The Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro made a brief appearance last month right before Google launched the Pixel 5A, and the company has since teased its upcoming smartphone again in a new trailer. Although we’ve had a couple of glimpses at Google’s new Pixel, not every rumor has yet been debunked or proved true. But the buzz about the Pixel 6 is only getting stronger as we inch toward the phone’s possible release.
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.” Compare that with the original Pixel phone (“pure Android at its absolute best” and “our favorite phone, bar none”) and 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 iPhone 13 rumors and Galaxy S22 rumors, too.
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, released as renders to protect his source’s identity.
Specs: Unveiling Tensor, camera bar
Google’s reveal of the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro last month 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.
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 probably be here in October
Based on speculation alone, we have a pretty good idea of when Google will release the Pixel 6. 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 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 October. Given the unpredictability of the ongoing pandemic and the delta variant, it remains unclear whether Google will announce its new smartphone at a live or virtual event.
In a new 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.
Price: Pixel 6 could hit a premium price
Cost is another aspect of the Pixel 6 that we haven’t heard many whispers about yet. 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 likely 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.
The closest hint we have to a price range came from The Verge’s interview with Osterloh, in which 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 tipster Yogesh Bar, 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.
More rumors: Selfie camera speculation and more
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 per Google’s reveal. However, since this rumor is based on a patent filed by Google that appeared not to have a visible front camera, 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 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 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.”
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.
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||Pixel 6 Pro|
|Display||FHD+ with 90Hz refresh rate||QHD+ with 120Hz refresh rate|
|Rear camera setup||50MP (wide) + 12MP (ultrawide)**||50MP (wide) + 48MP (tele) + 12MP (ultrawide)**|
|Battery||4,614 mAh**||5,000 mAh**|
|Storage||128GB / 256GB**||128GB / 256GB / 512GB**|
|OS||Android 12||Android 12|
**Specs still rumored.
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