First traces of the Google Pixel 3 show up in AOSP with hints at improved networking

The release of Android P marked the end of non-security oriented software updates for the Google Nexus series. We’re now fully into Google Pixel territory, with both the first and second generation Pixel smartphones receiving the first Android P Developer Preview. The Google Pixel and Pixel XL launched with Android 7.1 Nougat while the Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL launched with Android 8.0 Oreo, so we expect the upcoming Google Pixel 3 series to launch with Android P. We don’t have many details about the third generation device(s), unfortunately, but we can at least report on the first traces of the device showing up in AOSP.

In a commit titled “Cherrypick ‘Add device config to decide which Auto Selection Network UI to use’,” the description states that a new configuration has been added to the Android framework “because the HAL V_1_2 only supports Pixel 3, and the new Auto Selection Network UI is based on HAL V_1_2.” HAL, in this case, refers to a Hardware Abstraction Layer, a piece of software that bridges the gap between the Android operating system (framework) and the hardware. In particular, the HAL that is referenced is the radio HAL (cellular connectivity).

Google Pixel 3 Android P

There isn’t much information available about the new HAL. Presumably, the new HAL is for radio features that are only found on the Google Pixel 3, but we can’t say for sure. There are references to a new “NetworkScan API” which are further described in another commit, but there’s nothing particularly illuminating about the code. I’m hoping that the new NetworkScan API, coupled with the updated radio HAL, will result in reduced battery usage for cellular network scans (which is one of the biggest sources of battery drain apart from the display), but I can’t say anything definitively just yet.

Update: another, more likely explanation of these changes is that this is just to allow for continuous updates in the “scan networks” option in mobile network settings. Currently, when you tap on “scan networks,” the result of network scanning shows up 30 seconds later. The HAL update presumably adds the continuous update function as well.

Google hasn’t released the full source code for the Android P Developer Preview, so there’s a ton of information we’re missing out on. Most of their work is done internally, which is why we’re surprised to see a commit cherry-picked from their internal master branch that explicitly references their upcoming device. Google is generally pretty careful about what information makes its way to public repositories, but sometimes (such as the case with Material Design 2) references slip through the cracks just waiting to be discovered. If any new information about the Google Pixel 3 shows up in AOSP, I’ll let you all know.

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