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A big Google Pixel 6 upgrade just got leaked by Android 12

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It looks like Google’s upcoming Pixel 6 smartphone will be getting a long awaited upgrade. A couple of years after Samsung did it with the Galaxy S10, it seems that Google is finally set to follow suit.

It’s not a sure thing, but the evidence comes from the latest developer build of Android 12, and OS previews have previously uncovered secrets of unreleased Pixel devices, so it’s certainly a possibility.  

As first reported by XDA Developers, developer kdrag0n found a bunch of new classes in the SystemUIGoogle app, and one of these is called “UdfpsControllerGoogle”. That may seem like gibberish, but UDFPS is a fairly common acronym for “under-display fingerprint sensor”.

While this could plausibly be general support for the feature in Android more generally, its inclusion in the com.google.android.systemui path rather than in com.android.systemui suggests this is specifically for Pixel phones rather than something generic.

Like Apple, Google initially seemed to see facial recognition as a preferable alternative for unlocking, and the Pixel 4 arrived without any kind of fingerprint reader. But Google’s face unlocking felt a little half baked, and a rear-mounted fingerprint reader was back for the cheaper Pixel 5 in its place. 

This time, it seems Google could instead offer the best of both worlds. A month ago, XDA Developers’ Mishaal Rahman discovered that the first Developer Preview of Android 12 included references to unlocking handsets “securely with your face and fingerprint.” A scanner built into the screen would certainly ensure a cleaner design, and in a world where we’re still likely to be wearing face masks for the foreseeable future, returning to facial recognition alone would feel like a misstep.

Otherwise, Pixel 6 rumors are pretty thin at the moment, though the upcoming Snapdragon 775 SoC should still give it a significant shot in the arm, with a reported move to 5nm design and generally improved performance. It also wouldn’t be a Pixel phone without image processing ensuring the camera tech punches well above its weight.

Of course, this isn’t the next phone Google has up its sleeve. While the Pixel 6 will likely arrive in October or November, we’ve heard that the next budget entry —  the Google Pixel 5a — could be here as soon as June.  In theory it could come with under-screen fingerprint scanning, but it’s not likely. Not only do the Pixel 5a leaks show a rear-mounted fingerprint scanner, the fact that we’re learning about Pixel implementation from the Android 12 Developer Preview pretty much rules it out, given the OS’ recent history of September updates.

Alan Martin

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.