Google’s Pixel 6 and 6 Pro show what Android 12 can really do!

Google Pixel 6 and 6 Pro

Google has released the Google Pixel 6 and 6 Pro to showcase what finely matched hardware and Android 12 software can do – call it a reference device. But unlike previous Pixels, there is a lot more to the hardware to make this quite a special smartphone.

There is a 6.4” Google Pixel 6 and a 6.7” Google Pixel 6 Pro. The main differences are (6 vs 6 Pro):

6.4”, 1080p, 90Hz (6.7”, 1440p, 120Hz) – both AMOLED, under-glass optical fingerprint scanner and Gorilla Glass Victus
12GB base memory and 128/256GB storage, no MicroSD (may have a 512GB model)
Rear Camera: 50MP primary (Samsung GN1) + 12MP (Sony IMX386) ultra-wide (same plus 48MP Sony IMX586 4x optical/20X hybrid Periscope Zoom) and 4K@60fps video with audio zoom and BT microphone support
Front camera: 8MP (12MP for 94° wide-angle groupies – RAW mode) 4K@30fps
5G sub-6Ghz and 5G Low-band (plus mmWave)
4600 mAh battery (5000mAh). 30W wired and 21W Qi wireless (23W) – no charger inbox
Both have Wi-Fi 6, BT 5.2, NFC, dual-band GPS and Ultra-wideband (think AirTags and smart keys)
Both have a Tensor SoC – 2x Cortex-X1 (2.8Ghz), 2x Cortex-A76 (2.25Ghz), and 4x Cortex-A55 (1.8Ghz). The 848Mhz Mali-G78 GPU has hardware-accelerated AV1 video decoding.
Price: $999 ($1299)
From: Google Store, Telstra, JB Hi-Fi, Optus, Vodafone, Harvey Norman and Officeworks
Colours: Stormy Black two-tone for each plus Kinda Coral, Sorta Seafoam for the 6 and Sorta Sunny, Cloudy White two-tones for the 6 Pro. IP68 water-resistant and made from 30% recycled plastics over an aluminium frame.

The secret sauce is the Google-designed Tensor Chip based on a Samsung Exynos 2100 (which is the same as the Galaxy S21 series) using Samsung’s Exynos 5123 modem. It is optimised for Google’s AI and ML (artificial intelligence and machine learning) mobile applications. These include speech recognition, language translations, computational photography, power efficiency, security and Google’s claim of up to 80% faster than Pixel 5.

What’s special about Google Pixel 6 and 6 Pro camera?

The camera is interesting. Several smartphones use the 50MP 1.2um Samsung GN1 sensor, which has dual pixel phase detection autofocus, bins to 12.5MP and 2.4um pixels. It is an excellent sensor but was superseded earlier this year by the GN2 1.4um.

The 16MP ultra-wide Sony IMX386 is a fairly old (2016) and unremarkable 1.25um PDAF sensor, possibly reflecting acute sensor shortages. It is acceptable for ultrawide shots and provides additional information for Face Unblur, and Motion Blur features.

The 6 Pro has 48MP, .8um, Sony IMX586 4x optical/20X hybrid Periscope Zoom. The sensor is the most widely used – over 300 brands/models use it as a primary sensor. It too bins to 12MP and 1.6um. The Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra was the first to use this with a periscope. This 4x optical/20X Hybrid zoom setup is capable of higher zoom (say 80x), but Google has sensibly disabled that as it is impossible to get a good image above 20-30x.

The front selfie camera is uninspiring at 8MP and about 65° FOV (field of view). The Pro has a 12MP Sony IMX663 and an ultra-wide-angle 95° FOV – but you have to shoot in RAW format, so it won’t be all that much use.

The camera app – Google’s way or the highway

That Tensor chip enables a wide range of AI computational photography. I guess the real issue is will you like Google’s AI interpretation of the image and colours or not? Benefits include:

  • Magic Eraser, which allows you to erase parts of the photo – people or objects – and replace it with Google’s estimation of the background
  • Face Unblur lets you sharpen faces
  • Motion Mode adds creative blur effects, and then there is a truetone feature for diverse skin tones.
  • Real Tone (portrait) fixes skin tones

These features are in addition to the standard AI modes: portrait spotlight, scene lock, low-light and night-time photography.

The Pixel is likely to get a good DXOMARK camera score. (DXOMARK is a highly reputable photo quality tester). The October 2020 Pixel scored 120 – just under the iPhone 12 and Samsung Galaxy S21, and it did that with a dual 12MP+16MP camera, while the others had triple cameras!

Other Google Pixel 6 and 6 Pro features

This is pure Android – no extra user Interface, no bloatware – virgin. Everything it does is part of Android 12. That means many of the features will migrate to earlier Pixels and other brands of Android 12 phones.

Its camera app is proprietary, enabling it to deliver more from the hardware via Google’s Tensor system on a chip (SoC). Still, Android 12 has to support this and every other ARM SoC so others can harness the AI power of flagship Qualcomm and Exynos chips too.

The on-device translation feature also looks impressive. If someone sends you a text, or podcast or road sign in another of the 55 supported languages, it translates – according to Google – pretty accurately! You can also have conversations via text in your native language, and it will translate your messages to the recipient, and theirs back to you in your language. There’s no cut-and-paste or looking things up needed as it all happens seamlessly. Lastly, the transtate feature can be embedded into other chat apps like WhatsApp, Messenger and more.

Google has committed to 5 years of security patches (frequency not disclosed) and three years of Android OS upgrades. Given that it is starting at Android 12, that’s good, but Samsung or OPPO have similar policies.

How does it compare with other Android flagship phones?

In the Android world, it is the latest cab off the rank using a chip roughly equivalent to the Samsung Exynos 2100 or the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865+ (some say the SD888, but it is slightly below that spec). Still, it is a cut above most chips, so it should be on your shopping list if your budget is $999-$1299.

The January 2022 Samsung Galaxy S22 will use the latest Qualcomm SD895/898 or the Samsung Exynos 2200 with AMD’s ray-tracing GPU (for games). These are quantum leaps over the existing flagship processors. There is a strong rumour of a 200MP camera sensor or even a quad 108MP on the OPPO Find X4 Pro! But these will be much more expensive devices.

For the interim, at $999/1299, the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro presents good value as a 2021 handset competing with the February 2021 Samsung Galaxy S21 ($999 128GB) and S21+ ($1349 128GB) and the April 2021 OPPO Find X3 Pro (1499 256GB that outclasses it in many areas).

Google Pixel is an enthusiast’s phone – someone that wants pure Android. Given its ‘Sorta’ and ‘Kinda’ colours and recent advertising campaign, it is for a hip audience that wants lots of cool features.