Google’s Pixel 6 phones.
Google’s new phones, the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, are set to launch on Oct. 19, and although we’ve had a glimpse at the new Pixel right before the Pixel 5A launched, not every rumor has yet been debunked or proved true. The latest buzz comes from a likely accidental leaked listing by UK online retailer Carphone Warehouse showing many of the Pixel 6’s specs including a new Titan M2 chip for better on-device security, five years of security updates, new camera features and more.
The leaked listing came as rumors circulated about the upcoming Pixel launching with a new subscription option to bundle your phone financing and services under one bill, called Pixel Pass.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai previously said during an Alphabet earnings call that the fall lineup of devices will show Google’s “deep technology investments.” The company has since confirmed that the Pixel 6 line will be powered by the company’s in-house Tensor chip, previously code named Whitechapel. The Tensor chip’s introduction also came with demonstrations of its photography and dictation prowess, which will take the spotlight with the new Pixel phones.
Read more: Google Pixel 5A with 5G review: Snappy performance for $449
Google’s first Pixel phone made a splash when it was unveiled almost five years ago, but since then, the search giant’s foray into mobile devices has been inconsistent. Last year’s Pixel 5 received high marks for its cameras, but the Pixel 5 lacked the premium features you’d expect from a flagship smartphone, especially for the price. CNET’s Lynn La called it “hard to recommend.” Compared with the original Pixel phone (“pure Android at its absolute best” and “our favorite phone, bar none”), Google’s phone trajectory looks rough.
Now that Google will be taking a larger creative leap with its Pixel line, the question remains whether the changes will help the company compete against the best phones from Apple and Samsung or continue to disappoint its one-time fans. Let’s go over what we’ve learned about the upcoming devices, and the rumors about the details that are still unknown.
Read more: Here are all the Galaxy S22 rumors and everything to know about the iPhone 13.
Google introduces Pixel 6 and 6 Pro
Name: Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro
Unlike Apple and Samsung, Google has overall been consistent with its phone nomenclature. The original Pixel was followed by the Pixel 2, then the Pixel 3 and so on. Google has confirmed that the 2021 phones will indeed be the Pixel 6 and — instead of an XL model — the Pixel 6 Pro.
Google previously announced that both phones will have many of the same features: the new Tensor system-on-chip designed by Google, a camera bar that runs along the back of the phone, camera sensors that take in 150% more light than the Pixel 5’s and an ultrawide lens. Software improvements (more on that in a bit) will also come to both models, including Android 12’s Material You design, along with speech recognition and photography improvements powered by the Tensor.
Rumors about the now-confirmed Pixel 6 Pro began when leaker Jon Prosser shared renders depicting the “Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro” in May. Prosser’s renders were purportedly based on actual images of the phones, but released as renders to protect his source’s identity.
The Pixel 6 phones come in black along with pastel shades of green and red.
Specs: Unveiling Tensor, camera bar
Google’s reveal of the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro in August put a particular spotlight on Google’s new system-on-chip, named Tensor. Going in-house moves Google away from the Qualcomm chips that have powered its previous devices, and Google says the chip brings with it notable improvements to speech recognition and photography.
“Part of the goal is to show the very best that Google can offer,” Rick Osterloh, senior vice president of Google’s hardware division, said in an interview with CNET’s Rich Nieva. “There is a big segment of the market that wants the latest, and we love building technology. So we’re going to try to appeal to that part of the market, too.”
In a photography demo described by The Verge, an otherwise-blurry photo of a moving toddler is fixed up by the Tensor chip by combining together details from multiple photos into a single image.
The Tensor chip is also described to have “data-center-level” speech recognition in a demo described by Engadget, in which the Pixel 6 can differentiate between a dictated message and commands such as “Send” or “Clear.” All the while, the onscreen keyboard can be used to edit any typos or dictation errors as the microphone continues listening for the message.
A language demo described by Gizmodo shows the Pixel 6 line running a live translation of a French presentation into English, combining the existing Live Caption and Interpreter Mode.
Moving to the camera bar, the Pixel 6 Pro has three cameras, including a telephoto lens with a 4x optical zoom. The standard Pixel 6 won’t have the telephoto lens. The exact megapixels were not disclosed by Google, but previous rumored specs put a 50-megapixel wide camera and a 12-megapixel ultrawide camera on both models. The telephoto lens on the Pro model is rumored to have a 48-megapixel lens. The rumored camera specs come from a spec sheet published by Prosser.
The Google Tensor chip’s unveiling is a prominent part of the first look at the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro.
Design and colors: Google gives the Pixel 6 a makeover
Confirming Prosser’s renders, the Pixel line has a new look for 2021. The Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro will each be available in three colors, the former coming in pastel shades of green, red and black. The Pro takes on more metallic hues of black, gold and gray. Engadget reports that Google has not yet named these colors, but previous colors such as Not Pink and Kinda Blue may provide an idea of what the marketing department will ultimately choose.
Moving to the front of the phone, the Pixel 6 Pro will have a 6.7-inch QHD+ (3,200×1,440-pixel) display with a 120Hz refresh rate, while the Pixel 6 will have a 6.4-inch FHD+ (2,400×1,080) display with a 90Hz refresh rate. A hole-punch-style front-facing camera is centered up top, as opposed to on the left side of the screen as on the Pixel 5, and is rumored to have 12 megapixels on the Pixel 6 Pro and 8 megapixels on the standard Pixel 6.
Release date: Pixel 6 will launch on Oct. 19
Google is hosting a launch event for the upcoming Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro on Oct. 19. The prerecorded event will stream on Google’s event site at 10 a.m. PT.
Google has unveiled a new Pixel phone in October every year since 2016, with the exception of last year’s Pixel 5, which was announced on Sept. 30. But 2020 was an exceptional year for many reasons, including phone release schedules.
Google’s Pixel release dates usually follow a similarly predictable pattern: The company usually makes its phones available for purchase within a week or two of being announced. Thus, we’d expect to see the Pixel 6 both unveiled and released within the month of October.
The chip shortage could throw a wrench in Google’s plans, pushing the Pixel 6 release into November or later. But right now we’d still put our money on it happening in October.
The launch date reveal followed a teaser trailer for the phone posted by Google in September, the company shows off images of the Pixel 6’s two-toned back with a band near the top around the camera. The trailer ends by saying the new smartphone is coming fall 2021.
A leaked render of Google’s Pixel 6 smartphone.
Price: Pixel 6 could cost more than the Pixel 5
Cost is another aspect of the Pixel 6 that we haven’t heard many whispers about. Last year’s Pixel 5 made some compromises to get the launch price down to $699, making it more of a midrange phone than its predecessors, the Pixel 3 and Pixel 4, which both launched at $799. It’s possible that Google will pick up where it left off with the Pixel 5 and keep the price (and specs) in line with last year’s offering.
However, according to a Twitter post from leaker Yogesh Brar, the Pixel 6 is said to have a $749 starting price, while the Pixel 6 Pro may cost between $1,049 and $1,099. Although this makes Google’s upcoming smartphone more expensive than its predecessor, the Pixel 6 would be cheaper than the $799 iPhone 13.
From the Verge’s interview with Osterloh, the Pixel 6 line is described as a “premium-priced product.” For reference, the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G goes for $1,200 (£1,149, AU$1,849).
What’s in the box: Google’s Pixel 6 won’t ship with a charger
Alongside the reveal of the Pixel 5A, Google shared a tidbit about the upcoming Pixel 6. The tech giant said that it expects this to be the last time the Pixel will ship with the phone’s charger in the box.
Google’s decision to ditch the accessory from its phone boxes follows both Apple and Samsung. Apple stopped including an AC adapter in the box of the iPhone 12 in 2020, and Samsung later did the same for the Galaxy S21.
Although Google’s Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro won’t have a charger in the box, a report from 91mobiles says that the upcoming smartphone could support 33-watt fast charging. Citing Brar, 91mobiles claims Google was spotted testing 33-watt charging bricks. Since the tech giant is reportedly testing upgraded adapters, 91mobiles speculates that the Pixel 6 will likely support fast charging. The report goes on to suggest that this could be the reason for Google to lose the charger in the box since the adapter needed for fast charging could go on sale separately after the Pixel 6’s launch.
Another report by Android Police in August, citing leaked inventory image of a Pixel stand, also suggested Google’s upcoming smartphone will house upped charging speeds, but with 23- instead of 33-watt wireless charging. Either way, the Pixel 6 would exceed the iPhone 12’s 15-watt wireless charging speed using Apple’s MagSafe charger.
Leaked images from Blass show off the rumored second generation Pixel stand with 23-watt wireless charging for the Pixel 6. If the speculation is proven true, the new stand would more than double the power of Google’s first generation 10-watt wireless charging stand. Images from Blass posted alongside the charger show the Pixel 6’s display, camera and other features as well.
Images from leaker Evan Blass show off the rumored second generation Pixel stand with 23-watt wireless charging.
Other rumors: Selfie camera speculation, Pixel Pass and more
The earliest rumors about the Pixel 6’s camera setup included speculation that Google might upgrade to an under-display selfie camera, but that won’t be on the Pixel 6, according to Google’s reveal. Since this rumor is based on a patent filed by Google that appeared not to have a visible front camera, however, it’s possible another phone will include it.
Speaking of the selfie camera, 9to5Google reported some interesting implications in March, based on code examined in an upgrade to Google’s camera app. Takeaways include a corroboration of the centered hole-punch theory (with a redesigned status bar that shifts the clock to the left), and support for 4K video.
A July report indicated that Google’s camera app code suggested a possible 5x zoom option in the Pixel 6, which means its camera setup could include a periscope-style telephoto lens. If that’s true, the Pixel 6’s optical zoom capability would be on par with Samsung’s Galaxy S20 Ultra.
Another camera spec rumor says the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro could feature a 50-megapixel Samsung GN1 sensor. The rumor circulated after some Twitter users spotted a string of code in Google’s new Camera app, which arrived with the Android 12 beta 4, mentioning the sensor.
We’ve also heard whispers about improved stabilization, with a gimbal-like steady-cam mode that would result in “big improvements in video.” We saw what a smartphone gimbal camera could do with last year’s Vivo X50 Pro, which CNET’s Sareena Dayaram called “buttery smooth.”
According to XDA Developers, which cited an internal unreleased version of Google’s Camera app and details from an unnamed source, the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro will house a collection of new camera features including manual white balance adjustment, scene lock, timer light, bluetooth microphone support, motion blur, face deblur, and an updated version of frequent faces. The Pixel 6 could also have camera tools called “nima aesthetic,” “baby mode,” “front torch” and magic erase, a feature XDA Developers speculate can remove objects or people from a picture you’ve taken.
A leaked listing from Carphone Warehouse, as mentioned above, showed off many of the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro’s alleged features including the updated face unblur, motion mode and magic eraser camera ability, as well as a new Titan M2 chip for better on-device security, five years of security updates, a 6.4-inch display for the Pixel 6 and a 6.7-inch LTPO screen with a 120Hz refresh rate for the Pixel 6 Pro.
This image from Lee shows what the Pixel 6 Pro’s 4x zoom could look like in a dimly lit room.
This is Tech Today
A first look at images and video said to be taken on a Google Pixel 6 Pro, shared by leaker Brandon Lee of This is Tech Today, show off the phone’s zoom and ultrawide capabilities. Lee says the camera and video samples were acquired from an unnamed source in Nigeria, and stressed that his source is not a professional photographer or videographer. Although images are shot in portrait mode, they give a glimpse at what pictures and videos could look like on the Pixel 6 Pro.
Google previously announced improvements to its software for “a more accurate and inclusive camera” that works better for a variety of skin tones. This upgrade includes adjustments to the phone’s auto white balance algorithm.
The Pixel 6 may also feature an under-display fingerprint reader. Android Senior Vice President Hiroshi Lockheimer shared two screenshots on Twitter showing an embedded fingerprint sensor within the Pixel’s display. The tweet, which was originally posted to show off Android’s new Material You design, has since been deleted from Lockheimer’s account. Screenshots of the tweet were then later posted by leaker Mishaal Rahman.
It’s unclear which Pixel model the screenshots came from exactly, but a report from Gizmodo believes it could be the Pixel 6 because of the 3,200×1,440 screen resolution. The under-display fingerprint sensor shown in the screenshots is positioned just below the middle of the smartphone. Another tipster, named Jeff Springer, says the sensor looks to be located in a similar place to that of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra.
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The Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro are also rumored to launch with a new subscription option to bundle phone financing and services under one bill. The alleged offering was shared on Twitter by Lee. It’s said to be called Pixel Pass, and is described as a “monthly subscription that addresses users’ mobile needs end-to-end.” According to Lee’s post, the subscription bundles Pixel device financing, YouTube Premium or YouTube Music, Google One storage, Play Pass, Google Fi, Google’s preferred care and device protection.
Below are all of the rumored Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro specs we’ve heard so far alongside confirmed details like the screen size and processor. In the meantime, here’s how to decide between a Pixel 5, Pixel 4 and Pixel 4XL, the Pixel 5 versus the Pixel 4A 5G and the Pixel 5 versus the iPhone 11, Galaxy S20 FE and OnePlus 8. Plus, six reasons to buy a Pixel and what we think of the Pixel Buds A-Series earbuds.
Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 XL rumored and confirmed specs
Pixel 6 Pro
FHD+ with 90Hz refresh rate
QHD+ with 120Hz refresh rate
Rear camera setup
50MP (wide) + 12MP (ultrawide)**
50MP (wide) + 48MP (tele) + 12MP (ultrawide)**
128GB / 256GB**
128GB / 256GB / 512GB**
**Specs still rumored