When the Google Pixel 3 launched, I was still only a few months old – in my tech writing career, that is, not since birth, although it feels so long ago that it could well have been several decades.
It was one of the first smartphone launches I covered, in a frantic couple of weeks between the iPhone XS and Samsung Galaxy Note 9 launches, back when I was still asking questions such as ‘what’s a megapixel?’, ‘why are screens measured in inches, but dimensions in millimeters’, and ‘how does wireless charging actually work’ (although I’m not sure I have the answers to the latter two).
The Google Pixel 3 stood out the most of all its contemporaries. Its AI image smarts, chic design and stock Android design made it the handset I most wanted to test of all the late-2018 launches. It had an air of prestige about it – and I was surprised when I learnt that Google wasn’t actually one of the big names in the phone world.
Personally, subsequent Google Pixel phone launches haven’t really inspired as much interest. The Pixel A phones have been fine but, in the UK where I live, they’ve lacked the competitive edge to earn them more than a passing glance. The Pixel 5 suffered the same, and the Pixel 4 appears to have been wiped from human memory, judging by how many people still talk about it.
But the winds of Pixel have changed of late, and the Google Pixel 6 is doing something I thought impossible – it’s actually piquing my interest in a Google handset once again.
A tease, please
This time round, Google hasn't unveiled the Pixel 6 with the old ‘press release dump’ technique used before, nor at a launch event. In fact, the company has teased the phone in a few ways, but has stopped short of a proper launch as yet.
This has created an air of mystery around the phone. We know some specs but not others; we know what the back of the device looks like, but not the front; we know some of the camera specs but not the whole picture. Google has given us just enough information to leave us wanting more.
This isn’t like OnePlus’ approach, though, where the company spends a few weeks before a tech launch slowly releasing information about the device. For those reveals, we know we’ll be drip-fed information about the device in question, and they occur with clockwork regularity, so there’s no novelty to them.
As far as the Google Pixel 6 is concerned, we've been in the dark about exactly when we’ll be hearing more about the Pixel devices, or if we will hear anything more ahead of a launch.
This takes me back to my experience with the Pixel 3, when I was quite new to tech and phones. I had some knowledge about parts of the device, but wanted to learn more. I understood the camera hardware, but not how the software optimized pictures, for example, which made it an intriguing device.
An exciting device
Of course, part of the appeal of the Google Pixel 6 isn’t just the air of mystery surrounding it, but the feeling that it's the brand’s first genuinely exciting device in a few years.
Unlike recent Pixel phones, it feels like a re-invention. It isn't a response to other devices, with a Google-made chipset, an array of cameras and distinctive design all helping it stand out from the hordes of other smartphones entering the market.
And yes, Google has tried the ‘re-invention’ thing before, with the Pixel 4 dropping the fingerprint sensor to rely entirely on facial recognition. However, that handset ended up being arguably the brand’s most maligned phone as a result of various shortcomings. I’m talking about good re-invention, not bad.
The tech news world has been buzzing with word of the Google Pixel 6 since the initial tease-unveiling, showing widespread curiosity about the new Pixel phones. And, having ignited the same hopeful intrigue in me that I felt for the Pixel 3, I’m certainly going to be tuning in at launch (even though it’s my job).