Android 12 hints that the Pixel 6 has an image sensor and a Samsung modem

The fourth Android 12 beta was rolled out earlier today, marking the platform stability milestone. The goal of this release is to provide developers with a release with finalized APIs and application-oriented behaviors so that they can test and update their applications before the stable release. As always, Beta 4 contains several changes not mentioned in Google’s blog, such as the Android 12 Easter egg, but it also contains updated versions of several Google apps. A scan of these updated Google apps reveals new information about the upcoming Pixel 6 series, possibly including the image sensor used by the main camera as well as the modem the phone uses for cellular connectivity.

Pixel 6 main camera could use Samsung’s 50MP GN1 sensor

A new version of the Google Camera app has been preloaded on Pixel phones with the Android 12 Beta 4 update. In a library contained in the APK, GCam modder extraordinaire cstark27 discovered a string called “gn1_wide_p21”, which suggests that the main “wide-angle” camera of Google’s Pixel 2021 phones (i.e. the Pixel 6 series) will be Samsung’s 50MP ISOCELL GN1 image sensor.

Reference gn1_wide_p21 in a Google Camera library

Credit: cstark27

This high-megapixel image sensor was announced mid-last year and supports Dual Pixel AF for faster and more precise focusing. An earlier leak suggested the main wide-angle camera would have a 50MP sensor, and the string cstark27 found in the Google Camera app confirms this. Google has used Sony’s IMX363 image sensor for the last few generations of Pixel phones, so the Samsung GN1 is a major upgrade in terms of raw specs. Of course, a good image sensor doesn’t mean much if the image processing software isn’t up to snuff, but if there’s anything Pixel phones are known for, it’s their camera software.

Google could use Samsung’s Exynos 5123 modem

In another APK system, modder cstark27 also discovered a reference to the “g5123b” modem. This modem model is “mapped” to multiple devices, although the strings identifying these devices are encrypted. Through clever spoofing and reverse engineering, the same way we determined the Pixel 5 has Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 765G, it’s possible to decrypt these strings. After that, cstark27 determined that the “g5123b” modem is mapped to 5 devices with the following codenames: Oriole, Raven, Passport, Slider, and a fifth unknown product. Oriole and raven are the codenames of the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro respectively, while passport is the supposed codename of Google’s foldable Pixel and slider is the codename of an unknown Google product.

The other modem model mappings in this APK correspond to previous devices and their Snapdragon processors, so it’s likely that this “g5123b” string refers to the modem in the Google Tensor chip. Although unconfirmed, it is likely that this modem is based on Samsung Exynos 5123 modem, the 5G modem used in the Exynos versions of the Galaxy S20 and Galaxy Note 20. This modem supports both sub-6GHz and mmWave 5G, but it’s unclear if Google plans to ship the Pixel 6 with this modem in the world. Samsung typically uses Qualcomm-made SoCs and modems for the flagships they sell in the US, but there’s no evidence that Google will do the same.

Last week, Google confirmed that its Pixel 6 smartphones would ship with the company’s in-house chip called Google Tensor. Rumors suggest that this chip was designed in coordination with Samsung’s SLSI division, and a recent report by Nikkei says Samsung will handle production of the chip using its 5nm process technology. A separate report from GalaxyClub last week the Google Tensor chip has the internal designation “Exynos 9855”, placing it between the Exynos 9840 (AKA the Exynos 2100 in the Galaxy S21 series) and the upcoming Exynos 9925 (which is rumored to be launched as Exynos 2200 in the Galaxy S22 series). So it wouldn’t be surprising to see Google using an Exynos modem for its flagship Pixel 6 series, but again, we can’t confirm which modem the phones use until they launch later this year.

Thanks to PNF Software for providing us with a user license JEB decompilera professional-grade reverse engineering tool for Android apps.

Michael C. Garrison