The Pixel 6 contains Google’s “Tensor” processor, which it says runs AI-systems for everything from the camera to translation, voice and image recognition significantly faster, at lower power. It is also the first phone in the series with a “Pro” model, designed to compete at the high end of the market.
Google owns and operates the Android platform, used by almost every mobile phone maker apart from Apple. But the top end of the Android market has been dominated by other smartphone brands such as Samsung, whose phones can cost more than £1,000.
Previewed by Google in August, the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro are the Android-maker’s attempt to compete with Apple and Samsung at the high end of the market after disappointing results with its previous mid-range entries.
The Pixel 6 has a flat 6.4in 90Hz OLED screen and new 50-megapixel main and 12MP ultra-wide cameras on the back and 8MP selfie camera, which Google says are greatly improved over its previous units. It costs £599 in the UK and $599 in the US – at least £170 less than the iPhone 13 and Samsung Galaxy S21.
The £849 ($899) Pixel 6 Pro has a larger, curved 6.7in 120Hz OLED screen, the same 50MP main and 12MP ultrawide cameras, plus a 48MP telephoto camera with a 4x optical zoom and an 11.1MP ultrawide selfie camera.
What the analysts say:
Ben Wood, Chief Analyst and CMO, CCS Insight
“The Google Pixel team undoubtedly has aspirations to take on Apple’s iPhone or Samsung’s flagship Galaxy devices, but the reality is that Apple and Samsung have had decades to build their brands, distribution and consumer loyalty. There is still a huge swathe of consumers who don’t know that Google makes phones or in some cases, that Android is a Google product. Google is going to have a spend a small fortune on marketing to move the needle if it wants to be a major smartphone player, just as Huawei did in the past”.
“Alphabet, Google’s parent company, certainly has the money – but does it really have the appetite for the required marketing spend and distribution expansion? Furthermore, alienating other Android licensees, including Samsung, is a risk given how strategically important Android is to the flow of information that drives Google’s wider business.”
“When it comes to Apple, I just can’t see Pixel even being a consideration for loyal iPhone owners. Even Samsung, with billions invested in brand building, combined with a stunning line up of Android phones, struggles to get Apple owners to defect. Pixel is a competitor to Google’s own ecosystem rather than a game-changing competitor to the iPhone.”
“Google is clearly excited about the chip it is offering with the Pixel, but history has shown that mass-market consumers will care little about custom silicon. I can understand why Google is proud of a custom chip and in time it may enable some game-changing apps and experiences but near term it’s not the secret sauce that will be a game-changer when it comes to getting consumers interested in Pixel phones.”
“The camera has always been a key selling point for Pixel devices and the company continuing to lean heavily on computational photography innovations. It is also encouraging to see the inclusion of a 4X optical zoom, which keeps the device competitive with the iPhone 13 Pro which has a 3X optical zoom and the Galaxy S21 family which has 3X and 10X optical zoom depending on the model.”
“The promise of five years software support on the Google Pixel 6 is a good move, but it’s a direction of travel all phone makers are moving in. Apple has led the charge by supporting upgrades on at least five generations of iPhones, and even Samsung now commits to at least three years of support. CCS Insight’s research shows consumers are now holding onto their phones for longer than ever (on average for at least four years), so sustained software updates is becoming more important.”
Ru Bhikha, mobiles expert at Uswitch.com:
“In a world where every smartphone looks the same, the Pixel 6 dares to try a different design and houses its camera setup in what looks like wraparound shades.
“The Pixel range’s camera always punched above its weight, but it’s had another upgrade here as the arms race gripping smartphone photography continues. Google even made the bold claim that this is the most advanced smartphone camera in the world.
“Both the standard and Pro versions of the Pixel 6 feature a 50MP main sensor – a big step up from the iPhone 13 Pro’s 12MP offering, and most likely improving the camera’s low-light performance.
“The Pixel 6 Pro also has a 48MP telephoto lens with a 4x zoom that is boosted by Google’s Super Res Zoom feature, which captures multiple frames to get extra detail from pictures.
“Another neat feature is Magic Eraser – a Photoshop-like tool that allows you to remove unwanted elements from your pictures on the go.
“The Pixel 6 should be a slick device thanks to Google’s new Tensor SoC chip that aims to take on Apple’s in-house A-series processor.
“Google continues to deliver great value for money with the budget-friendly standard option alongside the more premium Pixel 6 Pro which both cost less than Apple’s premium handsets.
“With mid-range manufacturers like Xiaomi and Honor growing ever more popular in Europe, keeping prices accessible is a shrewd business move.
“Google’s deep pockets mean that it can offer high spec devices for reasonable prices, all of which means its phones should be well-suited to compete for pride of place in consumers’ pockets.”