Google Pixel 6 & Pixel 6 Pro: Everything you need to know
The new Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro – which Google describes as its "first-ever flagship phone" – are finally here. Here's everything you need to know; from features to pricing and availability
By Alex Walker-Todd
Months of rumours and leaks may have spoilt the surprise but now that they’re officially here, Google’s new Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro still look to be an exciting pair of smartphones that – for the first time ever – take the fight to the market’s biggest rivals.
Boasting new Google-made silicon, a revamped Android 12 user experience and a significantly enhanced camera setup, the Pixel 6 Series marks a significant shift in the approach Google is taking compared to previous Pixel phones; punctuated by an ambition to finally make the Pixel name one that’s known beyond the confines of tech fandom.
Here you’ll find every key piece of information surrounding the Pixel 6 line, from release date to price and the specs that appear across both of Google’s latest flagship phones. Read our full
Pixel 6 review and
Pixel 6 Pro review for a more in-depth look at what they’re capable of.
When can you buy the Google Pixel 6?
While the company initially teased a general timeframe of “Fall” (Autumn), it later scheduled its ‘Pixel Fall Launch’ event for 19 October, at which both models officially launched. The phones also went on pre-order in various markets (including the US, UK, Japan and across Europe) on the same day, subsequently going on general sale on 28 October.
For reference, here’s when the last three generations of Pixel launched:
Although the Pixel 6 line is made up of two distinct models, each comes in multiple storage SKUs (depending on the market), which unsurprisingly affects pricing. If you’re interested in picking a Pixel 6 up for yourself, check out our dedicated ‘
Where to buy the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro‘ feature.
Pixel 6 pricing:
128GB = £599/€649/US$599/AU$999
256GB = US$699/AU$1,299
Pixel 6 Pro pricing:
128GB = £849/€899/US$899/AU$1,299
256GB = £949/€999/US$999/AU$1,449
512GB = US$1,099/AU$1,599
If it isn’t immediately apparent, Google has clearly modelled this year’s pricing on the two-tiered flagship strategy that the likes of Apple, Samsung and Xiaomi already employ; with the Pixel 6 competing with the likes of the new
Galaxy S21 and
Mi 11, while the Pro is intended to tackle the likes of the
iPhone 13 Pro/13 Pro Max,
S21 Ultra and
Mi 11 Ultra.
For reference, in 2018, the Pixel 3 came with a price tag set at £739/US$799, but when the Pixel 4 came along, its price was £669/US$799. The cost of ownership dropped even lower with the Pixel 5, to £599/US$699. The US price for the Pixel 6, in particular, suggests heavy subsidisation to help make it as appealing to US customers as possible, though.
The pricing also aligns with the sentiment previously expressed by the company’s hardware executive, Rick Osterloh, who – when talking to German site
Der Spiegel back in August – stated that the next Pixels would “be expensive.”
While Osterloh didn’t throw out any specific figures at the time, he did also allude to the fact that recent Pixels haven’t readily intended to compete with the top-tier devices pushed out by rivals.
What features does the Google Pixel 6 offer?
While there are consistent elements that bear a resemblance to previous entries in the family, the Pixel 6 Series’ is arguably a unique pair of phones, based on appearance.
They also debut the first example of Google’s own mobile silicon – called Google Tensor, powering the AI and machine learning-driven experiences that serve as these devices’ tentpole features, while a new lead 50Mp rear camera and – in the case of the 6 Pro – a periscopic telephoto camera, push the Pixel line’s already impressive photographic capabilities into new territory.
Design and colours
While both share a distinctive design that’s IP68-certified against dust and water, the Pixel 6 sports a smaller (and arguably better proportioned) ‘forehead’ compared to the larger Pixel 6 Pro.
The company is calling the jutting camera arrangement across each phone’s back a “camera bar” and it’s apparently needed to accommodate the “upgraded” rear camera system, which features “improved sensors and lenses” that are “now too big to fit into a traditional square.”
This generation looks to have reverted back to glass-backed designs, similar to the first three generations of Pixel; with contrasting colours on either side of that distinctive camera bar.
Both phones feature the latest Gorilla Glass Victus on the front and Gorilla Glass 6 on the back, with a “tactile alloy frame” on the standard model and a “polished alloy frame” (partially made from recycled aluminium) on the Pro. This approach also reflects the one that Apple’s employed on the last two generations of iPhone, which feature contrasting matte aluminium and mirror-polished steel.
As for colours, Google’s characteristically quirky names for colourways are still present and correct. The standard Pixel 6 comes in Stormy Black, Sorta Seafoam and Kinda Coral, while the Pixel 6 Pro can be had in Stormy Black, Sorta Sunny and Cloudy White.
5a‘s reinstated rear fingerprint scanner has gone again, this time replaced with an optical in-display alternative – another first for the Pixel line.
Here’s a rundown of the specs the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro are respectively sporting:
48Mp telephoto camera w/ 0.8μm pixels, f/3.5, 23.5° FoV, 1/2in image sensor, OIS + EIS, optical zoom up to 4x, Super Res Zoom up to 20x
OIS + EIS
11.1Mp hole-punch front camera w/ 1.22μm pixels, f/2.2, 94° FoV
Dual SIM (via eSIM)
Wired charging up to 30W (USB-PD 3.0 + PPS)
Wireless charging up to 23W
Extreme Battery Saver
Google Tensor chipset
Titan M2 security chip
128GB/256GB/512GB storage (512GB SKU exclusive to specific markets)
Sub6 + mmWave 5G (varies by market)
FeliCa chip (Japan-only)
163.9 x 75.9 x 8.9mm
Colours: Stormy Black, Sorta Sunny and Cloudy White
Hardware highlights include the intriguing new purpose-made Tensor SoC that Google’s implemented in both phones (more on that later), paired with an upgraded Titan M2 security chip.
The standard Pixel 6 also sports a flat 6.4in 90Hz AMOLED display with more prominent bezels (compared to the 6 Pro) running around the edge – a detail that has been met with some disdain by Pixel fans online.
In comparison, the Pro features a larger 6.7in OLED panel with curved edges, built on an LTPO process that helps facilitate its higher 120Hz refresh rate. Similarly to Apple’s implementation of ProMotion on the new
iPhone 13 Pro line, the Pixel 6 Pro’s refresh rate also operates dynamically within the same 10Hz to 120Hz range, which should help with power efficiency too.
According to Display Supply Chain Consultants’ (DSCC’s) CEO, Ross Young (via
Twitter), the 6 Pro utilises Samsung’s E5 LTPO OLED panel, which – based on a report from
XDA Developers – can already be found on the iQOO 8 Pro, which itself received an A+ rating in DisplayMate’s tests and won the organisation’s ‘Best Smartphone Display Award’, spelling good things for the viewing experience offered up by the 6 Pro (the
Vivo X70 Pro+ also reportedly uses the panel).
Smaller details include stereo speakers, wireless charging (maxing out at 21W on the Pixel 6 and 23W on the 6 Pro) and Ultra-Wideband (UWB) support – as a Pixel 6 Pro exclusive.
This technology – paired with NFC – is also likely how support for the new Digital Car Key feature in Android 12 functions; allowing you to unlock a compatible vehicle with your phone.
Google said it will work with ‘select Pixel & Galaxy devices’. The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, S21 Ultra, Z Fold 2, Z Fold 3 and Honor Magic 3 range are the only other Android phones with this tech so far.
Beyond size, one of the most prominent differences is the variation in camera hardware across both phones.
Both Pixel 6 and 6 Pro lead with the same 50Mp wide-angle sensor, which according to Google, takes in “150% more light” compared to the Pixel 5’s lead snapper. First spotted by
XDA Developers, detailed in the camera app contained within the Android 12 Beta 4, it has been suggested that these latest Pixels are, in fact, using Samsung’s new GN1 sensor.
This initial discovery was attributed to a string of code: “gn1_wide_p21”, with ‘gn1’ thought to be in reference to the Samsung-made camera sensor, ‘wide’ referencing the standard lens’s field of view and ‘p21’ serving as a truncation of ‘Pixel 2021’.
If this sleuthing does turn out to be true, the Pixel 6 line is the first set of phones to feature a GN1 sensor, outside of China.
There’s also a 12Mp ultrawide across both but the Pro then stands apart with a third 48Mp telephoto lens that looks to be the first periscopic telephoto snapper on a Pixel; offering up to 4x optical magnification with Google’s algorithmically-supported Super Res Zoom maxing out at 20x magnification (Super Res Zoom on the standard Pixel 6 tops out at 7x magnification).
Prior to announcement,
XDA Developers previously noticed code within the Google Camera 8.3.252 release referencing “zoom_toggle_ultratele” and the text “5x”, as well as multiple mentions of a new “ultratele” zoom toggle.
It’s also been pointed out that an official Android 12 video also appears to show the 5x option.
So why 4x magnification is the level to which Google has settled on – despite multiple prior leaks to the contrary – is unclear.
The new imaging hardware also benefits from a number of new smart imaging features.
The camera system across both phones is designed to “capture brilliant colour, vivid detail and beautiful, authentic skin tones with new pro-level lenses.” Capturing accurate skin tones (and a wider array of skin tones more accurately) appears to be a notable focus for the 6 Series’ cameras and something Apple has also paid closer attention to with recent releases.
Pixel exclusive camera features include Magic Eraser – which automatically (and manually, if needed) paints out unwanted subjects in-frame, Face Unblur and Motion Mode – which adds motion to otherwise still scenarios without encroaching on the subject. Such functionality is made possible by the phones’ new Tensor SoC.
One rumour that the tech press had long held in high esteem was that Google had been working closely with Samsung to design a custom processor set to make its debut in the Pixel 6 line. The rumours were true.
Both Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro sport what the company has titled ‘Tensor’ – a name we’ve previously seen affiliated with a number of other Google projects, in relation to artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML).
In an official capacity, Google states, “Tensor enables us (Google) to make the Google phones we’ve always envisioned — phones that keep getting better while tapping the most powerful parts of Google, all in a highly personalized [sic] experience. And with Tensor’s new security core and Titan M2, Pixel 6 will have the most layers of hardware security in any phone.”
In terms of performance, leaks prior to launch suggested that this new silicon pulled away from the Snapdragon chips the company was previously sticking into Pixel devices by a considerable margin (much to
Qualcomm’s apparent chagrin).
GS101 “Whitechapel” (GS likely meaning ‘Google Silicon’) – what became Tensor – supposedly shared in Samsung’s latest Exynos chip design and architecture, along with some of its software components.
Speaking to Myriam Joire on her
Mobile Tech Podcast, tipster Max Weinbach stated that the chipset should sit between the Snapdragon 865 and
Snapdragon 888. Separately,
GalaxyClub found evidence of Whitechapel relating to an unreleased Samsung chip called the ‘Exynos 9855’, which is thought to sit between the silicon used inside the
Galaxy S21 and next year’s rumoured
Galaxy S22, in terms of performance.
Tensor is made on a 5nm process (matching the Snapdragon 888, Apple A15 Bionic and Exynos 2100) and – as subsequently reiterated by Google – focuses on AI and ML tasks, delivering improvements in areas like photography and translation.
Standout features that set it apart from the likes of the Snapdragon 888 include the unusual use of two ARM Cortex X1 cores (as opposed to just one ‘prime’ X1 core) and a separate TPU (Tensor Processing Unit).
Google also says the Pixel 6’s Tensor chip delivers 80% faster CPU performance and 370% faster GPU performance compared to last year’s Snapdragon 765-powered Pixel 5.
Based on our reviews of both Pixel 6s, Tensor is an excellent chipset, the performance and ability of which is hard to quantify using our existing benchmarking methods; as these don’t directly stress-test AI and ML tasks that Tensor is optimised for.
Despite lagging behind the competition, based on CPU scores alone, real-world performance suggests that Tensor is well-equipped to handle demanding mobile tasks and games.
While it’s no surprise that the Pixel 6 line also serves as the launch platform for Google’s latest
Android 12 release, the phones also get a smattering of exclusive features, made possible by the support of the Tensor chip.
Its focus on machine learning makes for better live translation in messaging and during video playback, and able to operate locally, on-device, while the aforementioned camera smarts are also part of the equation too.
Perhaps, most importantly on the software side is the promise of five years of security updates; surpassing previous Pixels with a commitment to timely security releases up until 2026.
This year, there’s also the new Pixel Pass to consider (for US customers, at least) which is drawing parallels with Apple’s One plans and iPhone Upgrade program.
Google’s official press release states, “starting at $45 per month for U.S. customers, Pixel Pass gives you a brand new Pixel 6 along with Google One, YouTube Premium and YouTube Music Premium, Google Play Pass and Preferred Care. Pixel Pass with Pixel 6 Pro starts at only $55 per month. After two years, you’ll have the option to upgrade to a new Pixel.”
Power and charging
The Pixel 6 and 6 Pro are the first in the line to go the way of Apple, Samsung and Xiaomi, by trimming out an included power adapter. Google’s argument is in favour of the reduced environmental impact a change like this implies, but it’s hard not to ignore the cost benefits such a move also brings to the company.
At the same time, Google is separately selling a new 30W power adapter that – if refilling Google’s newest smartphones at full pace – renders the Pixel 6 line the fastest-charging phones in Pixel history; with devices previously topping out at 18W. Google promises 30% charge in 30 minutes for the Pixel 6 and 50% charge in 30 minutes from the Pro.
Google has also cooked up a new wireless charging stand for the Pixel 6, which includes a cooling fan.
9to5Google first spotted mentions of it in the Android 12 Beta 2 code and Evan Blass’ October leak included the first pictures of both a type G plug power adapter and the new stand.
The new Google Pixel Stand costs US$79 and charges the Pixel 6 line at up to 23W. It features two charging points for portrait or landscape charging and, as with the original Stand, enables smart display functionality when charging, along with new support for Google Meet calls.
The stand’s fan helps keep your phone cool while it charges and will slow down if you wake the Google Assistant, presumably so the microphones can hear you better.
It will go even quieter if you use the Google Recorder app while charging and there are three modes to choose from beyond ‘Auto’: Quiet, Power Boost and Bedtime.
Designated with the codename ‘Luxuryliner’, it’s unmistakeably a follow-up to the
£69 Pixel Stand, which coincidentally was codenamed ‘Dreamliner’.
At launch, Google also showed off new official cases that drop the woven texture of previous incarnations of lead Pixel cases and instead sport a translucent finish that “lets the phone shine through.” They also feature a prominent ridge, designed to protect the phones’ camera bar and are made from at least 30% post-consumer recycled plastics.
For more Pixel content, check out our review of the
Google Pixel 5, our roundup of the
best Pixel 5 deals and our initial thoughts after first getting hands-on with both the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro in episode 88 of our weekly podcast,