Google makes the Android operating system, and it also makes Pixel phones, and very frequently the former can give us clues as to the latter. That's the case now, as the recently-launched Android 12 developer beta could be seen to tease some Google Pixel 6 features.
Firstly, according to XDA Developers' Mishaal Rahman (opens in new tab), lines of code in the Android 12 settings app suggest the software update will allow the use of a combination of facial recognition and in-screen fingerprint scanners to unlock a phone, rather than one or the other.
On the surface, this doesn't seem to be confirmation of anything - but bear in mind the only company that would really benefit from this change is one that was invested in both facial recognition and in-screen fingerprint scanners.
Google doesn't use in-screen fingerprint scanners in its phones, but it's used facial recognition tech before. By adding code that would let it use in-screen scanners alongside its current method of phone unlocking, it could seem that it's preparing itself for an in-screen scanner in a future handset.
Could we see a Pixel 6 XL?
BIG change: If you enable the "Silky home" feature flag that I previously mentioned, you'll get a DRAMATICALLY changed Settings UI that's MUCH more one-handed friendly. Here are a few screenshots: pic.twitter.com/EcwqnU0LlBFebruary 18, 2021
Another change Android 12 brings is 'Silky Home' mode, which makes menu items and entries much bigger, and therefore easier to press when using the phone one-handed. Currently the feature is arguably redundant - recent Pixel phones are rather small, and phone brands that have big-screen phones mostly already have their own one-handed modes.
But rumors are swirling that this feature could set the stage for a Google Pixel 6 XL. Pixel phones used to come alongside 'XL' siblings which had bigger screens than their counterparts, but since the Pixel 4 XL we haven't seen one, with the Pixel 4a and Pixel 5 having no big-screen siblings.
Silky Home with a Google Pixel 6 XL would let people with small hands enjoy the large screen real estate, without having to employ both hands to navigate the interface. This rumor is dubious, and could better be classed as 'extrapolation' than a feature leak, but it's very possible.
The Google Pixel 6 series is expected to debut towards the end of 2021, but as the year marches on we should hear more about Google's future smartphones, so stay tuned to TechRadar for all the coverage.