Google's two new smartphones, believed to be the Pixel and the Pixel XL, are reckoned to be the first to be released into the United States market using the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 flagship System-on-Chip. This rumor comes via Android Police's David Ruddock, and if this is true it potentially answers several questions about the new Pixel smartphone range as well as asks more! To date, there are only a limited number of devices using the Snapdragon 821 with the first being the ASUS ZenFone 3 Deluxe, currently only available in Taiwan. The reason for the limited uptake of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 appears to be be caused by price: Qualcomm are charging a hefty premium over the Snapdragon 820 and it appears that most manufacturers are not (yet) persuaded to opt for the more powerful chip.
Google could be opting for the Snapdragon 821 in order to make the new Pixel handsets the most powerful Android devices available, subject to Samsung's high-end Exynos-based devices. On paper and looking through the Snapdragon 821's specification relative to the 820, much of the chipset appears to be a polished variant. It has higher clock speeds and so should be more powerful, plus Qualcomm are also claiming power efficiency improvements, so perhaps it will be able to run at higher clock speeds for longer. However, there is another clue as to why Google could be using the Snapdragon 821 in the new Pixel devices rather than the Snapdragon 820: virtual reality. Qualcomm have released the Snapdragon 821 with the virtual reality development kit, which is not something that the Snapdragon 820 comes with. Google are currently pushing virtual reality technology and of course, including a more advanced VR solution into the new Pixel devices may well be a means of differentiating the product from the competition.
Current rumors point towards Google releasing the Pixel and Pixel XL in early October with the devices being up for sale on that day. Industry commentators are seeking justification for Google removing the Nexus branding from its range of smartphones and tablets and switching to Pixel branding. One school of thought has been that the Pixel branding could be used for something that is designed to be more productive: we've already seen two Pixel-named Chromebook computers and the Pixel C Android tablet. However, with the Nexus devices being designed around showing the industry the direction that Google would like to see the industry heading, it would be logical for the two new Pixel smartphones to have a bias towards virtual reality technologies and that may well mean the Snapdragon 821.