Google’s upcoming Pixel Tablet might run a 64-bit-only version of Android when it launches sometime next year.
The search giant didn’t reveal much about the Pixel Tablet when it announced the device at its Google I/O developer conference in May, and we’ve mostly been in the dark about it since. However, new details shared by Esper’s senior technical edtior Mishaal Rahman on Twitter suggest Google’s testing a 64-bit-only version of Android on the device.
Interesting: "Move tangor to 64-bit only"
Tangor, the rumored Pixel Tablet, may ship with a 64-bit-only build of Android 13. That should reduce memory use, but it means the tablet won't be able to run any 32-bit apps.https://t.co/C3d3Y5pS24 pic.twitter.com/1SKh3pPcG6
— Mishaal Rahman (@MishaalRahman) August 16, 2022
Rahman tweeted a link to Google’s development resources, which indicate the company is experimenting with 64-bit-only Android 13 builds on a device with the codename ‘Tangor.’ Tangor, for those unfamiliar with the name, refers to the Pixel Tablet.
Going exclusively 64-bit would have several impacts. On the one hand, Android Police notes that cutting 32-bit support should reduce RAM use, but one downside would be that the tablet couldn’t run 32-bit apps anymore. That shouldn’t be a major issue, though, given that the Play Store has required that apps use a 64-bit architecture for a while.
In fact, Rahman details in a blog post that Google has been working towards 64-bit-only Android for a while, with last year’s Android 12 being the first version of the OS that can be compiled with 64-bit-only components. The same applies to Android 13.
Didn’t Apple do this in 2017?
Naturally, some may look and this 64-bit push and wonder what took Google so long. Apple moved the iPhone to 64-bit in 2017. The thing is, Apple’s iOS and Android are very different — Apple was more easily able to force a change because it has complete control over iOS and the App Store. For Google, Android’s scale and being open-source means the company has to take a slower approach to major changes like this so as not to isolate vendors or markets that still rely on 32-bit. A big example of this, as Android Police points out, is China (although Chinese app stores have agreed to start phasing out 32-bit apps).
Android Police notes that changes from chipmakers may also be a factor in this push. Most mobile phones use chips based on Arm chip designs, with newer designs only supporting 64-bit processes. That has led some chipmakers to include a small number of processors that support 32-bit, resulting in some odd, asymmetrical chip designs.
And presumably, if Google does go 64-bit-only with the Pixel Tablet, the company will likely do the same with its Tensor chip and Pixel phones in the future.
Of course, Google may also just be running internal tests to see how well a 64-bit-only device would perform. We likely won’t know for sure until the Pixel Tablet launches (it’s expected to arrive sometime in 2023). Still, it’d be nice to see Android go 64-bit-only, and if Google made the leap, other manufacturers would likely follow.