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Google Pixel 6 release date, price, Tensor chip, specs and news

Google Pixel 6 colors
(Image credit: Google)

It could be only a matter of weeks before the Google Pixel 6 arrives. Despite rival companies also launching phones in this period, the Pixel 6 is perhaps the one to watch since it marks a big change to how Google is designing its phones.

The Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro — yes, there are two versions — promise to change everything we know about Google's phones. While there are still a few things we don't know, what has been confirmed and rumored is intriguing. And the biggest feature of all is a new system-on-chip called Tensor that is designed to provide the Pixel 6 series with a bunch of AI powers we haven't seen before. 

Here’s what we’ve heard so far about the Pixel 6 release date, price, specs and features, as well as what we’d like to see from Google’s next phone.

Latest Google Pixel 6 news (updated September 17)

Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro specs: Rumored

Google Pixel 6Google Pixel 6 Pro
OSAndroid 12Android 12
Display6.4 inches AMOLED (90Hz)6.71 inches AMOLED (120Hz)
Storage 128GB/256GB128GB/256GB/512GB
Rear camera50MP (Wide) + 12MP (Ultra wide)50MP (Wide) + 48MP (Tele) + 12MP (Ultra wide)
Front camera8MP12MP
Battery4,614 mAh5,000 mAh

Google Pixel 6 Tensor chip

The Google Pixel 6's killer feature is the new Tensor SoC, which is focusing big on AI and machine learning. For example, the Tensor Processing Unit could take a blurry image of a toddler and make the child's face sharper. The TPU would recognize the unclear image is a face and then make the necessary adjustments. 

In addition, the Pixel 6 can apply AI and computational photography to video. When shooting a sunset, for example, the Pixel 6 can automatically adjust the white balance and increase the dynamic range. 

When using speech-to-text, the TPU can let you edit words on the keyboard even while you're speaking, and the speech-to-text is almost instantaneous. These are just some of the things Tensor is capable of. 

Google could have plans for the Tensor chip beyond the Pixel 6 lineup. A report claims Tensor will power the Pixel Fold, if that foldable phone proves to be more than just a rumor.

We'll be interested to see how the Tensor system-on-chip compares to a Snapdragon 888 which powers most Android flagships. Leaked Geekbench results suggest the Snapdragon 888 doesn't have anything to worry about, as the numbers attributed to a Tensor-powered device didn't approach the best Snapdragon scores. Then again, that could be a pre-production unit that hasn't been optimized for performance — assuming it even reflects the Tensor experience at all. 

Google Pixel 6 release date rumors

Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro

(Image credit: Google )

Up until now, Google has been pretty predictable when it comes to rolling out Pixel flagships. The phones almost always debut in October, though the Pixel 5 moved up its debut by a day to September 30 last year.

We had been expecting Google to stick to form with an early October launch for the Pixel 6. Leaker Max Weinbach corroborated this, saying that Google plans to unveil the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro in October. And a second post, by leaker Jon Prosser, claims that the Pixel 6 will hit stores on Oct. 28 after pre-orders get underway Oct. 19. (A claim on the Chinese microblogging site Weibo that the Pixel 6 would arrive Sept. 13 clearly didn't pan out.)

Adding fuel to the speculative fire about the Pixel 6 release date is a leaked internal document that indicates Android 12 will debut on Oct. 4. That would be in line with an October debut for the Pixel 6.

It's possible that the Pixel 6 could launch alongside a Google Pixel Fold, as one display analyst says that Google's first foldable could launch before the end of the year. But we'll have to see. 

Google Pixel 6 price

Google says that the Pixel 6 will be a "premium-priced product," so we would expect it to cost considerably more than the Pixel 5, which launched at $699/£599. It's possible that the Pixel 6 could start at $999, similar to the iPhone 12 Pro, but we'll have to see what happens this fall. 

Google's Rick Osterloh, SVP Devices and Services, gave a bit more context to German language Der Spiegel magazine:

"We weren't represented in the smartphone flagship segment for the past two years - and not really before that either. But the Pixel 6 Pro, which will be expensive, was designed specifically for users who want the latest technology...But the Pixel 6 also belongs in the upper segment and can keep up with competing products. I would call it a 'mainstream premium product.'"

Both Apple and Samsung have opted for lower entry-level prices on their phones — the iPhone 12 mini costs $699, while the Galaxy S21 starts at $799. But it's clear that Google is aiming for a different tier this time around. 

Despite this, Google seems to have high hopes for Pixel 6 sales. Nikkei Asia claims that Google's order for Pixel 6 units is over 50% larger than the amount it ordered for 2019.

Google Pixel 6 cameras

It's confirmed that the Google Pixel 6 will feature both a main sensor and ultra-wide camera. The Google Pixel 6 Pro adds a 4X optical-zoom telephoto lens. Google also says that the main wide-angle sensor now lets in 150% more light, but it isn't sharing any details beyond that. One possible leaked spec, based on findings within the code of the latest version of the Android Camera app, suggests that the main camera on both phones could feature the 50MP Samsung GN1 sensor. That's confirmed by a subsequent Pixel 6 Pro leak, which adds that the telephoto lens will be a 12MP sensor while the ultrawide angle camera will use a 48MP sensor.

Still, it appears that the big news is all about Tensor and how Google's improved computational photography will enhanced both still photos and videos.

Google has confirmed that it will be making some changes to the computational software that powers the cameras on its phone, with those new capabilities appearing on the Pixel phones arriving in the fall. Google says it's working with image experts so that its cameras do a better job taking accurate photos of people of color. That means adjusting the Auto White balance to prevent over-brightening of darker skin tones and developing more accurate detection for different types of hair, so that hair stands out more from the background of a photo.

Furthermore, the Android12 Beta code notes that the phone will have a special “p21_fronmmt_setup” feature for the Pixle 6 Pro that the regular phone won't have. 9to5Google speculated might be reference to the Pixel 6 Pro being able to shoot selfie videos in 4K resolution.

Google Pixel 6 design and colors

Google Pixel 6 Pro colors

(Image credit: Google )

The most striking thing about the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro is its design. Both Pixel phones feature a large black rectangular camera bar across the top of the phones’ rears along with a two-tone design. 

The Pixel 6 offers a few color options, including pink, bluish-gray with a pale yellow accent and black model with a light-gray top accent color. The Pixel 6 Pro black-on-gray model a white model with a cream or pale slate accent bar and a pale orange with brighter orange accent. 

The majority of the glass rear appears to have a matte finish, whereas the space above the camera bar appears to have a brighter, glossier tone. 

Google Pixel 6

(Image credit: Future)

The front of the Pixel 6 is almost all screen with a centered hole punch cutout for the selfie camera. And it's also good to see the thin bezels around the display.

In another positive move, Google has moved away from the under-display earpiece on the Pixel 5 in favor of a more traditional earpiece speaker on the Pixel 6. Some have complained about the speaker being too loud and leaking sound. 

Google Pixel 6 Pro camera

(Image credit: Google)

Since the initial design reveal, Google has shown off what the Pixel 6 Pro looks like in the hand, with a video, with an Instagram post also gives us a better look at the Material You design changes made by Android 12.

Google Pixel 6

(Image credit: Google)

And so far it's looking like a rather attractive phone, seemingly treading the line between a practical utilitarian aesthetic and an interesting camera strip and color accents. The Pixel 6 Pro is currently on display at Google's store in New York, and the photos confirm what we know so far.

Google Pixel 6 Pro

(Image credit: Future/TechRadar)

We just hope the phones Google releases this fall feel nice to use. Fortunately, pervious Pixels have managed to do that quite well, so we probably don't need to worry. 

Google Pixel 6 display

The Google Pixel 6 will feature a 6.4-inch full HD+ display with a 90Hz refresh rate. Google's larger Pixel 6 Pro sports a 6.7-inch panel with a 120Hz refresh rate. We would have liked to see a 120Hz panel on the smaller Pixel 6, but it makes sense that Google would want to differentiate the two handsets. 

An XDA Developers report claims that the Pixel 6 Pro will be able to run at 120Hz while at full QHD resolution, and that the refresh rate can scale down to 10Hz to save battery life. That suggests an adaptive display similar to the one introduced on Apple's iPhone 13 Pro models.

Google Pixel 6 fingerprint reader

We're happy to report that Google seems to be ditching the rear-mounted fingerprint sensor on the Pixel 6 in favor of an under-display fingerprint scanner. This should make it easier to unlock both the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. However, we don't yet know if the sensor uses ultrasonic tech or is an optical scanner. 

Google Pixel 6 battery

Previous Pixels have struggled in the battery life department. With a 4,000 mAh battery, the Pixel 5 ran for 9 hours and 29 minutes on its default 90Hz mode in our battery test, which is below average for a smartphone. With the Pixel 6, Google is only promising "all day" endurance, which is vague. 

Google could go with a bigger battery for the Pixel 6. Recent rumors suggest that the Pixel 6 Pro will have a nice, big 5,000 mAh battery to power its large display. Jon Prosser expects that to happen, adding that the Pixel 6 will feature a 4,614 mAh battery — a big improvement over the Pixel 5.

Another rumor has the Google Pixel 6 tipped to get faster wireless charging thanks to a new Pixel Stand that's reportedly being developed. The updated Pixel Stand could deliver faster charging thanks to fans in the stand to keep the pad and phone cool.

Google Pixel 6: Will there be a charger?

Google could take a page from the iPhone 12's and Samsung Galaxy S21's book and drop the charging brick that has been bundled in previous Pixel phone boxes. That would mean it would just come with a USB-C charging cable, supposedly to cut down on e-waste. Some may find that potential move to be annoying, as it means buying an extra thing on top of the flagship phone. 

On the plus side, the Pixel 6 may support 33W charging, rather than 18W like the previous models. This would really boost the Pixel 6's charging speeds compared to earlier models, and would be of great benefit to those rumored bigger batteries.

Furthermore, a new rumor has claimed that the Google Pixel 6 could have boosted wireless charging, seeing a jump from 10W to 23W. That would be faster than the aforementioned Apple and Samsung phones. 

Google Pixel 6: What we want

By the time the Pixel 6 launches, we’ll not only be awash in current phones like the Galaxy S21, but Apple will likely have launched the iPhone 13. (That's not even addressing other recent phone launches lik the Galaxy Z Fold 3.) Given that level of competition, Google has its work cut out for it to make the Pixel 6 stand out from the crowd.

Here’s how we think Google can pull that off.

Three camera setup
Offering three cameras is quickly becoming something of an industry-standard (at least in flagship models), so Google’s Pixel phones are an outlier with just two rear lenses. The Pixel 6 Pro sounds like it's going to follow this pattern, with a trio of cameras — a main shooter, telephoto and ultrawide camera combination. Plus, it’ll keep the Pixel’s reputation as one of the best camera phones very much intact.

120Hz display
The Pixel 5’s 90Hz refresh rate is nice, but a 120Hz would be even better and we’d love to see that featured on the Pixel 6. Especially with services such as Microsoft’s Xbox Cloud Gaming (formerly known as xCloud) bringing big-budget game streaming to phones, that higher refresh rate will really take games up a notch.

HDMI support
We appreciate that Google wants to encourage people to buy a Chromecast, but there is no excuse for the Pixel 6 not to support HDMI video out via a USB-C to HDMI connector. Being able to hook your phone up to a TV in this way is super convenient, especially when traveling. Having to use a Chromecast (not to mention having to buy one in the first place) to get content from your phone to a TV feels so archaic, so this is something that Google could easily fix.

Mark Spoonauer

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for nearly 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.

  • mrbofus
    "Having to use a Chromecast (not to mention having to buy one in the first place) to get content from your phone to a TV feels so archaic, so this is something that Google could easily fix."
    I would argue that having to use a cable to get content from your phone to a TV is archaic...
  • StuML5nm11TNclcsPs
    It's a long one, don't blame me, if you read it, it's your life, I do this for entertainment, if you have to perform brain surgery, do that, don't read this. I have the Mac Mini M1, it does machine learning, at 11 trillion calculations per second; my iPad Mini 5, does ML, at 5TFLOPS; Apple TV 2021, ML 5TFLOPS; iPhone X, 600GFLOPS. If I look at these devices, the Mac Mini, uses 5nm technology, at 16 billion transistors; the iPad Mini 5 and Apple TV, use the A12 chip, at 7nm, 6 billion transistors. Occasionally you see the power, for example optical caracter recognition, through Microsoft Lens, into Word, photography and video editing, in Google Photos, the way I get a suggestion, for Hindu audiobooks, when I'd given up earlier.

    The price performance, in Apple, is pretty good, but I have an Xbox One X, at 6 trillion calculations per second, it's huge compared to the Apple TV, at 5 TFLOPS, but the Xbox, has a Blu Ray player. In spite of the Xbox, using 14nm technology, it has 750GB of good speed flash. The Xbox has 12GB of GGDDR5 RAM, at 4GHz, the flash, is 3 times as much as on my Mac Mini M1, the RAM, is 50℅ more than on my Mac Mini, there's 8 AMD X86 64 CPU cores, in the Xbox. The graphics would be where the Machine learning would take place, on the Xbox, the Xbox, cost $A330, the Mac Mini, cost $A1,100.

    Tensor, will bring the Pixel up to Apple levels, of ML, however I'll be running Google apps and services, on my Apple equipment, using ML, for many years as Apple equipment, gets software updates for the operating system, for many a year. For affordability, you have to buy second hand Android phones, at 2 years old, the next year, you've got to buy another one. Which is why I bought the Acer Chromebook tablet, it gets software updates until 2028, as my second tablet, at only $A350, in 2021. How I loved my Nexus 9, with it's 198 GPUs, 64 bit processor, but it stopped getting software updates, for the operating system, long ago.

    Maybe the Chrome operating system, will improve, over time, it's a bit beta, at the moment, 8 X 64 bit cores, 128GB flash, is a good base, to work with, perhaps I should have bit the bullet and gone for a MS Office 365 subscription, online. I run Word, on the iPad, but need the Mac, for the likes of cut and paste, I hope Google will focus, using Tensor. Because Apple is focused, reliable, simpler to run, using Apple silicon, system on a chip, power efficient, on chip RAM, it uses it's financial muscle, to make devices, that run Google services well. Things like Google assistant, Google photos, Chromecast, Google home, Chromecast, they work well together, for example for YouTube, from the iPad, to the Apple TV.

    Things like catch up TV, streaming services, like Disney Plus run well, on the Apple TV, you can run enough apps, without the RAM, flash, running out, without the software crashing, well, less often. I hope Tensor, finishing Chrome, will give the reliability to Google, that Apple have, after all, Microsoft pinched Chrome, in Edge, Apples discipline, is a lesson. Like projects Butter and Volta, the early Nexus devices, so reliable, such good value, not saying the Apple memory tax, isn't bad, $600 to double the RAM and flash.

    I spent $3,000 on Apple hardware, but in this cycle, I tried Microsoft, AMD, first, $2,000, too much work, for a consumer device, that's the reason Apple is worth $3 trillion. Microsoft and Google devices are too expensive, to make fast enough, but it's not a situation, that can't change, Microsoft once topped simplicity, Google once topped simplicity. I still use Google and Microsoft apps and services.
  • Milla666
    Who's happy about the fingerprint reader being in display instead of in the back? This is the worst design change. Everyone I know has an easier time with it in the back. I hate this
  • StuML5nm11TNclcsPs
    Yes, when I was still using pixel, I found the fingerprint recognition system, on the back, very convenient, being on the front, on a tablet is okay, Face ID, on the iPhone, is pretty convenient. I do love the biometric, Apple Pay, Google pay, who’s going to be able to remember different passwords, or set up a password system, that works across all devices, software. Who wants to spend all day tapping in passwords, when Google, Apple and Microsoft do it for us, work saved.
  • bittoe
    Fingerprint reader on the back was genius: I pick-up my phone, my finger is right where it's supposed to be and I am unlocked. -WAY faster than facial recognition

    Things we'd like to see?
    SD storage

  • jiminhno
    Milla666 said:
    Who's happy about the fingerprint reader being in display instead of in the back? This is the worst design change. Everyone I know has an easier time with it in the back. I hate this

    Agree 100%, I have used all the Pixels including the Pixel 4, with face ID tech, and yes the phone unlocked fine and fast ,however, I much prefer the rear fingerprint to unlock and to swipe down the notification shade, hoping Google new in display finger print scanner is as flawless as the trusty old traditional one, on the Pixel 6/6PRO.
  • Rearfingerprintsensor
    Milla666 said:
    Who's happy about the fingerprint reader being in display instead of in the back? This is the worst design change. Everyone I know has an easier time with it in the back. I hate this
    Pixel phone is perhaps the only decent phone in the market with a rear fingerprint sensor. I love it and chose it solely because of this feature not available in other brand phones. Perhaps Google may consider bringing a version with the rear fingerprint