Google Attributes Pixel 8's Initial Gemini AI Snub to RAM

Is 8GB insufficient today?

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Google partially reversed course earlier this week and decided to make the Gemini AI on-device exclusive to the Pixel 8 Pro. Google later revealed that Gemini Nano, a more condensed version of the software, will indeed be arriving to both Pixel 8 models, while first blaming "hardware limitations" for the device's exclusion.

It seems a little strange considering the nearly same specifications of both Pixel 8 models. What specific hardware constraints made Gemini Nano difficult to utilize on the less expensive smartphone model?

Thanks to Seang Chau, Google's vice president of devices and software services, we finally have an explanation. RAM is the key to it all.

"When we looked at the Pixel 8 as an example, the Pixel 8 has 4GB less memory, and it wasn't as easy of a call to just say, 'all right, we're going to enable it on Pixel 8 as well.'" Chau said on the Made by Google podcast. "The Pixel 8 Pro, having 12GB of RAM, was a perfect place for us to put [Gemini Nano] on the device and see what we could do."

It doesn't sound like it will be implemented for free, so Google will make you go through a few more steps in order to give it a try.

"We intend to make Gemini Nano accessible on Pixel 8 through a developer option, enabling developers who are aware of the precise impact on their user experience to utilize this feature," Chau clarified. "Of course, users who are aware of the possible harm to the user experience can also utilize this feature."

Stated differently, it appears that the Pixel 8 Pro's additional 4GB of RAM goes a long way toward guaranteeing the seamless operation of the phone's standard non-AI features. That implies that smartphones could require a significant RAM increase if generative AI models like Gemini Nano aren't simply a fad.

At the moment, Android smartphones typically have 8 or 12GB of RAM. While there are occasional extremes in both directions—some low-cost phones have only 3GB of storage, while high-end phones boast of having an absurd 24GB—the great majority of phones fall between 8 and 12GB.

That's okay for now. After doing comprehensive testing and subjecting phones with different RAM capacities to a range of tasks, Android Authority came to the following simple conclusions: "RAM with 8 to 12 GB is ideal; 16 GB seems to be just for bragging rights."

But if consumer-facing generative AI turns out to be more than a passing fad, those numbers may rise quickly.

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