Google's 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 very good value for such a well-specced handset.
The Pixel 5 launched at the end of last year, but already rumours are rumbling of a successor. It leaked recently that Google plans to launch a foldable phone at some point in the near future – could that be the Pixel 6? There's also talk of Google announcing a Pixel 6 XL but renamed as the Pixel 6 Pro.
Below, we'll attempt to answer all questions about the Pixel 6, such as what kind of specs it'll have, how much it'll cost and when it will launch. So let's dive in and see what Google has in store.
Spoiler alert: From what we've seen, the Pixel 6 looks like a bold new direction for the company.
Google Pixel 6: release date and price
We had hoped to see a Pixel 6 announcement – or at least a teaser – at the Google I/O tech conference after CEO Sundar Pichai teased "significant product updates and announcements" were coming. But sadly there were no new smartphones on show.
Perhaps that's not surprising. The Pixel 5 is only seven months old, and Google usually holds off announcing a new Pixel phone until September or October. A launch then makes sense, allowing the phone to land on shop shelves just in time for the busy Christmas period.
Don't believe us? Just look at 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 the same 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 of the pandemic. So expect a launch in the autumn/fall.
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?
Maybe, but it's far from a dead cert. Google usually sells a bigger, higher-specced and more expensive variant of its Pixel phones. The most recent, the Pixel 4XL, costs £829 ($899, AU$1280). But the Pixel 5 was the first to not to be joined by an XL version. Google could keep to this strategy, and re-position the Pixel range as solely a mid-range proposition. Or it could enlarge the size of the standard Pixel and up the price. Or, of course, it could launch a Pixel 6 Pro and keep the standard Pixel 6 as more affordable.
Going on recent leaks, the last of these options seems the most likely. According to reliable tipster OnLeaks, Google will launch a bigger Pixel handset, but it will be called the Pixel 6 Pro rather than Pixel 6 XL. Not only will it be bigger than the standard Pixel 6, it will be more powerful too, with more cameras.
But it all depends on what else Google has planned for this year. If it does launch a foldable phone – said to be codenamed "Passport" – that handset will undoubtedly carry a higher price tag, which would legitimise keeping the Pixel 6 as a mid-range affair. But if the folding phone is pushed back to 2022 or beyond, Google could well spec out the next Pixel and charge more for it.
It also depends on Google's strategy for pricing the Pixel 5 lower in the first place. Did it foresee the economic fallout from the global pandemic and reckon that people would be less willing (or less able) to spend big on a smartphone? Or did it admit to itself that it couldn't challenge Apple and Samsung's dominance in the high end and decide to make a play for the middle market instead? How it positions the Pixel 6 might reveal a lot about its market strategy for the future.
From the leaked images, it looks like the Pixel range is in for a major overhaul.
Google Pixel 6: design
So how will the Pixel 6 be radically different, exactly? Just take a look at the latest render of the Pixel 6 Pro, above, which landed recently via reliable leaker OnLeaks. and digit.in.
It has a curved OLED screen that stands 6.67in big. It cascades over the sides of the device, making whatever you're watching seem more immersive. But that's not the only design change we're expecting – it also has a coloured band across its upper rear, just above the three camera array (also a first for the Pixel range).
According to another render posted by OnLeaks (this one over at 91Mobiles) the standard Pixel 6 will have a similar look, retaining the same coloured band and horizontal camera arrangement (albeit with two snappers instead of three). But its screen will be flat instead of curved.
These leaks square with another that came just a week earlier, which suggests they are on the right track.
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 (i.e. the Pixel 6 Pro). Which suggests the Pixel 6 Pro is on the way after all.
As for materials, the Pixel 5 features an aluminium body covered by a thin skin of bio-resin plastic to enable wireless charging. It won plaudits for its simple but stylish look, but these renders suggest Google is taking a different tack for the Pixel 6. That's surprising, especially given that the leaked Pixel 5a looks very much like the 4a.
Surprising it might be, but not unwelcome. The Pixel range could do with a shakeup, and this bold new look would do just that.
Now, what about that folding Pixel 6 we've been hearing about?
A report from South Korea suggests that Samsung is ready to supply its foldable OLED displays to three Android vendors. Given that Google and Samsung worked together on Samsung's Android-powered Galaxy Z Flip folding phone, it makes sense that Samsung would return the favour.
The report (via BGR) claims the rumoured foldable Pixel 6 phone will sport a 7.6-inch display. There's no word on whether Google will go the for a clamshell-style 'flip' design, or a true 'folding' design, which would open and close like a book.
Of course, there's no guarantee there will be a folding version of the Pixel 6. In fact, the trail on this has somewhat cooled in recent weeks. We'll keep them peeled, but for now, we wouldn't hold our breath.
Google Pixel 6: specs
There have been plenty of specs to go with these leaks from OnLeaks. The Pixel 6 Pro will have a 6.67in OLED screen, and while there's no word on the refresh rate, we would expect either 90Hz or 120Hz, in line with other flagship smartphones.
These refresh rates are better at rendering fast-moving content such as sports and games, meaning less blur.
The cameras include a wide-angle snapper, a periscope telephoto camera and one unknown camera, all arranged next to the LED flash. They are lined up horizontally across the upper rear of the phone, which is another change for the range. As is the colour strip across the top.
Top and bottom speakers should provide stereo sound when watching in landscape.
Wireless charging should come as standard, as it did on the Pixel 5. And the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro could be the first phones powered by Google's own chips – the search giant is rumoured to be working on an SoC (system on a chip) codenamed Whitechapel. 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.
If not, it could use Qualcomm's latest and greatest, the Snapdragon 888, or the lower end successor to the 765G (rumoured to be called the 775G).
Even if Google does go the lower-specced route, we can still expect the handset to 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, even for a (relatively) more affordable handset.
The Pixel 6 will have a dual camera set-up instead of a triple, and its screen is smaller – 6.4in to the Pro's 6.67in. But it has the same wireless charging and in-display fingerprint scanner.
Another tip is that Google is set to bring back facial recognition (last seen on the Pixel 4). 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.
Battery-wise, we're expecting at least 4000mAh, matching the Pixel 5, and possibly more if Google opts for a bigger screen or more power-hungry processor, which looks likely given the recent leaks.
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?
First, we're expecting the return of the telephoto lens previously featured in the Pixel 4. This was dropped for the Pixel 5, but looks to be making a welcome return on the Pixel 6 Pro.
We could also see some exciting tech in the front-facing camera. Namely, it could be built under the screen itself. This isn't just hearsay – Google has patented the tech (via Patently Apple). An under-screen camera would mean no unsightly notch or 'pinhole' obscuring the display. Not only would the handset look much sleeker, it would also enhance our enjoyment of films, TV shows and games.
Google wouldn't be the first with this tech – it's already been seen in the ZTE Axon 20 5G. And just because Google has patented it, that doesn't mean it will implement it in the Pixel 6. But it certainly makes it a possibility...
The latest renders dispute this, however, but do mention an under-display fingerprint sensor.
Google Pixel 6: verdict
The latest leaks show 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 if these leaks are on the money, it looks like Google is back to bother the big boys.
We can't wait to see the official reveal. Until then, stay tuned, as we'll be updating this page regularly with more leaks and rumours as they emerge.
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