The Google Pixel 6 is shaping up to be quite the device, from a whole new design to an in-house chip codenamed Whitechapel. We also expect to see a larger Pixel 6 Pro alongside the regular Pixel 6.
We’re unlikely to see Google’s next flagship phone until this fall, but that’s not stopping Pixel 6 rumors and speculation from bubbling up. A few tantalizing leaks have given us some idea of what the phone might offer when it does arrive.
There’s certainly room for improvement over the Pixel 5, a solid phone that continues Google’s tradition of producing great cameras but one that’s underpowered compared to some of the best Android phones out there.
In other Google I/O news, Google is looking to improve the Pixel 6’s computational photography software to capture more accurate images of people of color. Here’s why that’s a big step forward.
Google is pretty predictable when it comes to rolling out Pixel flagships. Its marquee phones almost always debut in October. One notable exception? The Pixel 5, which moved up its debut by a day to Sept. 30 last year.
We’re expecting Google sticks to form and targets early October for the Pixel 6 launch. Leaker Max Weinbach corroborated this, saying that Google plans to unveil the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro in October. However, if the chip shortage continues to cause problems, the company might push back the launch to November.
Google launched the Pixel 5 during an online event on Sept. 30 last year. Expect a similar time frame for the Pixel 6’s debut.
The Pixel 6 likely won’t be the only phone we see from Google this year. While it’s unlikely that the rumored Pixel 5 Pro is going to see the light of day, a Pixel 5a is likely to surface sometime this summer, though its launch date seems up in the air at this point.
The pricing strategy of Pixel flagships is harder to get a bead on. While the Pixel 4 was very much pitched as a premium model starting at $799/£699, the Pixel 5 launched at $699/£599. Of course, to get that lower price, Google had to make compromises like opting for a less powerful processor than you might otherwise expect from a flagship phone.
It’s unlikely that Google will want to drop the price of the Pixel 6 even lower, so the question will be whether it goes back to producing a more premium phone or sticks with the Pixel 5’s pricing. We’re guessing it will be the latter, given that both Apple and Samsung have opted for lower entry-level prices on their phones — the iPhone 12 mini costs $699, while the Galaxy S21 starts at $799.
The Pixel range has always had a strong reputation for excelling in the camera department. And while we’re certainly impressed with the pictures produced by the Pixel 5, in some ways that model felt like a step back. Google removed the telephoto lens featured on the Pixel 4 and continues to use an IMX363 12.2MP sensor which was pretty dated even on release.
New leaks claim that there will be two cameras on the back of the base Pixel 6, and three on the Pixel 6 Pro. The information provided to Digit by OnLeaks says the Pixel 6 Pro will use main and telephoto cameras, but we can assume the third will be an ultrawide camera to match other flagship phone camera arrays.
Other rumors say that the Pixel 6 Pro will get a big upgrade to its main sensor, up to 50MP. It’ll sit alongside an ultrawide and an 8MP periscope telephoto lens with 5x optical zoom.
Google hasn’t been afraid to reinvent the look of the Pixel range throughout its various iterations, so the Pixel 6 could look markedly different compared to its predecessors.
The Pixel 5 was notable for using an aluminum chassis, while smartly incorporating bio-resin plastic to allow the phone to support wireless charging. It’s likely the Pixel 6 will also pick up that design element.
Chunky camera arrays seem to be very much in vogue these days, so we don’t expect Google to attempt to slim down the camera cutout. If anything, Google may take a leaf out of the Galaxy S21 book and figure out a way to make the camera array less prominent with the Pixel 5.
The front of the phone is all screen with a centered hole punch cutout for the selfie camera. These renders also show an in-display fingerprint sensor. Moving around to the back, there’s a bar across the width of the phone for the camera module, with a tertiary accent color above it. Gone is the spartan design we’re used to from Google.
Display refresh rates have been a major focus for smartphone screens as of late, and Google figures remain part of that trend with the Pixel 6. Google added a faster refresh rate to its flagship phones with the Pixel 4 in 2019, and that’s likely to continue with its new device. The only question is whether Google ups the speed from its current 90Hz to 120Hz for the Pixel 6.
Furthermore. the code also backs up the leak that an under-display fingerprint sensor will be featured on the Pixel 6. This was also mentioned by another report citing the Android 12 beta code regarding an under-display fingerprint sensor that should be coming to Pixel phones.
Should we expect a Pixel 6 XL?
Google typically released two versions of the Pixel, a standard model and an XL version, though that approach ended with the Pixel 5, which is only available as a 6-inch model. To get a bigger screen, you’ve got to turn to the 6.2-inch Pixel 4a 5G. Whether Google goes back to giving us a choice between multiple screen sizes likely depends on how sales of the current models are going.
The recent Developer Preview of Android 12 has added further fuel to the fire. Mishaal Rahman (of XDA), revealed that by enabling ‘Silky home’ functionality the system setting UI changes to be more friendly to one-handed use by bringing key buttons, sliders, and toggles closer to the bottom of the screen.
This UI is very similar to Samsung’s One UI, which the company uses for its bigger phones. If Google is designing a more compatible UI with single-hand use, that is a strong indication that the tech giants are at least considering launching a more substantial handset in the future.
Of course, these signs are not a guarantee. And even if there is a second Pixel 6 model, Google could just as easily stop work on it as it reportedly did with the Pixel 5 XL.
Furthering the idea of two Pixel 6’s, Prosser also revealed that there will be a standard Pixel 6 with two cameras, and a larger Pixel 6 Pro with three cameras. If he’s right, Google is ditching the “XL” moniker and going with the industry-standard “Pro” one.
Here’s where things get interesting. One of the biggest questions facing Google will be what processor to use in its next flagship. With the Pixel 5, Google opted for the Snapdragon 765G, a capable system-on-chip but nowhere near as powerful as Qualcomm’s 8 Series chipsets, like the Snapdragon 865 that powered many of last year’s top Android phones.
The leading Qualcomm silicon right now is the Snapdragon 888 — it’s what’s powering the Galaxy S21 family as well as the OnePlus 9 series.
However, it looks like Google will go in a completely different direction. About a year ago, rumors surfaced that Google was developing its own chipset with the help of Samsung. And now a new report from 9to5Google claims that those ‘Whitechapel’ chips are ready to use with Google’s phones coming out this fall, meaning that the Pixel 6 will use a Google-designed chipset, much like Apple designs its own chips for the iPhone lineup.
Switching to its own chips would be a big deal for Google — and it’s a move that also carries a lot of risks for the company and its phones.
Previous Pixels have struggled in the battery life department. With a 4,000 mAh battery, the Pixel 5 ran for 9 hours and 29 minutes on its default 90Hz mode in our battery test, which is below average for a smartphone. The Pixel 5 does offer an Adaptive Battery feature to govern which apps draw power.
Google could go with a bigger battery for the Pixel 6, especially if it increases the refresh rate on the phone’s display. (The faster the refresh rate, the bigger the hit on battery life.) With both phones looking to be quite a bit larger than the Pixel 5, the odds of a larger cell seem good.
Recent rumors suggest that the Pixel 6 Pro will have a nice, big 5,000 mAh battery to power its large display. The smaller Pixel 6 might sport a 4,500 mAh battery. Both of these capacities seem like they’d be great, given the past battery life problems on Pixels.
The thing that we are all wondering : Will there be a charger??
There’s another battery life and charging issue that’s suddenly become relevant for upcoming phones like the Pixel 6 — will it include a charger?
Last fall, Apple became the first phone maker to stop including chargers with its phone, when it shipped all four iPhone 12 models without the accessory in the box. Apple says the move is better for the environment, and while some rival companies rolled their eyes at Apple’s decision, they also followed suit. Samsung doesn’t include a charger with the Galaxy S21 models, either.
Therefore, it wouldn’t be a great surprise to see the Pixel 6 come with little more than just a USB-C charging cable alongside the phone. Best start hoarding those power bricks just in case, as it’s looking like this industry trend is here to stay.
If you feel using wires to charge your phone is too old-fashioned, there’s good news. OnLeaks claims that there will once again be wireless charging available on the Pixel 6. How fast it will be is another matter.