Pixel to showcase the Tensor chip’s hardware prowess. Considering how highly Google has propped up their first Tensor chip’s capabilities, it would be foolish for a theoretical foldable to return to Qualcomm so soon after the Pixel 6 launch.
Unfortunately, we don’t have as many clues to the purpose of “Pipit.” We’ve confirmed Pipit to be a Pixel-related codename because it also appears in the Pixel series’ Google Camera app. Unlike Whitefin which is bundled into a group of devices, Pipit is included as a standalone device. This is similar to how the Pixel 3a and 4a have been included in Google Camera code. Even the Pixel 5a, which is in many key ways identical to the Pixel 5, is included as a distinct device rather than grouped with its siblings.
While it’s far too early to say with any certainty, we believe based on the timing of its appearance that Pipit could potentially be the codename for 2022’s mid-range Pixel 6a. Once again, considering a pipit is a bird and not a fish, it’s plausible that this potential Pixel 6a would run on a Google Tensor chip. Considering the Pixel 5a runs on the same Snapdragon 765 as the flagship Pixel 5, it’s possible that the Pixel 6a could follow suit by running on the same Google Tensor GS101 as Pixel 6 and 6 Pro.
Dylan Roussel and Abner Li contributed to this article
This article has been updated to reflect the official “Google Tensor” name for Whitechapel chips, as well as include additional details and speculation.
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