The Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P are packed with a number of cool hardware improvements over previous generations, like a shockingly fast fingerprint reader and a fast-charging USB Type-C connector. During today's presentation, Dave Burke spoke about a brand new piece of hardware dubbed Android Sensor Hub that can significantly extend battery life and allows even more inventive features to these phones. It's a dedicated low-power processor designed to efficiently manage sensor data so the main processor can go to sleep for longer periods of time.
Cued up to the start of the Sensor Hub talk.
The Android Sensor Hub is special because it's hooked directly into a phone's sensors. Data from the accelerometer, gyroscope, fingerprint reader, and many other sensors can funnel into the a small-scale processor running Google's custom algorithms. This allows the Sensor Hub to interpret activities and gestures independently. The main processor only has to wake up when something happens that requires more attention, which means there is a huge potential for power savings.
As the presentation demonstrated, some the advantages of this technique will be the ability to detect when a phone changes orientation or somebody touches the screen. These and many other input streams can be constantly monitored while power consumption remains very low.
The Sensor Hub stack also supports hardware sensor batching, a feature introduced in KitKat that allows sensors to delay handing off non-critical data to the operating system for a short span of time rather than produce a constant stream of data as it is happens. Sensor batching was used to implement things like a step counter without requiring a processor to remain constantly awake to measure each step.
For now, the Sensor Hub may only be a part of the new Nexus phones, but it will surely become a standard component in future designs. Combined with Android M's new Doze Mode, we should expect to see some remarkable idle time from our phones.