During briefings with WIRED, Osterloh had both the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro to show off all of these improvements. It was obvious that the two new phones share the same ultra-wide camera and the same main sensor, which can collect 150% more light than the Pixel 5, allowing for brighter and sharper images in low light. However, the Pro is the bigger phone and it has an additional 4x optical telephoto lens.
However, the external design of the phone has been completely redesigned. Instead of a standard left-aligned camera bump, all of the cameras sit in a thick horizontal bar that runs across the entire back of the phone. There is a range of colors to choose from, and the top above the camera bar has an accented color, mimicking the two-tone design of the original Pixel.
“If we are so serious about transforming what’s under the hood, we should also transform the product design,” says Osterloh. “Pixel has always been known for photography, and that makes this point very clear.”
Other than the center-mounted selfie camera and an in-display fingerprint scanner, Google doesn’t share much else on the Pixel. Osterloh says the company will go into more detail in the fall, closer to the official Pixel 6 launch. It also hasn’t shared pricing for the new phones or the upcoming Pixel 5A, which is expected to be cheaper than a flagship model.
Not planning to upgrade, anyway? Osterloh says Google is still planning to bring new features to the old Pixels, as it has in recent years, but it still depends on the hardware’s ability to handle them. In more positive news, it is likely that the Pixel 6 line will benefit from longer software support. Competitors like Samsung are offering four years of security updates and three Android operating system upgrades, but Google is stuck on three years of support.
“We’re working on what our final numbers will be and we definitely see an opportunity to expand it, so we’re excited about that,” Osterloh said.
Google’s investment in its own chips underscores the company’s commitment to consumer hardware, even though Google still only claims a single-digit percentage of the global smartphone market. Osterloh said the Tensor chip could appear in other consumer devices over time, which would help cushion the cost of its TPU investment.
“Building your own chip can only last if you can scale, and it takes a lot of man hours to keep that in a competitive landscape,” says Anshel Sag, senior analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy. “That’s why Apple built its chips on iPhone, iPad, and Mac, and amortizes those chips on so many models.”
So how will Tensor compare to Apple’s bionic chips, which the Cupertino company likes to present as performance engines? Osterloh was not ready to share references on the new Google chips. Sag says he thinks it would be difficult for Google to accomplish something in mobile chips that hasn’t already been done. “I don’t see Google outdoing the Apple team right off the bat, because Apple has enjoyed several generations of chip success,” says Sag.
One element of Google’s smartphone business that could work in its favor, however, is the relatively low volume of phones it sells. The global compression of semiconductors is expected to last for many more months and will affect everything from auto shipments to home appliances to gadgets. If Google is shipping this system-on-a-chip this year, according to Sag, the company likely ordered wafers about two years ago and has almost certainly negotiated the exact number of phones it expects to sell. “Which isn’t a lot,” Sag concludes.
“Almost everything in semiconductors is currently limited,” says Osterloh. “For this particular chip, we have a lot of control over it and we don’t think the Pixel 6 lineup will be limited. So that’s a positive point. But there is so much semiconductor in the product, as in all. electronics, that it’s definitely a tough problem. It affected us this year, that’s for sure. ”
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