Google dominated the news this week with the teaser announcement about the upcoming Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro smartphones. A lot of the hype centered around the new, Google-designed chip called Tensor (previously known as Whitechapel).
But Google is intent on making a true flagship device, versus the high mid-range Pixel 5 from last year. That means a wholly new design, high-quality displays, bigger batteries, and everything else that makes a high-end Android phone... well, high-end.
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However, all of that adds up in cost. Google's SVP of Devices and Services Rick Osterloh flat-out said in an interview with German outlet Der Spiegel (opens in new tab) that the Pixel 6 Pro "will be expensive." Ouch. I expect that'll mean upwards of $1,000 or more, right in line with the iPhone 12 Pro or perhaps higher to match the iPhone 12 Pro Max and Galaxy S21 Ultra.
People holding out for the regular Pixel 6 to be cheaper might also be disappointed, with Osterloh saying that the smaller phone “belongs in the upper segment and can keep up with competing products.” He further said that it will be a "mainstream premium product."
While the Pixel 5 was a nice reduction in price over the admittedly over-priced Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL, I can understand why the idea of an expensive Pixel 6 or Pixel 6 Pro might sting. After all, Pixels (and the Nexus phones before them) have always come with a caveat — whether that was the Pixel 2 XL's display issues, the Pixel 4's disappointing battery life, or the Pixel 5's middling performance compared to the similarly-priced and more powerful Galaxy S20 FE.
To be completely honest, I'm worried about the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro being "expensive." While I have high hopes for Tensor and the phones in general, I can't shake my misgivings about Google's phone track record. We can't totally blame it for every fault with the Nexus phones, but we can hold the company accountable for its Pixel problems.
Having used most of the Pixels (excluding the 3/3XL), I'm not left with much confidence. Excellent phones like the iPhone 12 Pro Max and Galaxy S21 Ultra justify their price points — depending on your perspective — so the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro have a steep hill to climb to prove themselves worth a premium price tag.
I must stress that Google has not revealed official pricing yet, so the $1,000 mark is mere conjecture. However, we know that Google plans to ramp up its marketing efforts for the Pixel 6 family. The company's smartphone market share is a pittance compared to the Samsung-Apple duopoly (in the US, at least), but it seems serious about making inroads. We'll just have to see if this attempt proves fruitful.
I'm very excited about the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, mostly because I can't wait to see what Tensor is all about. If Google can successfully go its own way from Qualcomm, that would be a huge success in my book. It might even push Samsung to up its Exynos efforts (if it hasn't already), potentially further breaking Qualcomm's stranglehold on the US Android chip market.
Even so, I doubt Google will make a dent in Samsung's or Apple's market share, at least this go around. But if Pixels could become the de facto recommendation for the best camera phones again, I'd be satisfied. Regardless, Fall 2021 is shaping up to be quite a time to be a smartphone fan, that's for sure.