The default Camera app pre-installed on Google’s Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL Android flagships doesn’t use the Pixel Visual Core chip, the company confirmed. Google enabled its first-ever custom SoC earlier this week, saying that a number of apps such as Instagram, Snapchat, and WhatsApp are already able to leverage it in order to improve the overall quality of their photos and adding that many more mobile tools should follow suit in the near future. The reason why the system-on-chip doesn’t power the company’s own Camera app is related to the nature of the improvements it offers, most of which come down to HDR+ capabilities which Google’s tool already supports natively, as was the case since the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL launched last October.
The Mountain View, California-based tech giant previously said its camera app has already been maximally optimized for the recently released Android flagships, whereas the Pixel Visual Core is primarily meant to improve the performance of third-party imaging software so as to bring it more in line with what users can expect from Google-made products. Due to that state of affairs, owners of the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL aren’t believed to be missing out on any significant improvements when using the Camera app to take images instead of doing so with apps like Instagram. One exception may be the difference in energy efficiency between the Camera app and its third-party alternatives as Google’s software will still use Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 to process the photographs, whereas the Pixel Visual Core will be handling all relevant algorithms in supported apps. The Camera app was still heavily optimized for such a use case and one may not be able to tell a difference unless they look at extremely large samples, not to mention that most currently supported apps like Snapchat already use much more battery by simply being active, regardless of whether or not they’re actively taking images.
The capabilities of the Pixel Visual Core are available to developers through the Android Camera API and can be used on the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL running Android 8.1 Oreo with the February 2018 security patch. Google’s Pixel 3 lineup is likely to take advantage of a similar custom-built chip, albeit it remains to be seen whether the company once again enlists Intel’s help to build such a silicon.