The excellent Pixel 5 is Google's current flagship phone, but time stands still for no device, so we take a look forward at what to expect when its successor – the Pixel 6 (and Pixel 6 Pro) – arrive(s).
In this article, we explore the expected release date, price and the new specs suggested to appear on Google’s next flagship phones.
When will the Google Pixel 6 be released?
Google officially first acknowledged the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro in a press release published on 2 August. While the company didn't make mention of a specific release date at the time, it repeatedly promised an arrival time of "Fall" (Autumn), in line with past Pixel releases.
Conflicting rumours – the first from Weibo user Bald Panda and the second from established tipster Jon Prosser a day later – posited September and October dates, respectively. However, between the two, the consensus seemed fall on Prosser's sources, which stated a 19 October pre-order date and a market release on 28 October.
As for an official launch, while Google hasn't formally set a date, it has indirectly given us some potential time-frames to work off of. The first comes from the official #MadeByGoogle Instagram feed which posted the below image:
In it, all of the clock widgets on the various Pixel 6 screens point to the exact same date Prosser's sources pointed to – 19 October. Despite the added weight this lends to the date, however, it's also worth considering XDA Developers' Editor in Chief, Mishaal Rahman's observation, which makes mention of Google's intentions to release the AOSP build Android 12 on 4 October and the significance that might play in the Pixel 6's release:
The Android 12 stable update may be released on October 4, as that's when Google plans to release to AOSP. This tentative release date was also mentioned by a 3PL. pic.twitter.com/PMN802gQj0— Mishaal Rahman (@MishaalRahman) September 12, 2021
For reference, here's when the last three generations of Pixel launched:
Despite the ongoing launch date guessing game, the Pixel 6 ad train has now started moving too, with both online and broadcast TV video ads featuring the phone starting to crop up.
In the UK, Google even struck a Pixel 6-related TV sponsorship with new Channel 4 "docu-ality series" Highlife. In the related press release, Channel 4 stated, "the exclusive deal represents one of Channel 4’s biggest ever branded entertainment led partnerships and the first time Google has partnered with a broadcaster in this way, in the UK."
The deal includes "contextual ads" which feature cast members from the show using Pixel 6 features and viewers have already reported seeing the spots, which kicked off on 10 September.
Meanwhile, in Japan, Google released a limited run of packs of “Google Original (Potato) Chips” (all in "Googley Salty Flavour"), coloured to match the finishes set to grace the Pixel 6 line, whilst also highlighting the new Google-made Tensor SoC used by the devices.
How much will the Google Pixel 6 cost?
Pricing is a bit less reliable when looking at past releases. Back 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, which you can buy at the time of writing for £599/US$699.
Sadly, we don’t see this descending trend continuing, with the company's hardware executive, Rick Osterloh telling German site Der Spiegel, that the next Pixels “will be expensive.”
While Osterloh didn't throw out any specific figures at the time, he did allude to the fact that recent Pixels haven't readily intended to compete with the top-tier devices pushed out by rivals.
Things are set to be different with the Pixel 6, however, which he described as a “mainstream premium product”, known to be running on fresh Google-designed silicon, that will have likely cost a fair few research and development dollars in its creation.
As for the Pixel 6 Pro, we imagine it will be at least £100/US$100 more than the standard 6.
What about the Google Pixel 6's design and specs?
While Google's August announcement didn't spill the tea on everything the Pixel 6 line would be bringing to the table, it did confirm a number of previously-leaked details, covering both the phones' design and hardware (as well as putting to bed the debate over whether the larger phone's name would be the 'Pixel 6 XL' or 'Pixel 6 Pro').
Jon Prosser's huge May leak gave us a potential first-look at the Pixel 6's design, which turns out to have been right on the money, based on Google's first officially-released images.
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 is said to feature "improved sensors and lenses" that are "now too big to fit into a traditional square."
Google never got into specifics but it did state that both phones "have new materials and finishes, too — like the Pro’s light polished aluminum [sic] frame, and the 6’s matte aluminum [sic] finish."
These Pixels also appear to be reverting back to glass-backed designs, similar to the first three generations of Pixel; with contrasting colours on either side of that distinctive camera bar.
Speaking of colours, Google's characteristically quirky names for the colourways shown above haven't yet been published, however, tipster TechScoreNY has put forward 'Sorta Orange', 'Arctic Blue' and 'Mostly Grey'. These names were originally in reference to the 6 Pro specifically, however, assuming the images Google has since supplied are the only finishes for each model of phone, it's thought that 'Arctic Blue' might relate to the blue/green finish seen on the standard Pixel 6 depicted.
While Google's initial round of official images does include shots featuring a centrally-positioned front-facing hole-punch camera, Prosser's previous mock-ups (made by Ian Zelbo) offer the front view up in far greater detail, highlighting the display's tiny bezels at the same time.
Google hasn't officially spilt the beans on the sensor, however, Hiroshi Lockheimer – Senior VP for Android – posted (and then deleted) a tweet featuring screenshots taken on a Pixel 6 Pro, with the sensor placement edging towards the phone's midline.
Hiroshi Lockheimer apparently posted (and then deleted) a screenshot from what's likely the Pixel 6 Pro (the image resolution was 1440x3200.) The phone is connected to Verizon 5G, likely the carrier's sub-6GHz network. Also shown is the position of the UDFPS.— Mishaal Rahman (@MishaalRahman) August 24, 2021
H/T @jspring86az pic.twitter.com/Pessh7RvNV
If you're looking for a more detailed look at the Pro, Brandon, from This Is Tech Today shared a hands-on video of what looks like a developmental build of the phone (based on the placeholder logo featured).
I think this may be the first hands on video leak of a Google Pixel 6 Pro.— M. Brandon Lee | THIS IS TECH TODAY (@thisistechtoday) September 21, 2021
FYI: The logo would indicate that this is likely an early production test unit, so that means there may be some differences between what you see here and the actual production device. #teampixel pic.twitter.com/4QSvdktqA7
The video is short but adds come context to the phone's hardware layout and general proportions.
Google hasn't yet handed out a complete spec sheet for these freshly-teased phones, so instead, we turn to the likes of The Verge – who managed to get some hands-on time with pre-release versions of both devices and gleaned a few concrete specifications in the process – and (among others) Jon Prosser, with what he believes are the final specs for the 6 and 6 Pro. He also mentions that Google will supply these phones with at least five years of software updates.
Pixel 6 specs
- 6.4in 90Hz flat AMOLED display
- In-display fingerprint sensor
- 50Mp main + 12Mp ultrawide rear cameras
- 8Mp hole-punch front camera
- Stereo speakers
- 4614mAh battery
- Google Tensor chipset
- 8GB RAM
- 128/256GB storage
- Android 12
- 158.6 x 74.8 x 8.9mm
Pixel 6 Pro specs
- 6.7in 120Hz curved-edge pOLED display
- In-display fingerprint sensor
- 50Mp main + 8Mp telephoto (4x zoom) + 12Mp ultrawide rear cameras
- 12Mp hole-punch front cameras
- Stereo speakers
- 5000mAh battery
- Google Tensor chipset
- 12GB RAM
- 128/256/512GB storage
- Android 12
- 163.9 x 75.8 x 8.9mm
Specs, including a 50Mp main sensor, paired with an ultrawide snapper and an 8Mp 5x zoom camera, had been previously rumoured elsewhere, however, the Verge's hands-on time pulled the Pro's telephoto zoom abilities back to 4x magnification (presumably, before further digital zoom).
As to that 50Mp sensor specifically, XDA Developers spotted details in the camera app contained within the Android 12 Beta 4 – which was released in August – suggesting that the Pixel 6 line might be using Samsung's GN1 sensor in this instance.
This discovery is 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 will be the first set of phones to feature a GN1 sensor outside of China.
Prior to Google's early August announcement, XDA Developers had 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.
A few people have pointed out to me than in this video: https://t.co/yQqmXm7VAs
You can see what looks like the camera app with a 0.6X, 2X, and a 5X zoom option. Could mean nothing but with this new leak..
H/T jeneeek on Telegram pic.twitter.com/b8BhWsh7Qw— Mishaal Rahman (@MishaalRahman) May 20, 2021
Why 4x is the level to which Google has apparently settled on, despite all the leaks to the contrary, is unclear.
OnLeaks states that dimensions for the 6 Pro will clock in at 163.9 x 75.8 x 8.9mm or 11.5mm, if you factor in the camera bar.
According to Display Supply Chain Consultants' (DSCC's) CEO, Ross Young (via Twitter), the 6 Pro will also utilise Samsung’s new E5 LTPO OLED panel, meaning it'll boast a variable refresh rate (i.e. not just fixed at 120Hz all the time).
According to XDA Developers, the panel in question can already be found on the iQOO 8 Pro, which received an A+ rating in DisplayMate’s testing and won the organisation's Best Smartphone Display Award, which spells good things for the viewing experience offered up by the 6 Pro.
Other smaller details include stereo speakers, wireless charging and it will have "a couple of sensors housed in the camera module, as well as a microphone unit."
With regards to the smaller phone, OnLeaks (via 91Mobiles) reiterated that the phone will have a flat screen, along with an in-display fingerprint sensor and wireless charging. Stereo speakers, USB-C charging and dimensions of 158.6 x 74.8 x 8.9mm (11.8mm including camera bar) are also said to feature.
Processor: 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.
While Samsung didn't get a name check during the company's 2 August announcement, Google did detail some of what we can expect from the custom silicon, destined for its 2021 flagship phones; sporting what it calls 'Tensor' – a name we've already seen affiliated with a number of other Google projects, in relation to AI computing and Machine Learning.
In an official capacity, Google's release 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."
While that doesn't shed a huge amount of light on just how exactly Tensor pulls away from the Snapdragon chips the company was previously sticking into Pixel devices, leaks leading up to this announcement referencing the chip's codename "Whitechapel" add a little extra illumination.
GS101 "Whitechapel" (GS likely meaning 'Google Silicon') supposedly shares 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 would 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.
It's supposedly made on a 5nm process (matching the 888 and Exynos 2100) and – as subsequently reiterated by Google – focuses on AI and machine learning tasks, which means users can expect improvements in areas like photography and translation. Yogesh has also weighed in to confirm similar details while adding that it should be viewed in a similar vein to Qualcomm's Snapdragon 870, in terms of ability.
Well yes, Whitechapel is a 5nm chip with current performance on PVT units closer to SD870, they are not trying to match SD888. Google's focus is on ML & so the raw AI performance is matched to that of other leading mobile chips. Plus that Mali GPU is performing good under stress.— 𓆩Yogesh𓆪 (@heyitsyogesh) May 24, 2021
In mid-September, Geekbench 5 scores tied to the Pixel 6 Pro popped up, and although the single and multi-core numbers weren't particularly earth-shattering (likely pulled from a developmental device), perhaps more revealing was the unusual core configuration Tensor looks to utilise.
Instead of a Cortex X1 'prime core' and seven supporting cores – as on the Snapdragon 888 – the chip inside this particular 6 Pro was listed as toting two big cores, clocked at 2.8GHz, a further two – running at 2.25GHz and four little, energy-efficient cores, tuned to 1.8GHz.
It's likely that Tensor uses two pairs of Cortex-A78 cores and four Cortex-A55 cores, while the mention of a Mali-G78 GPU matches that of the one used in Samsung's Exynos 2100. The results also make mention of 12GB of RAM.
Google also let slip expectations around the adoption of Ultra-Wideband (UWB) support, (as initially spotted by 9to5Google) mentioning on the AOSP, interaction between its Pixel devices and Android 12 – with regards to UWB. As well as intentions to make interactions with the technology easier for Android phone makers going forward with Android 13.
This technology, paired with NFC, is also likely how support for the new Digital Car Key feature in Android 12 will function; allowing you to unlock a compatible vehicle with your phone.
Google said it will work with 'select Pixel & Galaxy devices' from Fall (Autumn). The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, S21 Ultra, Z Fold 2, Z Fold 3 and Honor Magic 3 range are the only Android phones with this tech so far (at the time of writing).
As spotted by Android Police, UWB support has also subsequently been confirmed in a series of FCC filings for the Pixel 6 line, although not all models (although we're not sure which) will apparently feature the wireless technology. WiFi 6E support was also mentioned in the same certification.
Power and charging
According to The Verge, the Pixel 5a is the last of the company's phones to ship with a charger in-box, meaning the Pixel 6/6 Pro are going the way of Apple, Samsung and Xiaomi, by trimming out an included 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 change also brings to the company.
At the same time, tipster Yogesh informed 91Mobiles that Pixel 6 test devices have apparently been spotted plugged into 33W fast chargers, which – if refilling Google's next smartphones at full pace – will render the Pixel 6 line the fastest-charging phones in Pixel history, with devices previously topping out at 18W.
It also seems Google is working on a new wireless charging stand for the Pixel 6, that will include a cooling fan. 9to5Google spotted mentions of it in the Android 12 Beta 2 code.
There's no word on power output, but the fan will help keep the phone cool while it charges and looks like it 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 'Luxuryliner', it seems it will be a follow-up to the £69 Pixel Stand, which coincidentally was codenamed 'Dreamliner'.
In the meantime, check out our review of the Google Pixel 5, our roundup of the best Pixel 5 deals and our thoughts on Google's initial Pixel 6 reveal in episode 77 of our weekly podcast, Fast Charge: