Google Unveils Pixel 6 With Its First Custom Mobile Processor

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Google launched its first Pixel phones in 2016, blowing up the Nexus brand that had earned a place in many a nerd’s heart. Google’s strategy since then has been a bit all over the map, but the company might finally be ready to focus and take the Pixel seriously in 2021. Google just released the first official details of the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, which will come with Google’s first custom mobile SoC, known as Tensor. 

First thing’s first: those leaks you’ve been seeing appear to be pretty accurate. The new Pixels have two-tone back panels, along with that divisive camera visor. We don’t know the full camera specs — or really any specs — but they aren’t the same sensors Google has been using for years. Google says the sensors in the phone are much larger than previous devices, so they needed to move to the “camera bar” design. The non-Pro will have a standard and ultrawide setup, and the Pro will have standard, ultrawide, and 4x telephoto. The phones are both on the large side. The Pro has a 6.7-inch OLED and the non-Pro is 6.4 inches. Both are 120Hz and have an in-screen fingerprint sensor (another first for Google). 

The new chip inside the Pixel 6 won’t be Google’s first custom part, but it will be the first one designed for phones. Google has shrunk the Tensor Processing Units (TPUs) from its servers to build an AI-first chip for phones. Again, there are few firm details here. We don’t know anything about core counts, GPU speed, modem capabilities, or clock speed. What we do know is that the Tensor chip will enable various on-device AI features that won’t work on other Android phones. For example, the camera can merge data from the ultrawide and standard sensors to reduce motion blur. 

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These phones will launch with Android 12 with Google’s new Material You interface. The colorways of the phones themselves are in line with the updated Material themes, too. Sadly, the pretty coral color that has featured prominently in the leaks is only available with the Pixel 6. The 6 Pro has more boring colors. 

A few people have been allowed to touch the new phones but not to photograph them. They say the phones feel high-end in a way Google’s Pixels have not in recent years. By all accounts, Google is taking its phone business seriously this time around. It warned investors recently that it would be spending heavily to promote Pixel. With the improved cameras, new SoC, and a real marketing budget, we could finally be looking at the “Google Phone” we’ve always wanted.

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