Google has officially unveiled the next handsets in its Pixel range – the Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. It hasn't revealed a full spec list – it's keeping that close to its chest until the autumn launch – but it has released the key specs and said the Pixel 6 won't come with a charger in the box.
Google Pixel handsets are some of the best smartphones money can buy. And unlike most of their rivals, they don't come with crazy price tags. The most recent in the range, the Pixel 5, costs just £599 ($699, AU$999), which is good value for such a well-specced mobile.
Don't expect such wallet-friendly prices for the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. They will be positioned as altogether more premium products, which means higher prices, we're afraid. But they should come with some awesome new skills.
But exactly how much will the phones cost? What kinds of specs will they have? And what exactly will these new skills be? Let's go through everything Google has said – along with some rumours and leaks – and piece together the Pixel 6 puzzle.
Google Pixel 6: release date
Some tech watchers expected a Pixel 6 announcement at May's Google I/O tech conference after CEO Sundar Pichai teased "significant product updates and announcements". Sadly, there were no new smartphones on show – not even the Pixel 5a, which launched in mid-August.
But Google only waited a couple of months more before making the phones official. On 2nd August, it put out a blog post announcing the handsets, and put a promo page live on the Google Store. This flags the release date as "autumn", a busy time in the gadget calendar as devices land just in time for Christmas.
Here are the dates of Google's past Pixel announcements:
- Google Pixel: 4th October 2016
- Google Pixel 2: 4th October 2017
- Google Pixel 3: 9th October 2018
- Google Pixel 4: 15th October 2019
- Google Pixel 5: 30th September 2020
In a recent earnings call, Pichai also said that "product releases are returning to a regular cadence", which suggests a return to the usual launch cycles following the disruption caused by the pandemic. So the smart money is on a launch in early October.
We could even tentatively pencil in the Pixel 6 launch date for Tuesday 19th October, thanks to an Instagram post from Google's official account (above) which is a parody of Drake's Certified Lover Boy album cover. The post shows rows of Pixel 6 devices, with various widgets all set to 19th October.
Google Pixel 6: price
Now, the price. Google positioned the Pixel 5 as a more affordable handset, giving it a price tag of just £599 ($699, AU$999). A similar pricing strategy was also adopted by Samsung for the Galaxy S21, which costs £769 ($799, AU$1249). So can we expect the Pixel 6 to follow suit?
Not likely. In an interview with The Verge, Google's hardware chief Rick Osterloh hinted that the two phones will have higher price tags than their predecessors.
"We've definitively not been in the flagship tier for the past couple years, this will be different," he said. He went on to say that the Pixel 6 "will certainly be a premium-priced product". Which suggests prices around four figures.
As an aside, the Pixel 6 Pro will replace the XL variant Google usually launches. The most recent of these, the Pixel 4XL – there was no XL variant of the Pixel 5 – costs £829 ($899, AU$1280). Like the XL, the Pixel 6 Pro is a bigger, higher-specced version of the standard Pixel handset. But expect its price to be significantly higher than that of the Pixel 4XL.
Is this all Google has planned for this year? Maybe not. The search giant is rumoured to be launching a foldable phone – said to be codenamed "Passport" – also later in 2021. The rumour was that Google would price the Pixel 6 as a midrange phone, with the foldable positioned as the high-end model. But with the Pixel being a premium product, the Passport foldable could be delayed until 2022.
Google Pixel 6: design
So what's new about the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro? A premium price tag demands a premium design, and from the pictures Google has released, that looks to be the order of the day.
The most notable design flourish is on the back. The new camera bar was born of necessity – according to Google, the new camera lenses and sensors are too big to fit into the previous Pixel's camera housing, and so the camera bar was born. It's a horizontal black bar that spans the width of the phone's back and it gives the phone a really distinctive look.
The stark black of that contrasts with the pastel tones of the phones' bodies. The line of phone body above the camera bar is also a different shade to that below, making another point of difference. (Most phones' fronts look the same nowadays, so manufacturers have to make their backs stand out.)
This new design was first spotted back in May in renders posted by OnLeaks and digit.in. These also show the Pixel 6 Pro with a slightly curved screen, which was on the money. More on that in a moment.
The standard Pixel 6 has a similar design, but with only two camera sensors instead of three. The edges of its screen are flat instead of curved. Again, this was predicted in another render posted by OnLeaks (this one over at 91Mobiles).
These leaks square with a slew of June 2021 renders posted on Twitter by tipster Jon Prosser. They too predicted the impressively thin bezels and ‘edge to edge’ camera bump to the rear. Prosser claims to have sent real-life images of the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro to concept artist Ian Zelbo (@RendersbyIan), who the created the sleek 3D renders.
The bigger Pixel 6 Pro could be easier to use thanks to a neat new Android feature. XDA's Mishal Rahman tweets the Android 12 user interface features a mode called "Silky home" which brings the key elements on the screen – buttons, checkboxes, toggle switches, etc – closer to the bottom of the display. That would certainly make it a lot easier to operate an over-sized phone like the Pixel 6 Pro.
We're in for some new materials, too. According to Google, the Pixel 6 Pro has a "light polished aluminum frame", and the standard Pixel 6 has a "matte aluminum finish". This is a change from the Pixel 5's aluminium body covered by a thin skin of bio-resin plastic.
Google has also said that the Pixel 6 won't come with a charger in the box as most people "already have at least one USB-C charger". The Pixel 5a will be the last Google smartphone to ship with a charger.
More recently, Google has release a new trailer which shows off brief flashes of an actual Pixel 6 handset in the flesh, as opposed to the previous renders. You can't see it for long, but it's the best real-life look we've had to date:
Now, what about that folding Pixel 6 we've been hearing about?
Google was conspicuously quiet about it during the recent unveil, but a leak from industry insider Ross Young, of Display Supply Chain Consultants, suggests that the long-rumoured foldable Pixel will be available this year and will sport a high-quality 7.57-inch, variable refresh rate display supplied by Samsung Display.
That ties in nicely with a previous report from South Korea that tipped Samsung to supply its foldable OLED displays to three Android vendors. Given that Google helped Samsung create customer Android software for the Samsung's Galaxy Z Flip folding phone, we've long suspected that the South Korean giant would help Google create its first folding phone.
The same report (via BGR) claims the rumoured foldable Pixel 6 phone will sport a 7.6-inch display. Again, that dovetails with Ross Young's tweet dated 19th July 2021. There's no word on whether Google will go for a clamshell-style 'flip' design, or a true 'folding' design, which would open and close like a book.
More recently we've seen rumours of a Galaxy Fold-like folding Pixel handset, based on information spotted in an Android build. The device itself is codenamed "Jumbojack", though we're not sure if its related to the Pixel 6 or a future handset.
Of course, there's no guarantee there will be a folding version of the Pixel 6 but it's starting to look more and more likely. We'll keep our eyes peeled for all the latest leaks and rumours.
Google Pixel 6: specs
What about the spec sheet? While Google hasn't revealed much about the handsets, what we do know is pretty impressive.
Firstly, the screens. The Pixel 6 Pro leads the pair with a 6.7-inch screen with a QHD+ resolution. Its refresh rate is 120Hz, which is the new standard for even midrange phones. That higher rate will mean better rendering during fast-moving content like gaming. It's also double the refresh rate of the iPhone 12 line-up.
The screen is very slightly curved at the edges and bleeds into aluminium rails on the side bezels.
The standard Pixel 6 is a little smaller, as you would expect, and has a slightly lower-specced display. At 6.4 inches – a bit bigger than the 6.1-inch iPhone 12 and 6.2-inch Samsung Galaxy S21 – it has an FHD+ resolution and a 90Hz refresh rate. Its screen is flat, without the curved edges of the Pixel 6 Pro.
The Pixel 6 could be Google's first with a fingerprint sensor built into the screen. A tweet by Android senior vice president Hiroshi Lockheimer seemed to reveal an icon suggesting the scanner would be built into the screen. He soon deleted the tweet (but not before it was screenshot), which only adds fuel to the fire.
The Pixel 6 range also debuts Google's new system on a chip (SoC), the Tensor SoC. (When this was rumoured, it had the codename 'Whitechapel'.) It's been designed by Google, though it's not yet clear which companies make which of its component parts. Google is keen to big up its AI and machine learning capabilities, so expect both phones to boast some natty new photography skills.
Such as? Google has talked up the anti-blurring capabilities. So if you take a photo and someone is blurred, the phone will be able to snap a still with its ultrawide lens as well as the composite HDR image captured by the main sensor. The phone can then recognise a face within the photo and combine the still from the ultrawide snapper with the others to pick out a moment when that face wasn't blurred.
Controlling both the hardware and Android software on the phone would ape Apple's approach to its iPhones, and give Google greater control, which could lead to gains in performance and battery life.
Wireless charging should come as standard, as it did on the Pixel 5. And both phones should be 5G. The technology is becoming more and more common, and if Google hopes to convince people to buy and use its phone for years to come, 5G will be a necessity.
Google is rumoured to be bringing back facial recognition (last seen on the Pixel 4) and integrating an in-screen fingerprint sensor. The rumours comes via XDA’s Mishaal Rahman, who recently spotted a way to "unlock your phone securely with your face and fingerprint" hidden in the Android 12 OS code. He also spotted a tweet from a senior Android exec seemingly revealing the fingerprint sensor built into the screen, and screenshot it before it was deleted.
Battery-wise, we're expecting at least 4000mAh, matching the Pixel 5, and possibly more to meet the requirements of the bigger screen and more power-hungry processor. According to the latest leaks, the Pixel 6 will almost double the charging speed of previous models by offering 33W fast charging, although the charger itself is expected to be a separate purchase. It's also expected to offer 23W wireless charging too. If true, the Pixel 6 will charge faster than the 20W-charging iPhone 13, but still nowhere near the 65W+ rivals from OnePlus and Xiaomi.
And the rumoured foldable Pixel? It's said to have a 7.57-inch screen with a high-quality LTPO 120Hz panel from Samsung Display. LTPO screens allow for variable refresh rates. While they top out at 120Hz, they can also go much lower for less intensive tasks such as reading emails in order reduce battery consumption.
Google Pixel 6: cameras
The cameras have always been one of the Pixel range's highlights. Indeed, we called the Pixel 5's snapper a "class-leading camera". So what can we expect from the Pixel 6?
The 6 Pro has three rear cameras: a new wide-angle main sensor, an ultrawide lens, and a 4X optical-zoom telephoto snapper. According to Google, the main wide-angle sensor lets in 150 per cent more light than the Pixel 5's. The Pixel 6 has the same setup but without the telephoto lens.
On both handsets, the camera array is housed in the new camera bar that spans the back of the device. This is expected to protrude about 3mm, according to the leak of the first ever Pixel 6 Pro case.
The telephoto lens on the Pixel 6 Pro hasn't been seen since the Pixel 4 (it was dropped for the Pixel 5). Google hasn't revealed its specs yet, but recent rumours tip the Pro for a massive 50MP main sensor, 5x optical zoom and 8MP 'periscope' telephoto lens.
The handsets were rumoured to feature front-facing cameras built into their screens – Google has patented the tech, after all (via Patently Apple). An under-screen camera would mean no unsightly notch or 'pinhole' obscuring the display. But according to the pictures Google has released, that's not the case, as a pinhole is clearly visible.
Google Pixel 6: verdict
This looks like a bold (and welcome) new direction for Google's Pixel range. The Pixel 5 was a mid-priced affair, which some saw as Google admitting it couldn't compete with Apple and Samsung at the high end. But now Google is back to bother the big boys.
The bulging 'edge to edge' camera bump may not be everyone's cup of tea, but if it means a super-powerful 50MP main camera, the Pixel 6 Pro could have plenty of takers. The same could be said for the rumoured 'foldable' Pixel 6, which has the potential to make the design of the iPhone 13 look a little humdrum.
We can't wait to find out more details closer to launch. Until then, stay tuned, as we'll be updating this page regularly with more leaks and rumours as they emerge.
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