Pixel 6 Pro could still get this killer feature that was missing at launch

pixel 6 pro laying face down on dresser
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

We’re now almost exactly six months into the Pixel 6's life, and likely the same time away from the Pixel 7's arrival. That may seem a little late for new features to be introduced, but according to 9to5Google (opens in new tab), one ability that was supposed to be part of the Pixel 6 Pro's arsenal at launch could still be added to the handset in the coming months.

Face Unlocking was widely tipped to be a feature on the Pixel 6 Pro, appearing in marketing literature leaked ahead of launch. Indeed, Google specifically mentioned fast and accurate face detection as an advantage of the Tensor chip that powers the Pixel handsets, so it remains an odd omission.

According to 9to5Google’s sources, face unlocking was intended to be part of the Pixel 6 Pro at launch, but Google got cold feet and pulled it at the last moment, presumably because it didn’t work as well as intended. Considering the Pixel 6’s initial problems with fingerprint unlocking, a second flaky authentication system may not have helped with the reviews, so it was probably the right call.

But one of the sources cited claims that Google still intends to add the feature and that it’s currently aiming at the next major quarterly update. This is something that has been tipped before, but given we’ve not heard a peep in four months, it’s good to have it reconfirmed. 

The plan, however, is reportedly still to only add it to the Pixel 6 Pro, while leaving the basic Pixel 6 out in the cold. It’s not clear if this is because of the hardware differences (the Pro has a 11.1MP front-facing camera with a 94-degree feel of view, while the 8MP number on the standard Pixel 6 is limited to 84 degrees) or if it’s just to give the pricier hardware that air of exclusivity. Neither has additional dedicated hardware such as IR cameras, dot projectors or Soli, which was introduced to great fanfare with the Pixel 4 before being abandoned in phones (though it resurfaced for the latest Nest Hub for sleep tracking).

Whether or not it comes as an update in the next few months, it does sound possible that Google will be embracing Face Unlocking for its future Pixel handsets. 

The upcoming Pixel 7 is also tipped to keep the same camera setup as the current generation, but to benefit from a speedier Tensor chip, and a modest size reduction, dropping from 6.4 inches to 6.3. Get all the latest on that phone in our full Google Pixel 7 hub.

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.