Could Google's Pixel 6 leap forward the way the iPhone X did？
Apple's highly anticipated iPhone 13 event came and went, showcasing the company's 2021 line of phones with impressive specs and many perks. But CNET's own review of the iPhone 13 had a headline saying it wasn't fundamentally different from the iPhone 12.
While I look forward to new Apple models every year, this year I'm even more excited about the upcoming Pixel 6, even though I've been a happy iPhone user for years.
Google's Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro look great and seem to represent a huge leap forward for Google in terms of design, performance and functionality.
The Pixel event doesn't come until October 19, but thanks to a series of previews from Google and plenty of reliable leaks and rumors, there's little to imagine. On top of that, ahead of the event, Google also unveiled a prototype of the Pixel 6 at its new physical store in New York -- which was definitely making a statement.
As a well-known mobile software developer, Google has previously designed phones that put the Android mobile operating system at the center. In the eyes of users, hardware is just to fade into the background, system services are the most important.
But in 2021, it looks like Google will ditch that design concept in favor of a bolder, more eye-catching look. I think the Pixel 6's hardware is visually distinctive, and it's clear that Google is going to stand out in the high-end phone race this year. But there may be more to the Pixel 6 than meets the eye. Google said it came with a custom chip system called Tensor for the Pixel 6 series, which Sundar Pichai, its chief executive, described as Pixel's biggest innovation to date. It was designed by Google's own engineers, which means it's tailor-made for Android -- just as Apple uses its own mobile processors.
Google hasn't yet shed any light on its performance, and it remains to be seen whether Tensor can keep up with Apple's chips, but I think it has a better chance now that it no longer relies on qualcomm chipsets. Qualcomm's top-of-the-line Snapdragon processors have consistently underperformed Apple's own chips, according to CNET's multi-year performance benchmarks.
In any case, as CNET's Brian Bennet puts it, this represents another "seismic break from the past." Don't forget, last year's Pixel 5 had a mid-range Snapdragon 765G processor, a notch below the Snapdragon 865 processor found in flagship phones like Samsung's Galaxy S20, allowing Google to control the price.
The other thing that excites me is software. The Pixel 6 will ship with Android 12, which will make it one of the first phones to carry an updated mobile operating system.
But beyond that, Google also revealed that the Pixel 6 line will rely heavily on artificial intelligence, and the Pixel 6 May be the most AI-centric phone Google has ever made. This translates into better language translation and even better computational photography for Pixel's already-excellent camera. Technical specs aside, perhaps I'm more excited about The Pixel's performance this year because Apple has crossed the threshold at which great things can, if not guaranteed, be achieved.
Google, meanwhile, still has a lot to prove in smartphones. Pixel's market share is tiny compared to Apple's iPhone. Or maybe it's because the iPhone and iOS were overhauled with the iPhone X in 2017, and Pixel's transformation is long overdue.
But now it looks like Google is doing something we've been waiting for years. We'll have to wait until October 19 to know for sure, but I'm hopeful that Google's Pixel 6 has the potential to be the 2021 phone heavyweight I've been waiting for.