So, Google’s success rate with the Pixel lineup has been somewhat inconsistent. Some of the issues include questionable design choices, abysmal performance in certain key areas, and HAVE YOU SEEN THAT NOTCH AND FOREHEAD ON THE PIXEL 3 AND PIXEL 4?!
OK, let’s stop yelling and caaalm dooown…
The Pixel 6 & 6 Pro are expected to start a new chapter in the Pixel history book. Early leaks show a bold new design and attention to cameras. But before discussing the Pixel, let’s put things in perspective. We’ll go through a quick rewind of Google’s past Pixel phones and see why they didn’t quite manage to compete with the best of the best in the Android world.Then, we’ll tell you what we expect to see on the new Pixel 6 based on the information available at the moment, and see if Google would have a true competitor for the upcoming Galaxy S22, Xiaomi Mi 12, OnePlus 10, or even Apple’s iPhone 13 (because – why not…)
The problem(s) with previous Google Pixel flagships
Google’s Pixel lineup always stood out… but not always in a good way.
- The Pixel 5 is Google’s current “flagship” phone, but the problem is… it doesn’t really come with some flagship features as most competitors do. It lacks optical zoom, and it is powered by a mid-range processor, which is fine for day-to-day tasks, but probably won’t be the best long-term investment. The Pixel 5 has an ancient fingerprint reader (on the back) when competitors come with advanced face detection and UTS fingerprint readers.
- The Pixel 4 had the biggest forehead on any flagship phone at the time for housing a gimmicky Motion Sense tech that let you control your phone from a distance (when it worked). The battery life wasn’t great; the 90Hz screen was inconsistent; and it omitted the ultra-wide-angle camera in favor of a telephoto one, which was polarizing. Remember, at the time the Pixel 4 was competing against phones like the P30 Pro (which came with 5x optical zoom), and the Galaxy Note 10 which came with three cameras, including an ultra-wide-angle one.
- The Pixel 3 was held back by availability issues and by the ugliest notch we’ve ever seen. We’re a little bit harsh, but for a reason! Also, competitors at the time were quickly advancing in areas like cameras – the P20 Pro by Huawei had three great cameras on its back, while the Pixel 3 was stuck with just one. And, again… that design was an instant turnoff.
The Google Pixel 2/XL: The last Pixel king
The Pixel 2 XL was one of the most recognizable phones around. It also happened to be very solid all-rounder. Oh, and it was the camera king!
We have to go all the way back to the Pixel 2 to say with confidence that Google could not only compete at the top but win. Sure, the smaller Pixel 2 looked rather outdated due to its large bezels, but the XL model stood out with slimmer and borders. Also, that “Panda” color scheme! It’s absolutely iconic.
The cameras on the Pixel 2 series were second-to-none (both front and back), and the phones were overall… just solid. They boasted IP67 water resistance, great stereo speakers, top performance, compatible battery life, and of course… Google’s pure Android software with timely updates.
Now, make no mistake – the Pixel 2 wasn’t flawless. In fact, its biggest problem was that it had to compete against phones like the Galaxy Note 8 and iPhone X, which came with wireless charging, 2x telephoto cameras, and more futuristic design – especially in the case of the iPhone X, which marked the beginning of a whole new chapter in Apple’s book.
Still, the Pixel 2 was cheaper, and yet it had both of these phones beaten when it came to the increasingly important category of taking photos, whether it was from the front or back cameras, day or night.
Post-Pixel 2 rewind: The competition
The iPhone XS made the Pixel 3 look like the iPhone 8.
And then – to bring it all back, the Pixel 3, 4, and 5 happened. While Google was working on squeezing the most out of dated camera sensors and experimenting with some outrageous designs, competitors were breaking new ground.
For context, the Pixel 3 was announced on October 9, 2018. Just a week after it came out, Huawei was breaking records with the incredible Mate 20 Pro. This one came with three cameras for covering multiple focal lengths; insane Night Mode, UTS fingerprint reader, 3D face unlock, reverse wireless charging, super-fast wired charging, and a huge (at the time) 4200mAH battery, which kept it going for days.
Two weeks after that, OnePlus released the 6T, which had near-stock Android, thin bezels, class-leading performance, and again the hot new UTS fingerprint reader tech. The point is – Google was in trouble. At least Google, “the smartphone maker”. As mentioned initially, the next Pixel flagship was also overall underwhelming compared to phones like the OnePlus 7 & 7 Pro, S10 series, the P30 Pro series, or Apple’s iPhone 11 phones.
And then, the Pixel 5 is pretty much a good, mid-range phone with a decent set of cameras and extras like wireless charging and IP rating.
Google Pixel 6 & 6 Pro: What to expect
The Google Pixel 6 series boasts a bold rear design and contemporary front. This might be the right recipe.
Design & display
We’ve already seen a bunch of leaks of the expected design of the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro. We’re glad to say that Google’s finally back to being bold, but in a good way – no big notches, no gimmicky Motion Sensors.
We can see from the leaked renders that the Pixel 6 Pro will be quite bigger and bulkier than the regular Pixel 6. Both phones are expected to feature a punch-hole cutout for the front-facing camera, reminiscent of Galaxy flagships.
When it comes to displays, leakster Max Weinbach has reported that the 6 Pro will come with a 6.67-inch OLED display with a 120Hz refresh rate. The one on the Pixel 6 is expected to be smaller, at around 6.4-inches, but keep the 120Hz refresh rate, although we won’t be surprised if it comes with a 90Hz one like the Pixel 5.
However, the more exciting part of the new design language on the Pixel 6 series seems to be on the rear where we see a combination of rather unusual colors for any smartphone – white, black, orange, champagne, and everything in between. Granted, the renders might not represent the real colors of the phone with 100% accuracy, but if they are remotely close, these phones will stand out.
Also on the back of the phone, we can see an array of cameras on the back, which immediately make an impression. It is expected that Google will finally opt-in for a new camera sensor, which will be significantly bigger than the ones found in previous Pixel phones.
Moreover, the Pixel 6 Pro is expected to come with three cameras, one of which might be a 5x telephoto zoom camera, which will make the flagship phone much more competitive in a world of phones like the Galaxy S21 Ultra, Mi 11 Ultra, and more.
Combined with Google’s renowned image processing, we expect the photo quality to be exceptional – now, at a variety of focal lengths like we’ve never had before on a Pixel.
Chipset & software
This category has to do with the performance of the Pixel 6 series and will be the most polarizing one due to the fact that the last Pixel flagship phone came with a mid-range chipset.
Now, it’s expected that Google will shift gears and swap Qualcomm’s mid-range processors for a custom-built chip made in partnership with Samsung. That’s for the Pixel 6 Pro. The processor is said to compete with the Snapdragon 870, meaning it’ll be just shy of the Snapdragon 888 when it comes to performance.
Frankly, we don’t know why Google keeps avoiding Qualcomm’s flagship chipsets, but at least we appreciate the new direction towards more power. If this chip turns out to be truly custom-made for the Pixel 6 Pro, it should deliver a very optimized performance reminiscent of the iPhone, which also uses a custom chip. Still, Apple’s new A15 processor is likely going to reign supreme.
The Pixel 6 is a different story. Google’s strategy for smaller flagships seems to be changing. While in previous years, all versions of Google’s flagships came with the same processor across the lineup, now the smaller model is said to keep it down to a mid-range Qualcomm chip.
We’ll have to wait and see, but so far, the most likely candidate is the Snapdragon 780G which debuted on Xiaomi’s Mi 11 Lite. This chip is the successor to the Snapdragon 775G used in the Pixel 5. Hardware aside, the software on the Pixel 6 series is going to be even more exciting! For this one, we don’t have to wait, as we already have a detailed preview of Google’s Android 12.
In a nutshell, it’s expected to be the biggest visual change in Android’s history with a focus on privacy, widgets, and ease of use, and we couldn’t be more excited about trying it out on new and older Pixel phones.
Pixel 6 series: A worthy Apple & Samsung competitor?
Google is expected to release an Apple Watch competitor too. Together with the rumored custom chip on the Pixel 6 series, this can be the start of a brand new eco system.
All in all, the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro are expected to be very different from one another, which will have them compete in two different categories – upper mid-range and flagship.
From all the leaks and rumors we’ve witnessed so far, we can tell that the Pixel 6 seems like a true Pixel 5 successor with two cameras (likely wide and ultra-wide), a mid-range chip, and a smaller battery due to its smaller size.
The Pixel 6 Pro, on the other hand, is shaping up to go right up against Samsung, Xiaomi, OnePlus, and even Apple’s new flagships. Competing phones like the S22 and Mi 12 are expected to come with the absolute latest and greatest of hardware, as well as Google’s Android 12 – of course, with their unique twist on top.
For example, Samsung’s Galaxy S22 is said to come with upgraded camera sensors, custom AMD graphics (expected to debut together with Samsung’s next flagship chip), and even a UTS front camera. If this turns out to be true, then Google will have a very hard time competing.
The only thing that can save the Pixel 6 Pro is the new camera sensors and iconic image processing when it comes to cameras and the standout design and software experience. Nothing new here – those were the same strong sides of the last Pixel champion – the Pixel 2 XL.
If Google manages to pull this off, we can finally have a truly solid Pixel flagship which might not have the latest bells and whistles (the Pixel 2 didn’t either), but it delivered a very reliable and consistent performance in key areas, which will appeal to the right audience.
Frankly, we hope all the rumors about all new flagships turn out to be true, because then the bar will be raised higher, and who knows – we might have a Pixel 2 XL 2021 version which will reclaim the glory of this lineup of phones, and push other brands to do even more.
So far, the role of Google’s Pixel phones has been different from this of other Android flagships. The Pixel 5 was simply a vehicle for Android 11, meant to show it off in the best way. We argue that it really… didn’t. Because the limited hardware on the Pixel 5 didn’t unleash the true software potential like, for example, on OnePlus flagships.
Going back to the roles of smartphone brands, companies like Samsung and Xiaomi have been focused on bringing the absolute latest and greatest in terms of hardware. OnePlus sits somewhere in between, while Apple is, well… doing its own thing.
The point is – does the Pixel 6 Pro have a shot at finally transforming Google into a major software AND hardware player instead of a software developer. In other words, the Pixel 6 & 6 Pro could be great phones overall without cutting corners.
Again, the competition will be very stiff not only because of flagship phones but also “flagship killers” like the upcoming Galaxy S21 FE and the countless Xiaomi phones that deliver exceptional value at lower prices.
Please, Google… Make the Pixel great again!