What to expect at Google's Pixel 6 launch event

·Weekend Editor
·6 min read

Google has shared quite a few details of the Pixel 6 series, but it hasn't revealed everything ahead of its October 19th event. Just how powerful will these phones be? Will they represent a good value? And does Google have any surprises up its sleeve? Here's what you can expect from the presentation, including a few last-minute leaks.

The specs: A return to flagship phones

Unlike with past phone launches, Google has been happy to share basic details of the Pixel 6 family months in advance. Both the base Pixel 6 and the larger, brawnier Pixel 6 Pro will mark Google's return to high-end phones after the Pixel 5 'break,' with premium glass designs. They'll offer upgraded cameras with improved low-light performance (150 percent more light than in the past), and they should tout "all day" battery life despite support for battery-hungry 5G.

The centerpiece, however, will be the Tensor chip inside both Pixel 6 models. Google hasn't officially divulged full specs for Tensor as of this writing, but it's the company's first custom system-on-chip. The design uses its namesake AI processing to achieve things that were "previously impossible" on typical SoCs, such as juggling multiple AI tasks or processing live video.

Google Tensor chip inside Pixel 6
Google Tensor chip inside Pixel 6

However, Google hasn't said much about the exact specs of the Pixel 6 line or the range of Tensor-assisted features. Expect the company to share many more gritty technical details for the Pixel 6 at the event, although we wouldn’t count on enough info to make easy comparisons between Tensor and rival mobile chips.

You might not have to wait long to get the full scoop. Well-known leaker Evan Blass spotted Carphone Warehouse promo pages that appear to spoil much of what Google intends to announce. The standard Pixel 6 will likely compete against 'entry' flagships like the Galaxy S21 and iPhone 13 with a 6.4-inch flat 90Hz screen, a 50-megapixel main camera and a 12MP ultra-wide shooter. The Pixel 6 Pro, meanwhile, should be the definitive top-of-the-range model with a 6.7-inch curved 120Hz display and a third 48MP telephoto lens. You may also see 30W wired charging, 23W wireless charging and reverse charging to top up your earbuds or other phones.

As for Tensor? That retail listing claimed up to 80 percent better performance than the Pixel 5 (not difficult given the 5's middling Snapdragon 765G chip), but the real star may be Tensor's photographic prowess. Google reportedly plans multiple AI-driven camera tricks that include a Magic Eraser to get rid of photobombers, Face Unblur to keep people in focus and a Motion Mode for action photography. These aren't completely novel concepts (anti-photobombing has been present in Huawei and Samsung phones for a while), but they're new to Pixels and might perform better with Tensor involved.

A focus on services and support

Google Pixel 6 in peach at an angle
Google Pixel 6 in peach at an angle

Google might also break new ground in how it sells the Pixel 6. This is Tech Today's M. Brandon Lee obtained what he says is evidence Google will make the Pixel 6 available as a part of a "Pixel Pass" that combines monthly phone payments with an extended warranty, Google One cloud storage, Play Pass, optional Google Fi service and either YouTube Music or YouTube Premium. Effectively, Google would counter Apple One by including virtually everything you need in a single subscription, not just internet services.

You could also enjoy better software support regardless of what you pay. Those Carphone Warehouse pages echoed longstanding rumors that Google would offer "at least" five years of security updates to Pixel 6 owners. That's more than the three to four years you often find in the Android world, and roughly on par with Apple. It's not clear if you'll get full operating system updates for those five years, but you might not have to worry about patchable vulnerabilities for the practical life of your Pixel.

Price and release date

There's little doubt the Pixel 6 will cost more than its predecessor. Where the Pixel 5 was an upper-mid-range phone, its sequel is an upscale device. Google has even made clear the Pixel 6 Pro will be a "premium-priced product." But how much more will you have to pay?

Google Pixel 6 Pro colors
Google Pixel 6 Pro colors

That's a difficult call. One Reddit user spotted a German listing that mentioned a €649 (about $750) price for the base Pixel 6. A source for This is Tech Today, meanwhile, quoted a price of €899 (roughly $1,050) for the 6 Pro. We'd be cautious about these prices, as they could change and might not convert neatly even if they're accurate. Still, Google is apparently returning to top-tier pricing.

Like it or not, Google will also borrow a cost- and waste-cutting measure from its rivals: it's leaving the charger out of the box. That's not too dire an omission when there's a real chance you'll have a USB-C charger hanging around, but it could be frustrating if you're either new to USB-C devices or saddled with a slow power brick. Factor that into the price before you rush to check out.

The German listing and other leaks have pointed to a Pixel 6 release sometime the week of October 25th. We'd expect a broad international launch, for that matter. Where the Pixel 5a was limited to the US and Japan due to supply constraints, the leaks so far already hint that Google wants to make the Pixel 6 as ubiquitous as possible.

Don't expect many surprises

Google Pixel 6 colors
Google Pixel 6 colors

We wouldn't bet on Google announcing much else besides the Pixel 6 and its accompanying software. Google's marketing for the event has revolved exclusively around its new phones. It's unlikely that you'll see any other gadgets, and they'll definitely be secondary if they do appear.

That's not to completely rule out new hardware. It has been more than a year since Google debuted its higher-end Pixel Buds, and other devices like Nest WiFi haven't been updated in a while. There's just not much need for Google to revamp products beyond the Pixel line — what's there is still relevant and functional.

There's also the possibility of new or upgraded services. If Google really does introduce a Pixel Pass, it might want to sweeten the deal by offering more for the money, whether it's a brand new service or perks like more cloud storage. We haven't seen rumors to this effect so far, but Google also kept unlimited photo uploads for Pixel owners when it capped everyone else in June. The company knows that services sell hardware, and that may be crucial for the Pixel 6.

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