Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro: Google’s shot at smartphone stardom
After telling us what the next Pixel phones would be called and would look like months ago, Google finally lifted the curtain off every other aspect of its flagship Android 12 handsets on Tuesday.
Meet the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro.
As we’ve known since August thanks to Google getting ahead of leaks with official teases, the “XL” nomenclature for the larger model has been changed to “Pro” because there are actual, meaningful differences besides just screen size this time around.
The Pixel 6 has a 6.4-inch display with a 90Hz refresh rate and two rear cameras, while the Pixel 6 Pro rocks a triple-camera array, a 6.7-inch screen, and an adaptive 120Hz refresh rate. The Pixel 6 Pro’s third camera is a telephoto lens with 4x optical zoom, which the Pixel 6 lacks. Both phones have an in-display fingerprint sensor for security.
As per usual, Google went for slightly-less-than-flagship prices: The Pixel 6 starts at $599 and the Pixel 6 Pro starts at $899. The cheaper Pixel 6 has 8GB RAM and comes with either 128GB or 256GB of storage. For Pixel 6 Pro, the RAM is bumped up to 12GB and there’s an additional 512GB storage option. Pre-orders for both phones begin today with general availability set for Oct. 28.
Both phones boast a pretty different look from their predecessors, with a horizontal camera bar running across the back of the phone. Both phones are available in stormy black, while the Pixel 6 has kinda coral (pink) and sorta seafoam (green) color options and Pixel 6 Pro has sorta sunny (yellow) and cloudy white options. Further differentiating the two phones is a more polished finish on the Pro and a matte finish on the 6.
Of course, they also run on Android 12, with its “Material You” UI customization that lets users fully control the color schemes of the entire phone’s interface.
Google Tensor is the biggest change Google made to the new Pixel phones.
Looks are one thing, but the actual innards of the Pixel 6 phones boast the biggest change of all. Google has ditched the Qualcomm Snapdragon line of SoCs (system on a chip) from previous Pixel phones (and lots of other Android handsets) in favor of a custom, in-house SoC called Tensor. Google spent four years developing Tensor, which uses Google’s AI and machine learning prowess to enhance photos, live caption videos, and plenty of other snazzy things on the fly. According to Google, you’ll get up to 80 percent faster performance out of Pixel 6 than Pixel 5.
Computational photography and live transcription of recordings have been featured in Pixel phones before, but Tensor is a Google chip built specifically with that in mind, exclusively for Pixel. Some new camera features include “Face Unblur,” which makes people’s faces less blurry, as you might have guessed from the name. There’s also a “Magic Eraser” tool to smite unwanted distractions from your otherwise immaculate photos.
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Google also says Tensor can help with battery life. Pixel 6’s adaptive battery can apparently reach 24 hours and beyond on a full charge, with an “Extreme Battery Saver” toggle purporting to extend that life to as many as 48 hours. We’ll have to see that to believe it.
Pixel phones have always sat in an awkward space just below Apple and Samsung flagships in terms of price and specs, but Pixel 6 and 6 Pro show that Google might be serious about changing that going forward.