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.
Below, we'll attempt to answer that as well as many other 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.
Google Pixel 6: release date and price
We could see the Pixel 6 announced in just a couple of weeks at the Google I/O tech conference. CEO Sundar Pichai has teased "significant product updates and announcements" at the online conference, which runs from 18-20th May. That suggests new hardware to us.
But a full announcement might not be on the cards. The Pixel 5 is only six 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
That doesn't mean we won't see the Pixel 6 at I/O. Google could tease the handset, or at least confirm its existence, before holding a full reveal later in the year, probably during the usual September/October time. After all, 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.
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 XL and keep the standard Pixel 6 as more affordable.
It all depends on what else Google has planned for this year. If it does launch a foldable phone – said to be codenamed "Passport" – it will undoubtedly have 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.
Google Pixel 6: design
So, its Google prepping a folding version of its upcoming Pixel 6 flagship phone?
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. And chances are, the line-up will be headed up by a more mainstream design. We'll get into the spec next but it's worth nothing that a Pixel 6 XL looks to be in in the works.
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 screen. That would certainly make it a lot easier to operate an over-sized phone, and points to the existence of the Pixel 6 XL.
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, so we have no reason to think Google won't stick with a similar design for the Pixel 6 – especially as the leaked Pixel 5a looks very much like the 4a.
Google Pixel 6: specs
The specs are a little tricky to call at this early stage, mainly because no leaks have detailed them yet. But using our industry knowledge we can make some educated guesses.
For starters, Qualcomm recently launched its latest chipset, the Snapdragon 888. If Google wants to trick out the Pixel 6 with the best possible performance, it'll likely opt for Qulcomm's latest. But if it wants to keep it a mid-range device, it might use a less powerful processor, something like the successor to the 765G. This hasn't actually been announced yet, but is widely expected to be called the 775G.
There's also a rumour that Google is partnering with Samsung to develop its own range of chips. So there is a chance that the Pixel 6 could be powered by the first ever Google-made mobile chipset.
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.
Next up is the screen. High refresh rate displays are becoming all the rage with Android phones – and not just at the high end of the market. Indeed, Samsung has put the tech into its mid-range phones. So we can probably expect the Pixel 6 to have either a 90Hz or 120Hz panel.
These refresh rates are better for rendering fast-moving content such as sports and games, meaning less blur.
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.
In terms of screen size, we're currently expecting the Pixel 6 to have same 6-inch screen size as the Pixel 5, with the same resolution of 2340 x 1080 pixels. The rumoured foldable version could go bigger, with a 7.6-inch display.
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.
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?
We could see the return of the telephoto lens previously featured in the Pixel 4. This was dropped for the Pixel 5, but could make a welcome comeback, either as a replacement to the ultra wide lens, or as a third camera in the rear array.
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...
Google Pixel 6: verdict
Too much about the Pixel 6 remains unknown to make any kind of judgement right now. But if Google's previous efforts are anything to go by, and judging by the prevailing standards of the current Android competition, it will definitely be one to watch in the run-up to its launch.
We'll bring you more news and leaks when we can.
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