Tensor-powered Pixel phones may be in for an unusual upgrade

Hands-on with the Google Pixel 8 Pro
(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Google is reportedly planning a significant kernel update for Tensor-powered Pixel phones, a crucial but often overlooked aspect.
  • Kernels play a vital role in performance and security, making updates crucial for maintaining functionality and addressing emerging threats.
  • Although the kernel update won't bring flashy visual changes or new features, it sets the stage for Pixel phones' longevity and ensures they stay current.

Google is apparently gearing up to release a big kernel upgrade for all the Pixel phones running on Tensor to keep these devices in tip-top shape over the long term.

Android sleuth Mishaal Rahman revealed on X (formerly Twitter) that Google is planning to bump up the Tensor-based Pixels to Linux kernel 6.1 in the future. Even the Pixel 9 series, with its rumored Tensor G4, might ship with Linux kernel 5.15 but is in for an upgrade too.

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While you might not lose sleep over a kernel update when snagging your favorite Android phone, it's a big deal. It is the brain behind your device, managing memory and file systems. An outdated kernel spells trouble, from performance hiccups to serious security risks.

Some Googlers spilled the beans on the Android Open Source Project site, but there's no official timeline in sight. Rahman points out that kernel upgrades are rare, especially in the Android world. The details of what this upgrade will bring to the table are still under wraps, and Google's keeping us on our toes—no official word yet.

For the uninitiated, a kernel is responsible for making sure the software gets along with the hardware. Think of it as the traffic cop for your phone's resources; it decides when your apps get to hog the processor and keeps an eye on the device's memory.

A kernel update might also cool down your phone if it's running hot or throw in a few neat features. Rahman suggests that this could amp up long-term support down the road. But don't go thinking your ancient Tensor-powered Pixel will suddenly get the same treatment; it's more about keeping things running smoother for the long haul.

Similarly, don't get your hopes up for a visual makeover or flashy features with this update on Google's Pixel phones. What it will do, though, is set the stage for those Pixels to stay updated in the long run.

Jay Bonggolto
News Writer & Reviewer

Jay Bonggolto always keeps a nose for news. He has been writing about consumer tech and apps for as long as he can remember, and he has used a variety of Android phones since falling in love with Jelly Bean. Send him a direct message via Twitter or LinkedIn.