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The Pixel 6: what to expect from Google’s thoroughly pre-announced phone

The Pixel 6: what to expect from Google’s thoroughly pre-announced phone


We know what it looks like — what’s left?

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The Google Pixel 6
Image: Google

We’ve seen the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. Google’s decision to announce and thoroughly tease its new high-end flagship was revealing and confusing but, given all the leaks that followed, ultimately not that consequential.

The Pixel 6 and 6 Pro feature an all-new, in some cases, quite colorful design, with an in-display fingerprint sensor, Google’s new Tensor SoC, and the Titan M2 security chip. The standard Pixel 6 has a 90Hz 6.4-inch screen, while the Pro gets a 120Hz 6.7-inch, but the big difference might end up being the cameras. Both devices have new wide and ultrawide cameras, but the Pro comes with an additional 4x optical zoom periscope lens. You can see what they look like in the hands of real people in this Twitter thread of leaked images from Evan Blass:

But now that company is planning on launching its new phones on October 19th, you might be wondering: what could Google have left to share? If leaks are any indication, quite a few interesting things. We’ll be covering Google’s event live on Tuesday, but keep reading below for what to expect ahead of the Pixel 6 launch.

Google’s new Pixel 6 phones, regular and Pro
The Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro.
Image: Google

Powerful new hardware, including upgraded cameras

Google long held the crown for best smartphone camera on its Pixel line but slipped in the last few years in favor of what both Samsung and Apple brought to the table. A clear break from mid-range phones and mid-range specs to something decidedly on the high-end could be just the thing Google needs to retake its crown.

Rumors and leaked store pages from Carphone Warehouse (viewable on the Wayback Machine here and here) suggest Google is sparing no expense in updating the cameras of the Pixel 5. Both versions of the Pixel 6 feature a 50MP main sensor — a big step up from the iPhone 13 Pro’s 12MP camera — and a 12MP ultrawide. The Pixel 6 Pro also has an extra camera with 4x zoom with 48MP telephoto that can reach an even higher 20x zoom thanks to Google’s Super Res Zoom feature it first added with the Pixel 3.

On the front of the Pixel 6 Pro, the selfie camera can also be expected to feature a wide 94-degree field of view, not dissimilar from the wide-angle selfie camera on the Pixel 3. People love selfies, and the front camera is another clear place Google could shine since Apple decided to keep selfies the same on the iPhone 13.

Surprisingly affordable pricing

Pricing leaks snagged from Target shelf tags and its internal system have arrived, from M. Brandon Lee and Evan Lei. They put the US starting price of 128GB Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro phones at $599 and $898, respectively. That’s cheaper than where the Pixel 5 started last year ($699) and could help shake up the market for Android phones.

The new Pixel Stand, 30W charging brick, and clear Pixel 6 Case
The new Pixel Stand, 30W charging brick, and clear Pixel 6 Case
Image: Carphone Warehouse / @evleaks

Other tweaks are less visible. The battery in the Pixel 6 is expected to be improved and, with Extreme Battery Saver turned on, lasts for 48 hours on a single charge. The Pixel 6 Pro could also feature even faster charging, with the ability to hit 50 percent charge in 30 minutes, Android Central writes. Helping make all of that happen is a new 30W charging brick (which won’t be included in the box) and a new 23W Pixel Stand with active cooling.

The same leaked Pixel 6 store pages also point to the use of Corning’s Gorilla Glass Victus for the glass on the new phones and a new clear case that could be perfect for showing off the multicolored varieties of Pixel 6.

Long-awaited software tricks like the Magic Eraser

Google can pack as much high-tech hardware into its phones as it wants, but the real trick is all the extra performance its software squeezes out of it. The Pixel 6 and 6 Pro appear to have several software features that might do just that.

First is Magic Eraser, which promises to “remove strangers and unwanted objects” with just a few taps in Google Photos. This actually appears to be a photo feature Google’s been working on for at least four years. The company introduced a similar obstruction-erasing feature in 2017 by removing a fence from a photo of a baseball game. The fine print on the leaked store page is clear that Magic Eraser won’t work for every photo, but it certainly seems like it could be very impressive when it does.

Motion Mode on the new Pixel 6 and 6 Pro.
Motion Mode on the new Pixel 6 and 6 Pro.
Image: Carphone Warehouse / @evleaks

Google’s two other software features mentioned in the same leaked store pages are opposites. Face Unblur attempts to deblur faces captured in motion-heavy photos (Google’s example is children playing). While Motion Mode “adds more action to action shots.” It’s not super clear what that entails, but Google’s photo example shows a blurry, clearly in-motion Ferris wheel with two subjects in focus standing in front of it — almost like long exposure background with a traditional photo foreground.

Other software advancements include several varieties of on-device translation, thanks to Google’s mysteriously structured Tensor chip. The text from the Carphone Warehouse leak specifically calls out:

Get your chats translated in real time, listen to podcasts with translated captions and even use your camera to read signs in up to 55 languages. No Internet needed.

Rumors point to fairly extensive software support for both versions of the Pixel 6, which means they could stay ahead of the pack as Google rolls out new features over time. So far, that looks like four major Android updates, according to 9to5Google, and five years of security updates based on what The Verge saw in those leaked store pages.

The Google-y versions of an Apple One subscription

What better to go with a bunch of new phone hardware and software than a nice all-in-one subscription package? Apple One was Apple’s version of the subscription bundle tying in services like Apple TV Plus, Apple Music, and extra iCloud storage. Now, it seems like Google might have something similar in mind with a bundle called “Pixel Pass.”

A leaked document from Brandon Lee suggests Pixel Pass could combine up to four subscriptions: YouTube Premium or YouTube Music, Google One for extra storage and discounts, Play Pass for apps and games, and Google Fi. The bundle could also incorporate some kind of upgrade plan akin to Apple’s iPhone Upgrade program.

A foldable Pixel

Last but not least, there’s a whole other Pixel device that Google could show off or at least tease at the launch of the Pixel 6 — a foldable codenamed “Passport.”

In 2019, Google revealed it has prototyped foldable devices for years. The company has also made modifications to Android over the years to better support devices like Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 3, and it has even more planned. It follows that Google might at least try its hand at making some kind of device to straddle the phone and tablet markets.

An internal Google document leaked in 2020 confirmed the company was targeting a 2021 release for the “Passport.” Further reporting from The Elec this June claimed that Samsung had begun production on folding OLED displays for use in new devices from Google, Vivo, and Xiaomi. That could line up with a late 2021 release.

Update October 18th, 11:36AM ET: Added tweet thread from Evan Blass with pictures.