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Google explains why Pixels now get 7 years of updates

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Earlier today, Google surprised us all by confirming that Gemini Nano support (i.e., on-device generative AI features) will come to the Pixel 8 after previously saying it would only come to the Pixel 8 Pro. That announcement came during a Made by Google podcast episode. But that’s not the only thing Google divulged during the episode (h/t 9to5Google).

Seang Chau, a VP at Google, talked at length about various aspects of the Pixel ecosystem. One tidbit divulged related to one of the biggest bits of news with the launch of the Pixel 8 series, which was that Google would support them for seven whole years. As it turns out, choosing seven years of time wasn’t arbitrary. It actually was a deliberate choice based on, of all things, the very first Google Pixel. Here’s Chau on it:

So when we look at the trajectory of where the original Pixel that we launched in 2016 landed and how many people were still using the first Pixel, we saw that actually, there’s quite a good active user base until probably about the seven-year mark. So if we think about, okay, we want to be able to support Pixel for as long as people are using the device, then seven years is about that right number.

Doing the math, that means a large enough group of people were using the original Pixel as late as last year. However, this might be an anomaly because the original Pixel still supports unlimited photo and video uploads to Google Photos. There are plenty of people who use the Pixel as a sort of “server,” uploading all their photos and videos through it so as to not affect their Google Photos storage limit. There’s a good chance the OG Pixel will always be in use.

Anyway, Chau also elaborated on how Google was able to make a commitment at this length. Unsurprisingly, it mostly comes down to Tensor, Google’s self-designed mobile chipset. Chau said, “The SoC generates probably the most complexity when we’re talking about software updates,” and the team needed to make sure its “labs are equipped to do … continuous testing.” Chau also emphasized how partnerships with carriers, suppliers, and the Android team as a whole were necessary.

Unfortunately, Chau did not give any info on whether or not other Pixels besides the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro would see extensions of the older five-year and three-year update commitments. We’ll just need to wait and see on that.

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