Google Pixel 6: Everything we know so far
Google is lining up a new design and an entirely new processor system for its next-generation Pixel phones as it shifts back into the premium phone market.
Read our full review of the Google Pixel 6 right here.
Google has in recent years shifted and shuffled around its own brand phones. Its very first generation of "Nexus" handsets were designed to be lower-cost phones with the features you needed but little of the design frills.
The Nexus phones gave way to the Pixel family, a generally more premium designed and feature-rich series that tried to compete with the Samsung and Apple offerings of their day. However, the more recent Google Pixel 5 and Google Pixel 4a 5G handsets were more mid-range in their pricing and appeal, signalling something of a shift back towards those older Nexus days.
It appears the pendulum is shifting yet again, with the Google Pixel 6 looking like a much more premium phone series.
Google Pixel 6 release date
Google has confirmed that it will hold a launch event in the US for the Pixel 6 family of phones on 19 October 2021 at 10am PT. As with so many phone launches, that means it'll happen in Australian time in the early hours of 20 October 2021, although that's just the launch announcement.
It's then a question of how quickly Google chooses to launch the Pixel 6 phones in Australia specifically. It's very much guesswork, but a late October/early November on sale date seems likely based on that launch timing. We'll very much have to wait and see.
Google Pixel 6 pricing
All of Google's announcements around the Google Pixel 6 and Google Pixel 6 Pro suggest that it will flip back to more premium pricing models for its new flagships.
That will represent a significant shift from the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G.
Pricing for the Pixel 5 started at $999 at launch, while the Pixel 4a 5G pricing started at $799. It's quite likely that we'll see prices for the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro shift well above $1,000 if Google's "premium" talk pans out. Again, we'll know a little more after that 19 October 2021 launch event.
In the past, Google's Pixel phones have been offered across multiple carriers, although the very first Pixels were Telstra exclusive. Again, we'll have to wait to see whether carriers flock to offering plan deals for the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro.
Google Pixel 6 design
Usually within the highly secretive world of premium flagships, manufacturers try to keep the visual design closely under wraps until they are at least ready to selectively leak them, or announce them outright.
Google doesn't think that way, and we already know a lot about the Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro designs.
The Pixel 6 Pro will ship in gold/yellow, grey/white and black/grey finishes – those aren't fancy colour names, just our call on the images that Google has already released. Google says that the Pixel 6 Pro will be built around a polished aluminium frame, which should look nice and shiny, but may well also be a fingerprint magnet.
The Google Pixel 6 will ship in red/pink, green, and grey/black finishes at the rear. Again, those will probably have fancy marketing names to go with them. While the Pixel 6 Pro gets polished aluminium, the Pixel 6 has a matte aluminium finish.
Where this may be interesting is in seeing which hues actually land on our shores. Google has in the past made only limited runs of specific colours, or only offered them in specific markets.
The other big rear design change is in the camera module. Where the Pixel 5/4a phones used a square array, the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro have a vertical stripe module and bump that runs the entire rear length of the phone. That will give it a distinct "shelf edge" when held in the hand if you're not using a case on the Pixel 6.
Google's own "sneak peek" at the Pixel 6 mostly focuses on the new visual design of Android 12, but also shows off the centre mounted single selfie camera at the front.
Google Pixel 6 cameras
Google has long relied on the power of its AI to improve its camera operation, which is why so many Pixel phones relied on single sensors on the rear and front of its phones for the most part.
While the selfie camera on the Google Pixel 6 and Google Pixel 6 Pro will be a single lens affair, it's a more mixed offering at the back.
The Pixel 6 will feature a standard wide and ultra-wide sensor, while the Pixel 6 Pro will feature wide, ultra-wide and 4x optical zoom lens. Optical zoom hasn't been a big feature of prior Pixel phones, with Google again mostly relying on AI and smart processing to make up the difference.
A blog post on Chinese site Weibo suggests that the Pixel 6 will feature a rear 50MP primary camera and 12MP ultrawide IMX386 sensor, while the front-facing camera will be a simple 8MP affair. For the Pixel 6 Pro the camera specs step up, with the mystery leaker suggesting that the 50MP/12MP pair found on the Pixel 6 will be joined by a 48MP telephoto lens with 4x optical zoom.
Intelligent machine learning is still going to be a big part of the Pixel 6 photography story, however. Google says that the new "Tensor" system on a chip that is the intelligent heart of every Pixel phone will allow for a "revamped" camera experience.
While precise specifications for what that means aren't entirely available, one area where Google has said it's going to try to do better is in automatic white balancing for non-Caucasian skin tones. Google has also stated that the new camera may be able to adjust better for taking photos of children who won't stay still, although whether that's a faster shutter speed or predictive stills from video isn't entirely clear either.
Google Pixel 6 power
Where the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro really get interesting is when you look at their core processors. The vast majority of Android phones you can buy today, and every single Pixel phone up until now, have used ARM-based processors developed by Qualcomm.
The Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro will still run on ARM, but using an entirely new System on a Chip (SoC) developed and built by Google that it calls "Tensor".
Tensor will allow it to "make the Google phones we've always envisioned", according to Google's Rick Osterloh.
The appeal pitch here is mostly around machine learning and the ability to embed even more security hardware to lock down the Pixel phones relative to the rest of the Android market. Osterloh's claim is that with "Tensor's new security core and Titan M2, Pixel 6 will have the most layers of hardware security in any phone."
The shift away from Qualcomm is an interesting one, as it further splits the mobile phone market processing picture. Samsung uses a mix of its own Exynos silicon and Qualcomm systems, Apple has its own "Apple Silicon" by way of its A-series phone processors, and now Google will have Tensor, at least for this generation of Pixel phones.
It's always possible, as with so many other Google experiments, that Tensor is a one-shot deal for this generation, bearing in mind that (for example) the Pixel 4 had Google's Soli radar sensor on board for a few neat hands-free features, but it's not been seen on a Pixel phone since.
That same Chinese leak suggests (but of course does not confirm) that the Pixel 6 will have up to 8GB RAM and 256GB of storage, while the Pixel 6 Pro is tipped to run with up to 12GB RAM and 512GB of onboard storage. It's always possible Google could offer different RAM and storage combinations at varying price points, or even only in certain international markets.
One feature that's not at all confirmed but super likely is fixed storage. Like Apple, Google is far more keen for you to store your data in the cloud than on your devices.
Google Pixel 6 battery
Google's Pixel phones haven't typically been the best performers when it comes to battery life. Google's own AI can help you get through a day's usage if you cut down on features, but compared to the likes of Samsung or even newer Apple phones, it's been something of an issue for Pixel owners.
That same late Weibo rumour points to a 4614mAh battery for the Pixel 6 and a 5000mAh battery for the Pixel 6 Pro, which would be largely in line with the battery capacities for phones of their size in the Android market right now. What we don't know is how actually battery efficient they will be, because battery life isn't just a matter of having a bigger number in your battery specifications.
Hopefully some of those Tensor SoC smarts can also be applied to sipping gently at the electrons in the new devices. It's rumoured that Google is working on a new Pixel Stand charger for the Pixel 6 with improved wireless charging speeds.
That's a device that will definitely be sold separately, and it's possible that Google may follow Apple and Samsung's lead in also not supplying an in-box charger with the Google Pixel 6 or Google Pixel 6 Pro.
Google Pixel 6 early verdict
Google's swinging pendulum of premium-or-not-premium has been something of an issue for the brand in recent years. The cheaper Pixels, especially the Pixel 4a, seriously challenged the value proposition in the mid-range space, but did so while jettisoning the "premium" appeal of the brand.
That appears to be where Google is heading back to with the Pixel 6 and especially the Pixel 6 Pro. While there's a small cadre of Google aficionados who will undoubtedly buy the new Pixels simply because they're the new Pixels, it's got a challenge ahead of itself against the likes of Samsung and Apple to grab more everyday consumers on board.
The Tensor SoC is key here. If it's a true generational leap in capabilities, and especially if it can outmuscle Apple's significant performance lead and make that clear to consumers along the way, it could be a truly compelling prospect at the right price.
Current Pixel deals
The Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro aren't on sale just yet, even though Google is making them no secret.
Pixel 4a, Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G stock is running low right now, so if you're keen, you might want to chase down a deal before they're all gone.
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