Google's upcoming Pixel 6 looks like a return to form for the company, based on current leaks. In fact, we've seen quite a bit when it comes to the new phone, both internally and externally, and it looks like it should be the first "true" flagship from the company for two years — or longer, depending on how you felt about the Pixel 4. Everything's subject to change as we learn more, but here's everything we know about the Pixel 6 so far.
What will it look like?
We've seen the Pixel 6 a few times in both of its expected sizes. While earlier leaks showed off general designs, later leaks seem more accurate with more precise details regarding what we should expect:
Both phones in the Pixel 6 series look pretty similar to one another, with Google finally changing the design language it has used for the last two generations when it comes to the back of the phone.
The square camera bump used on the Pixel 4 and 5 has been replaced by a TCL-style camera strip, with the various cameras all set in a line. On the smaller model, that's two cameras plus a flash, with a narrow accent strip just above it and a big, blank, presumably glass panel beneath it.
Recent CAD-based renders indicate a body around 158.6 x 74.8 x 8.9mm, plumping out to 11.8mm at the camera strip, making the "small" Pixel 6 a relatively large phone. For comparison, the Pixel 5 (144.7 x 70.4 x 8mm) is smaller in every dimension by a large margin. By all accounts, the Pixel 6 won't be a "small" phone.
While I'm not sure if leaks are yet so accurate that we can trust precise details like bezel sizing at this early stage, what we've seen clearly shows an edge-to-edge but flat display (reportedly 6.4") with a Samsung-style pinhole camera in the center top. Around the side, the power button and volume button are in the same position they usually are: Next to each other on the right, with the power on top.
There's no visible fingerprint sensor on the back or side, and some leaks claim an in-screen fingerprint sensor may be used. Android 12 is also picking up native support for in-display fingerprint sensors, which may be an indicator of Google's plans.
Pixel 6 Pro or XL — whatever they call the big one
If you've seen the Pixel 6, then you've seen the bigger Pixel 6 Pro or XL or whatever it ends up being named. It uses the same overall design language, complete with a Cylon-style camera strip and a center-aligned pinhole camera on the front.
The key differences between the two versions, based on what we've seen so far, come down to size and the rear camera. As you'd expect, the bigger phone has numerically larger dimensions in most aspects: 163.9 x 75.8 x 8.9mm and 11.5mm at the camera, with a 6.7" screen size. That camera strip also has an extra module compared to the smaller version of the phone. Again, I'd hesitate to offer too much certainty during this early period, but current leaks show that the bigger version has a periscope-style telephoto camera that the smaller model lacks, similar to the Galaxy S20 Ultra and S21 Ultra.
The Pixel 6 Pro also has a larger accented forehead above the camera module on the back.
Back to two phones
If the previous section didn't make it clear, leaks indicate that the Pixel 6 will come in two sizes: A smaller model and an XL or "Pro" variant, depending on how Google names things. The two models won't be equals, either, not just outside size.
Much as Samsung and Apple's biggest phones snag a few extra features, the bigger version of the Pixel 6 will have an extra camera module — current leaks indicate the distinction is a periscope-style telephoto camera, but I'd take that with a small grain of salt at this relatively early stage.
Renders of the Pixel 6 (above) and Pixel 6 XL or Pro or whatever (below).
There could be other differences in specifications between the two devices as well — probably screen resolution and battery, favoring the larger model in both cases — though details are still unknown at this early stage, and it's too early to offer much certainty, only educated guesses.
What are the specs?
Again, it's still early, so I hesitate to offer too much in the way of certainty or even speculation regarding specifications for the pair of phones, but we do know a few things.
|Chipset||Google's first-party Whitechapel chip (2x A78, 2x A76, 4x A55, 5nm node)|
|Chipset GPU||Mali-G78 (core-size variant as yet unknown)|
|Screen size||6.4" (Pixel 6) and 6.7" (Pixel 6 Pro/XL)|
|Cameras||Two on the Pixel 6, three on the Pixel 6 Pro/XL|
Google's long-rumored, long-leaked Whitechapel chip is likely powering the Pixel 6 series, and we know some things about it. For one, it was built at least partly with Samsung's help, with a handful of machine learning customizations specifically designed by Google. Samsung is also producing the chip at a 5nm node, and it should have a pair of big A78 cores, plus a pair of A76 cores, augmented by four smaller A55 cores.
Speaking to analysts, current performance estimates for those specifications place it somewhere under the hot-running flagship Snapdragon 888 but certainly above the Snapdragon 765G used in last year's Pixel 5. We also don't know what modem it might use, though Google would be foolish to launch a phone in 2021 without 5G — especially the faster mmWave variety. Earlier analyst predictions indicated it could have to use a Qualcomm modem (based on current carrier partnerships and requirements) though it's far from certain. An Exynos modem could also be a possibility.
Whitechapel could be a game-changer for Google — if not in performance, maybe when it comes to updates.
That Google-made chip could also mean a longer software window compared to prior Qualcomm-powered models.
Android 12 indicates Google may be working on a new Pixel Stand that features active cooling. That could be an indicator that faster wireless charging is coming to the new phone. Ultra-wideband support may also debut in one of the phones for directional applications. For context, UWB can be used for things like AirTag-like functionality and other object tracking.
Rumors have swirled that Google may finally upgrade the primary camera sensor with the new Pixel series, though precise details to date disagree between sources, most of which lack authority to report on. However, the consistency of the rumors may indicate it is true in broad strokes, and Google may finally be moving from the now quite aged Sony IMX363 to something larger and higher resolution.
Compared to the Pixel 5
There are still a lot of details we don't know, but compared to last year's model, the new Pixel 6 series sounds like an upgrade across the board, with two potential exceptions.
Last year, fans were disappointed there wasn't an "XL" version of the Pixel 5, save the slightly cut-down Pixel 4a 5G (which was more like a Pixel 5 "lite"). This return to a two-phone series means fans of big screens can consider Pixels again. Hardware specifications may still be mostly unknown outside a few details, but it sounds like Google is returning to a flagship mindset as well, compared to the Pixel 5's slightly downmarket move.
Most Pixels at least try to be "flagships," but the Pixel 5 stands out as an exception.
The new chipset should be faster, the cameras are clearly upgraded (if not assuredly in quality, definitely in quantity in the case of the larger version), and things like faster wireless charging (if it pans out) and an in-display fingerprint sensor are the sorts of perks you expect to see in a higher-end phone. But there are two probable setbacks.
For one, the smaller Pixel 6 isn't objectively going to be a "small" phone — not by our definition, and not by yours, according to a recent poll. Fans of the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a's size will likely be disappointed by the much larger Pixel 6. Second: If the Pixel 6 is a return to a true flagship mantra, as it seems to be so far, that will likely come with more expensive flagship pricing, unless Google can work a miracle or future leaks details indicate lower aim.
How much will it cost?
Price so far is unknown, and any numbers would be conjecture. If I had to guess, I would expect it to cost more than last year's Pixel 5 given the spec bump this year and more truly "flagship" design, but we'll have to wait for more information before it's reasonable to offer up any estimates.
When will it come out?
Google's flagship Pixels usually land sometime in autumn, at the Made By Google event. Last year that was upset by the pandemic and replaced with a more low-key "Launch Night In," but the timing is usually the same.
There were a few rumors that the schedule could be moved forward this year (as we've been asking for), but supply shortages are also pushing timelines for products further back, so I hesitate to pinpoint even this fall as a certainty. We'll just have to wait and see.
Leaks for the Pixel 6 series continue, and with each new tidbit, our understanding changes. In the next few months, our coverage will likely change from a pile of unknowns to a full spec table. Be sure to check back in on our coverage regularly as we learn more. But for now, the image is half-formed at best, and many of the details regarding Google's upcoming Pixel 6 remain a mystery.