Google’s Pixel smartphones are taking a big step towards becoming a true Apple iPhone and Samsung Galaxy competitor.
In a virtual press conference on Tuesday, the company showed off the new 6.4-inch Pixel 6 and 6.7-inch Pixel 6 Pro, which run Android 12, Google’s most significant software update in years. The devices have an almost bezel-less display, a new camera system packed into a horizontal camera bar that runs down the back, innovative photo features and a battery that can last about two days, prioritizing which one. Most used apps (and close the rest)
But the real game changer is Google’s new in-house Tensor processor, which is a step away from the third-party chips typically used in rival Android devices. The company said Tensor makes the Pixel 6 phone up to 80% faster than the Pixel 5, allowing on-device artificial intelligence for features like more accurate speech recognition and image processing. It also gives the phone more processing power for games and apps, and makes some of its new camera tools possible.
Apple, Huawei and Samsung have been making their own chips for years, but Google’s effort to double down on a tailor-made processor for its Google Android software shows it’s ready to create a custom experience for its users and much more. Strives to capture a bigger slice of the global smartphone market. (Right now, the Google Pixel represents less than 1% of global smartphone sales, with about 3.7 million units sold last year, according to market research firm IDC.)
“Google never intended the Pixel to be a high-volume smartphone,” said David McQueen, research director at ABI Research. “The idea was that they would use Pixel devices to showcase the Android ecosystem, demonstrating to their partners what could be done with top-end hardware and the latest Android software.” But the advantages of a custom Google Tensor chip could allow it to make new experiences possible, he said.
The Pixel 6 comes in three colors — seafoam, kinda coral, and black — and starts at $599. Meanwhile, the Pixel 6 Pro is available in sunlight, white, and black starting at $899. The new Pixel 6 phones are now available for pre-order and will start shipping on October 28.
The launch comes during a busy week for tech product launches ahead of the holiday season. On Monday, Apple unveiled the new MacBook Pro laptop and its next-generation AirPods. And Samsung is hosting a mysterious press event on Wednesday. But these products are also launching amid ongoing concerns about global component shortages and logistics issues.
Like many smartphones, camera improvements are a major selling point. The Pixel 6 Pro packs a new triple rear camera system with a pro-level telephoto lens with 4x optical zoom in the camera bar and an 11-megapixel selfie camera at the front. The company said that the sensor captures 150% more light, which aims to bring more vivid colors and greater accuracy to photos. The company said it can capture fine details, including the starry sky.
Google also introduced new photo tools, including Face Unblur, which better captures faces in difficult situations, the Magic Eraser in Google Photos that removes background distractions, and Motion Mode for action shots.
The company is also adding new security features to the Pixel, such as a Security Hub that keeps passwords in one place and allows you to turn off the microphone and cameras (or choose which apps can use them). The effort comes amid constant scrutiny from tech companies and their approach to user privacy.
It is also enhancing anti-phishing protection to detect potential risks and suspicious phone calls, text messages, emails and links, flagging them to users. Meanwhile, its new personal safety app detects whether a user has been in an accident and helps them reach first responders.
Earlier this year, Google showed off a facelift for Android 12, including bigger buttons, a bigger clock on the homescreen that changes size depending on how many notifications are visible, and muted pastel colors. Huh. It also includes a series of productivity updates, including an option for Google Assistant to hold the power button to make a phone call or to ask an article to be read aloud, and augmented reality tools in Google Maps.