Google Pixel 6 — 5 upgrades it needs to fight iPhone 13 and Galaxy S21

Google Pixel 6 leak
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We’re still several months away from the reveal and launch of the Google Pixel 6 — we’re more likely to hear about the budget-friendly Pixel 5a first — but that doesn’t mean we can’t speculate about the upcoming flagship.

Google doesn’t sell the Pixel line in large quantities, since we have the Samsung-Apple duopoly to worry about. However, Pixel devices are still important, not only for Android fans, but for developers to test their apps against the latest and greatest versions of Android. That’s the point of the Developer Previews, after all.

So what does the Pixel 6 need to do to stand a chance against its rivals and not make the same mistakes as the Pixel 5? Let’s discuss. 

Pixel 6: Performance 

The Pixel 5 came equipped with a Snapdragon 765G processor. That chip is fine, but it lags behind the Snapdragon 865 that powered last year’s top-tier phones — not to mention the Snapdragon 888 that's now appearing 2021 Android flagships like the Samsung Galaxy S21. Using the Pixel 5, you begin to notice where the 765G starts to struggle, especially in intensive tasks. 

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For example, when selecting an app from the Recents menu, there’s a noticeable lag between tapping the app and it opening. This happened to me a lot while I was using the Pixel 5 (both on Android 11 and the Android 12 Developer Preview) and I got used to it. However, even then, it was still a nagging feeling in the back of my mind.

The iPhone 13 is going to be a powerful phone, just like the iPhone 12 series is, thanks to Apple's processors. The Galaxy S21 packs in the best Qualcomm processor you can get right now. The Pixel 6 has some stiff competition, especially if it uses Google’s first-generation in-house chipset, Whitechapel (which is whole other can of worms).

Pixel 6: More storage options 

The Pixel 5 came in one storage configuration: 128GB. That’s fine, and certainly better starting with 64GB like the Pixel 4/4 XL and iPhone 12 did. However, we’d like to see 256GB available. I understand that Google wants people to purchase its cloud storage service, but at least give users another storage option. 

Pixel 6: Three cameras 

Google Pixel 5 review

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Up until the Pixel 4/4 XL, Google's phones got by on a single rear camera for everything. And it worked for the most part, but people wanted an ultrawide lens and a telephoto one (even given the Pixel’s remarkable software when it comes to digital zoom). With the Pixel 5, we got an ultrawide lens.

Ideally, the Pixel 6 would follow the Galaxy S21 and iPhone 12 Pro by offering a main wide-angle, an ultrawide, and a telephoto. This would drastically improve the Pixel’s already amazing camera performance. Google need not go overboard, like Samsung did with the Galaxy S21 Ultra, but having all three options to choose from would be great.

Pixel 6: Faster charging 

Google Pixel 5 review

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The Pixel 5 charges slowly at 18W. Considering how much faster charging has gotten, including wireless charging, this is borderline unacceptable. We want to see at least 25W, if not faster. This is one way Google could really beat the Galaxy S21.

We’re not asking for OnePlus-level charging speed, though that would be nice if Google could deliver the 65W charging found in the OnePlus 9 series. We just want faster wired and wireless charging. The Pixel 5 can reverse charge other devices via Battery Share feature, and we want to see that stick around. Just let us charge our Pixels faster, Google.

Pixel 6: Value 

Google’s Pixel line has always had some fluke or another, all while the company has overcharged for the phones. The Pixel 4/4 XL were particularly bad, especially with how poor the battery life was. The Pixel 5 turned it down a notch to a $699 price. 

Google Pixel 5 review

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Even that seemed too high considering what you got when compared to the Galaxy S20 FE. That phone ran laps around the Pixel 5, giving you the best pieces of the Galaxy S20 for relatively cheap.

Trust me, I want the Pixel 6 to succeed, but it won’t get very far if Google doesn’t nail down the right price-to-performance ratio. Things would also improve for sales if Google could avoid cannibalizing itself by offering a phone that has almost all of the same features as its flagship for a whopping $200 less, as it did with last year's Pixel 4a 5G.

Pixel 6: Outlook 

The Pixel 6 has some months left before Google reveals all. And we’re likely to see more leaks appear before the phone's fall launch. But getting these five things right are critical to the phone succeeding. Value is arguably the most important, since spending $699 on a Pixel 5 was a hard pill to swallow. 

Google Pixel 5 review

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Every year, we hold our breath to see if the Pixel line will succeed, and it mostly doesn’t. The Pixel 4a, however, seems to be a relative success for Google, which is why we’re anxiously waiting to see what that phone's successor does.

The Pixel 6 won’t impact the sales of the Galaxy S21 or iPhone 13, but it needs to be comparable to make a niche for itself among developers and hardcore Android users. 

Jordan Palmer
Phones Editor

Jordan is the Phones Editor for Tom's Guide, covering all things phone-related. He's written about phones for over six years and plans to continue for a long while to come. He loves nothing more than relaxing in his home with a book, game, or his latest personal writing project. Jordan likes finding new things to dive into, from books and games to new mechanical keyboard switches and fun keycap sets. Outside of work, you can find him poring over open-source software and his studies.