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This is the Google Pixel 6’s most underrated leaked feature

Google Pixel 6
(Image credit: Google)

With so many Google Pixel 6 features already rumored and leaked, there's already a  lot to discuss about the phone even before all is revealed at the Pixel event on October 19. However, alongside the new design, beefed-up camera system and new Tensor chipset, the Pixel 6 is believed to be equipped with a less flashy feature with a lot of potential for users. And that's Wi-Fi 6E.

With rumored compatibility with this latest guise of Wi-Fi based on leaks from the FCC (via FCC ID), the Pixel 6 series could become one of the easiest and cheapest ways of getting a hold of a Wi-Fi 6E device. And it's a technology you'll want to have since it'll bring you connectivity benefits for a long time to come.

Wi-Fi 6E: what is it and what does it offer?

Wi-Fi 6E and the availability of 6GHz is going to fundamentally change the experience that users get from Wi-F

— Kevin Robinson, Wi-Fi Alliance

If you're not already familiar with it, Wi-Fi 6E is the latest version of the local wireless network system you likely use every day. It builds on Wi-Fi 6, which arrived in 2019, by adding a 6Ghz band alongside the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands already in use. The basic benefits of this are lower latency (as little as 2 milliseconds), greater stability and higher speeds for your data, although the limited range can prove to be a problem. 

As Kevin Robinson, senior VP of marketing for the Wi-Fi Alliance (the global network of chip, hardware and service providing companies that make Wi-Fi happen) summarizes it: "Wi-Fi 6E and the availability of 6GHz is going to fundamentally change the experience that users get from Wi-Fi".

For the average user, this translates into enhanced performance when streaming content, particularly AR or VR content which will benefit greatly from the low latency. It'll also be beneficial in making devices smaller, as Wi-Fi 6E means you don't need as many antennas installed in a product. The extra bandwidth and more stable connection should also mean you get less interference from neighboring networks — fantastic news if you live or work in a large building with multiple small networks operating on top of one another.

The benefits may outlast Wi-Fi 6E too. "6GHz is going to enable every future generation of Wi-Fi: Wi-Fi 7, Wi-Fi 8, Wi-Fi 9 are all going to rely on this critical piece of spectrum," Robinson explains. 

Google Pixel 6 and Wi-Fi 6E: why it matters

Should rumors of the Pixel 6 and Wi-Fi 6E compatibility prove true, it won't be the first phone to support the feature. That honor goes to the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, at least in the U.S. However. the S21 Ultra is a very expensive $1,200 device, while both the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro are rumored to cost anywhere from $100 to $400 less than that. 

Although Samsung has a much bigger market presence in the U.S., savvy users might be tempted away from the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21 Plus not just because of the Pixel 6's numerous photography, display and AI upgrades but also because of the new flavor of Wi-Fi.

Google Pixel 6 Pro on display NYC

(Image credit: Future)

It's unlikely that the Pixel 6 is going to drive a wave of mass adoption of Wi-Fi 6E tech, at least by itself. Even though Google is allegedly predicting 10 million Pixel 6 units shipped in the first year (via Nikkei Asia), that's still only a ninth of Apple's iPhone 13 production goals, even after Apple adjusted its targets due to the global chip shortage. It'll likely be future iPhones and Samsung devices — the biggest-selling phones in the U.S. and U.K. — that will introduce most users to Wi-Fi 6E. But Google and the Pixel 6 will still have played a part.

The real benefit of having Wi-Fi 6E support on a phone like the Pixel 6 is the same reason why it's good to have 5G connectivity — it should future-proof your phone both in the short and long term. While Wi-Fi 6E networks aren't too common yet, 83% of equipment makers, service providers and enterprises will have deployed Wi-Fi 6 or WiFi 6E by the end of 2022, according to a report from the Wireless Broadband Alliance. In other words, it won't be long before this technology is ubiquitous. With Google allegedly promising five years of updates, you've got a decent chance of seeing at least one of these major generational shifts with the Pixel 6 still in your pocket.

Wi-Fi 6E outlook

Wi-Fi 6E won't stay that exclusive for long. The more features like this get used, the more quickly they become cheap enough to implement on any kind of phone. However. how quickly different companies adopt the technology will depend on the market. For example, China has yet to open up 6GHz. This could mean that companies like OnePlus, Huawei, Oppo and more will be behind companies whose main markets already have the capability to use Wi-Fi 6E, like the U.S or Europe. That could leave Google among an elite group of smartphone makers who are able to deliver the best Wi-Fi speeds around.

If you're already on the cutting edge with one of the best Wi-Fi routers installed in your home and are intrigued by the offerings that Wi-Fi 6E can bring, the Pixel 6 series could be your earliest ticket to reaping the rewards.

Richard Priday

Richard is a Tom's Guide staff writer based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, gaming, audio and whatever else people need advice on. He's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.