Google cares about phones again with the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro

Everything about the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro screams yowza. But are the new designs, specs, and cameras enough to attract iPhone and Samsung users?

Google Pixel 6 in three colors

At last, Google has detailed its Pixel 6 and 6 Pro phones. The new Pixels are a one-eighty after unsuccessfully pivoting the phones to the mid-range last year with affordable (but basic) devices like the Pixel 4a and Pixel 5.

The Pixel 6 and 6 Pro have more bite than the Pixel 5. Both phones actually look designed. Peep the nicer materials, the fun colors, and the distinct camera bar that runs across the backside. They have an identity — something that can’t be said for so many Android phones.

But it’s not just a new jacket. The Pixel 6 and 6 Pro are the first phones powered by Google’s own Tensor SoC (system-on-a-chip) for improved machine learning processing across all applications. The cameras are a major leap forward for a Pixel. Google is doubling down on security across the board.

Check out that camera bar.Google

Best of all, the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro are more affordable than the iPhone 13 and Samsung Galaxy S21.

How much does the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro cost? — The Pixel 6 starts at $599 and the Pixel 6 Pro starts at $899. For comparison, the iPhone 13 (not counting the 13 mini) starts at $699 and the iPhone 13 Pro starts at $999.

When can you preorder? — Both Pixel phones are available for preorder today and launch on October 28.

What colors are available? The Pixel 6 comes in three colors: Storm Black, Sorta Seafoam, and Kinda Coral. The Pixel 6 Pro comes in Stormy Black, Cloudy White, and Sorta Sunny.

Tech specs — There are a few differences between the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro. The Pixel 6 Pro has a larger screen with a higher refresh rate, a bigger battery, more RAM, a telephoto lens, and a higher resolution selfie camera. It’s also got an additional storage option.

Pixel 6 features:

  • Display: 6.4-inch OLED (2,400 x 1,080) / 441 ppi
  • Refresh rate: 90Hz
  • Chip: Tensor
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Storage: 128GB or 256GB
  • Cameras: 50-megapixel wide, 12-megapixel ultrawide — (4K 60 fps video) / 8-megapixel selfie camera — (1080p 30 fps video)
  • Battery: 4,615 mAh
  • Connectivity: 5G (sub-6 and mmWave) / Wi-Fi 6E / NFC
  • Durability: IP68 dust and water resistance
  • Charging: Wireless charging / 30W fast charging / Reverse wireless charging
  • Biometric: In-display fingerprint reader
Pixel 6 ProGoogle

Pixel 6 Pro features:

  • Display: 6.7-inch LTPO OLED (3,120 x 1,440) / 512 ppi
  • Refresh rate: 120Hz
  • Chip: Tensor
  • RAM: 12GB
  • Storage: 128GB, 256GB, or 512GB
  • Cameras: 50-megapixel wide, 12-megapixel ultrawide, 48-megapixel telephoto with 4x optical zoom — (4K 60 fps video) / 11-megapixel selfie camera — (1080p 30 fps video)
  • Battery: 5,003 mAh
  • Connectivity: 5G (sub-6 and mmWave) / Wi-Fi 6E / NFC
  • Durability: IP68 dust and water resistance
  • Charging: Wireless charging / 30W fast charging / Reverse wireless charging
  • Biometric: In-display fingerprint reader

New camera tricks — As always, Google is not just touting the Pixel 6 as having the “best cameras” in any smartphone (we’ll be the judge of that). Google also announced a bunch of new software features, powered by Tensor no less, that it’s hoping will sway people over from iPhones or Samsung Galaxy phones.

Magic Eraser: This is basically a heal brush or Content Aware Fill (if you’re familiar with Photoshop). It lets you erase people or distracting objects in your photos. It’s not quite the erase-the-fence-in-foreground feature Google announced for Google Photos in 2017 and never shipped, but it’s a nice inclusion. We’re definitely interested in seeing how well it works. Sometimes these auto-erase/heal features can be hilariously bad.

Magic Eraser tool.Google

Magic Eraser isn’t particularly groundbreaking. There are tons of third-party apps like Lightroom or Snapseed that let you do exactly the same. The difference is gonna come down to how well Tensor’s machine learning / AI can “fix” pictures.

Motion Mode: This is actually two different features: Action Pan and Long Exposure. Action Pan applies a blur to the background of, say, a biker, or a car, to create the illusion of speed.

Onboard machine learning and computational photography used to enhance this image...Google
From this...Google
... to this.Google

In another demo, Google showed how machine learning could be used to align multiple frames to create a long exposure. For example, making water look smooth. iPhones have had similar long exposure modes for years using Live Photos.

Face Unblur: We’ve all been there: you snap a photo of someone moving around and their face comes out blurry. Using machine learning, the Pixel 6 camera takes two photos using the ultrawide and wide lenses and fuses them together, combining a sharp face from the ultrawide with a low-noise image from the wide. And then, the phone removes any additional blur if it detects it.

Real Tone: Phone cameras have always struggled somewhat with darker skin tones. Just like Apple, Google says it’s made major improvements to the Pixel 6’s image processing to more accurately produce skin tones that represent reality. That hopefully means darker skin tones that aren’t artificially lightened.

More machine learning everywhere — Under Sundar Pichai, Google has infused machine learning and AI into every part of its products. Using the Tensor chip’s ML-focused design, the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro have a bunch of new features.

Live Translate now works in more apps — first and third-party — like Google Messages and Twitter and WhatsApp. Live Caption, Google’s auto-captioning feature, can now translate and caption at the same time. The Google Assistant is more robust with Assistant Voice Typing, which Google says provides more accurate dictation (you can also dictate emojis).

Other ML features include Calling Assistance, which lets you know the best time to call a selection of 5,000 U.S. businesses so you don’t have to waste time waiting on hold, and Quick Phrases, a feature that lets you use more voice controls without always saying “Hey Google.”

Google is back! The Pixel 6 and 6 Pro look like impressive phones. But will it be enough to sway iPhone and Samsung users? Hard to say. Pixel phones have been impressive for years and still didn’t make a dent in stealing many users away from Apple and Samsung. We’ll have full reviews soon. Stay tuned.