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Let's talk about the Pixel 6
Google took the tech world by surprise when it "teased" the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro yesterday. In this newsletter, I'm unpacking what we know so far and some of my impressions.
If you somehow missed it on your Twitter timeline, Google dropped a huge tweet thread that “teases” the upcoming Pixel 6 and 6 Pro. I say “teases” because while that’s essentially what this is, it’s perhaps the most detailed tease I’ve ever seen.
That’s because we got way more than just a simple photo like we did with past Pixel phones. We got details on the specs, info on Google’s custom SoC, and plenty of pictures to glare at.
This doesn’t mean the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro are available to buy right now. Google says both phones will ship later this fall. It’s also unclear how much the phones will cost, but one thing’s for certain: these devices will undoubtedly be priced in flagship territory. Whereas Google took a break from the high-end with its lineup of 2020 Pixels, this year’s generational Pixels will focus on the same people who might wanna buy a Galaxy S21 or iPhone 13.
So let’s talk about these phones because there’s a lot to unpack. For one, both devices will ship in three unique colorways. The standard Pixel 6 will get a black and silver finish, a green finish that leans more blue toward the bottom, and a coral finish you might’ve seen in leaked renders. Meanwhile, the Pixel 6 Pro will ship in a similar black/silver finish, a lighter silver, and a sandy yellow color. the regular Pixel 6 will obviously be smaller with a 6.4-inch screen, while the 6 Pro goes a bit bigger at 6.7-inches.
The specs for these screens are pretty interesting. The Pixel 6 will come with a Full HD+ resolution and a 90Hz refresh rate, whereas the 6 Pro will get a Quad HD+ resolution and a 120Hz refresh rate. Google’s going to lean into typical features you’d find on a Pro phone like no one’s business with the Pixel 6 Pro, and I’m totally here for it.
Both devices will also ship with small hole punches toward the top of their screens for the selfie camera, in addition to in-display fingerprint readers.
No doubt about it, these phones will look a lot different compared to past Pixels, but that’s a good thing. Google is finally focusing on building a phone that’s comparable in looks to a Samsung Galaxy or OnePlus phone. The huge camera bar on the back adds a bit of character, and the slim bezels around the screen slide off on the left and right thanks to fine curves.
This is all very exciting, but what’s sure to stir up even more excitement is the inclusion of Google’s very first custom SoC. They’re calling it Tensor, and it looks really interesting.
Tensor is essentially all of the specs and brains of a phone you’d look out for like a CPU, GPU, RAM, and modem all on one chip. According to Google, it’ll also include a custom mobile Tensor Processing Unit (TPU) for powering artificial intelligence along with a Titan M2 chip for improved security. As of right now, it’s unclear what else makes up Tensor and whether there are any licensed parts included.
Regardless, it’s clear Google sees this chip as the future of the Pixel. The company is integrating the hardware much deeper into the software experience than ever before with the Pixel 6 series. After all, it now controls (at least most of) the hardware and software in its phones, so replicating an iPhone/A-series processor setup isn’t just a fever dream.
What will Tensor be capable of? According to Google, most of what makes it unique (a.k.a. the TPU) will focus on improving AI and ML (machine learning) operations. These areas have been important to Google over the years, so it makes sense to see the company step forth with custom hardware to power them.
Some media outlets were able to see demos of new operations made possible by Tensor on pre-production Pixel 6 phones. Blurry subject correction in images, HDR enhancements in each frame of video you capture, and editing the text you’re currently dictating are some of the new features that will be put on full display once these new phones ship.
Speaking of camera-related features, let’s chat about those cameras. The Pixel 6 will get a new main camera and an ultra-wide lens. On the other hand, the Pixel 6 Pro will had a 4x periscope-style telephoto camera for improved zoom shots. These sensors will all live in that obnoxious camera bump.
Google didn’t detail any crazy enhancements it has planned for these cameras, but the evidence is there to confirm that they’ll finally be stepping up their game after years of using the same hardware and only focusing on post-processing software to improved photos and videos. With Tensor, I assume the company will be able to achieve some really interesting feats when it comes to mobile photography, but we’ll have to wait to find out.
Google will also be using the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro to take a stronger stance on privacy and security. The company claims these two phones will have the most hardware layers of security of any smartphone to date, which is an obvious jab at Apple who’s been the leader in phone privacy since… forever. Again, we’ll need to wait for more details to come out as to how secure these phones are, but claims are these are promising to say the least.
With the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, there’s not a doubt in my mind that Google is finally ready to face facts and attempt to beat the big dogs in their own field. The middle finger’s finally been raised against the Galaxies and iPhones and OnePluses of the world as Google introduces a full-blown flagship phone with the premium features and hardware people want.
I’m absolutely thrilled about this. For over two years, I’ve been lobbying the company to deliver a proper flagship phone with the crazy specs and price tag we’ve come to expect from high-end Android phones. Instead of doing that, the company has basically pleaded how excellent its software is as the reason we don’t need good specs in our phones. This was especially evident last year with the Pixel 5, a phone that purposely cut out powerful specs found in its predecessor to focus on software quality and pricing.
This year, all that’s changing. Google no longer cares about capitalizing on the mid-range and low-end smartphone markets to make ends meet. Now, Google has a different attitude. It’s confident, bold, and daring. It’s ready to make a name for itself in the flagship sector and grab some sweet, sweet market share.
Will Google do it? We’ll have to wait to find out.