Google's Pixel 6 and 6 Pro have arrived — here's who they're for, and how to preorder

19October 2021



CNN
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The Google Pixel 6 is probably the worst-kept secret in tech — even Google spilled some of its secrets early — but we finally have a full idea of what’s coming from these highly awaited flagship phones. And if the design and features are any indication, the Pixel 6 series could give our picks for the best smartphones some serious competition.

The Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro deliver a complete redesign of Google’s phone line, complete with some bold colors and an eye-catching camera array that promises to take the best pictures of any Pixel. They’re also powered by Google’s brand-new Tensor processor, which aims to make them the fastest Pixel phones we’ve ever touched.

And as with previous Pixel phones, they’re coming at pretty competitive prices. The Pixel 6 starts at $599 while the Pixel 6 Pro starts at $899, and they’re both available for preorder now. Wondering if they’re worth the upgrade? Here’s everything you need to know about Google’s latest phones.

Google Pixel 6 price, release date and preorders

The $599 Google Pixel 6 and $899 Google Pixel 6 Pro are both available for preorder now, and will hit stores on October 28. You can buy the phone directly from the Google store, as well as through most major carriers.

If you decide to go directly through a carrier, there are a few special deals available. AT&T is offering the Pixel 6 for $200 off with no extra trade-in required, and the Pixel 6 Pro for up to $700 off with an eligible trade-in.

Google Pixel 6

Jacob Krol/CNN

Who it’s for: The $599 Pixel 6 is looking like a great pick for someone who wants a flagship Android phone without paying flagship prices. You’ll get Google’s most powerful processor yet, a promising camera, a clean version of Android with the latest updates and some fun colors to choose from.

The first thing you’ll probably notice about the Pixel 6 is its fresh new look, which ditches the minimalism of previous Pixels for a bold design that proudly wears its massive camera array along its back panel. We dig the look — which comes in Sorta Seafoam (green), Kinda Coral (red) and Stormy Black — though we can see it being polarizing.

But while the Pixel 6 is eye-catching, its biggest upgrades just might be on the inside. This is the first phone with Google’s custom-built Tensor processor, which promises up to 80% faster performance than the Pixel 5 in addition to more efficient battery life that Google says will go “beyond 24 hours.” You’ll also get 8GB of RAM for multitasking, and a choice of 128GB to 256GB of storage.

We’ve found previous Pixel phones to offer decent performance for the price, but the fairly modest Snapdragon 765G that powered the Pixel 5 series did give us a few hiccups. As such, we’re eager to see just how dramatic that speed increase is — after all, we consistently see some of the best performance from iPhones, which feature processors that are built directly by Apple and are optimized for the software.

Pixels are typically some of the best camera phones around, and we expect the Pixel 6 to be no different. The phone’s main sensor promises to capture 150% more light compared to the Pixel 5, which should lead to shots that are even brighter and more vibrant and detailed. And then there’s Google’s usual software smarts — like Magic Eraser for cutting out photobombers, Motion Mode for getting non-blurry action shots and Real Tone for accurately capturing a variety of skin tones. Let’s break down the two lenses here:

  • 50-megapixel wide camera: Google says that the Pixel 6’s main camera captures the most light ever in a Pixel phone, which should lead to clearer and brighter images.
  • 12-megapixel ultrawide camera: This lens features a 114-degree field of view for taking wide, panoramic shots. It doesn’t cover as much ground on paper as the iPhone 13’s 120-degree ultrawide lens, but we’re eager to see how the two stack up in real-world testing.

The Pixel 6 sports a 6.4-inch OLED display with Gorilla Glass Victus protection, which aims to provide twice the scratch resistance of previous Pixels. And while it’s not 120Hz, it does turn the refresh rate up to 90Hz, so it should feel just as smooth as the Pixel 5 and more fluid than the older and lower-end pixels when you’re scrolling through apps and photos. The phone also promises more than 24 hours of battery life on Adaptive Battery mode (which uses AI to reduce background activity and prioritize the apps you use most) and up to 48 hours on Extreme Battery Saver Mode. We’ve gotten pretty good battery life from Google’s previous handset in the Pixel 5a, so we’re eager to see how long this one lasts.

Jacob Krol/CNN

And as with any Pixel phone, the Pixel 6 will get you the latest and most frequently updated version of Android. The phone will ship with a clean version of Android 12, which has a fresh “Material You” design that lets you personalize things with a variety of attractive color-matched custom themes. You can also expect easier access to quick settings and some new ways to launch Google Assistant for voice-based controls. And, you’ll get at least 5 years of Android security updates.

Lastly, as you might expect for a 2021 phone, the Pixel 6 (along with the 6 Pro) support 5G in the form of mmWave and Sub-6, along with 4G LTE.

Google Pixel 6 Pro

Jacob Krol/CNN

Who it’s for: The $899 Pixel 6 Pro is for folks willing to pay extra for Google’s best camera phone as well as a more advanced display. That extra lens should allow for some particularly great portrait and zoom shots, and the bigger, smoother screen is more ideal for scrolling through photo galleries and binging on movies.

The Pixel 6 Pro has most of the same features as the Pixel 6 — including that same striking design and array of neat software features — but with a bigger, smoother display and more advanced cameras.

One of the 6 Pro’s major differentiators is its larger 6.7-inch display, which has a refresh rate of up to 120Hz. These displays are essentially twice as smooth as the 60Hz screens on many older and cheaper phones, and based on our time with devices like the Galaxy S21 and iPhone 13 Pro, make things like scrolling through webpages and photo galleries feel a lot smoother and more responsive. The Pixel 6 Pro’s more fluid display is a step up from the Pixel 5’s 90Hz screen, and brings Google’s flagship up to par with the latest from Samsung and Apple.

The Pixel 6 Pro also gets you a triple camera array, which includes a “pro-level” telephoto lens with up to 4x optical zoom. That should be a nice upgrade for getting quality shots from afar without dealing with any noticeable blur. All-in-all, the 6 Pro will allow for up to 20x Super Zoom which uses the 4x optical of the telephoto with the software enhancing the rest.

  • 50-megapixel wide camera: Google says that the Pixel 6’s main camera captures the most light ever in a Pixel phone, which should lead to clearer and brighter images.
  • 12-megapixel ultrawide camera: This lens features a 114-degree field of view for taking wide, panoramic shots. It doesn’t cover as much ground on paper as the iPhone 13’s 120-degree ultrawide lens, but we’re eager to see how the two stack up in real-world testing.
  • 48-megapixel telephoto camera: The Pixel 6 Pro stands out from the standard Pixel 6 with a telephoto lens, which allows for 4x optical zoom and up to 20x Super Res Zoom. The latter feature uses Google’s software smarts to upscale images that are heavily zoomed in to make them less blurry. This should all make the Pixel 6 Pro a reliable shooter for capturing distant objects and places, but we’ll have to see how this all holds up in everyday use.

Google’s higher-end Pixel comes in slightly different colors, with Sorta Sunny (yellow), Cloudy White and Stormy Black variations to choose from. And while the Pro is powered by the same Google Tensor processor as the standard Pixel 6, it packs more total RAM at 12GB versus 8GB. That should mean a bit more breathing room for juggling multiple demanding apps at once. It also has more maximum storage at up to 512GB, for those who care about having lots of room for apps, photos and videos.

So, who should upgrade?

Jacob Krol/CNN

The Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro seem like pretty significant upgrades, even if you’re coming from last year’s Pixel 5. You’re getting a totally revamped design, the smoothest Pixel display yet, and a new Google-made processor that should deliver some very strong performance. Pixels have always been great at taking pictures, but the 6 Pro in particular is looking like it could be one of the best camera phones yet given its upgraded three-lens setup. And if you’re looking to jump ship from iPhone to Android, Pixels typically deliver the cleanest software experience and aren’t riddled with an overwhelming abundance of pre-loaded apps and skins.

These new phones are also looking for a good fit for folks who want flagship-level features without paying upwards of $1,000. The $599 Pixel 6 and $899 Pixel 6 Pro are both priced very competitively — especially compared to the $799 iPhone 13 and $999 iPhone 13 Pro as well as the $799 Galaxy S21 and $1,119 Galaxy 21 Ultra 5G. We’re looking forward to see how well the Pixel 6 can compete with these goliaths at its lower price tag, so stay tuned for our full review.

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