Some fans hope the Google Pixel 6 will launch at Google IO 2021, kicking off on May 18 - that seems unlikely, with the Pixel 5a much more likely to appear, but we can't rule anything out for certain. We'll almost definitely see some Pixel 6 hints, though.
That's because Android 12 will probably get shown off at Google IO and, if precedent is followed, that operating system will finally debut in the Google Pixel 6. So the IO event could give us a first glimpse at how the Pixel 6 will finally run.
Google IO, the company's celebration of its own tech, sometimes brings new product unveiling - the Pixel 3a series debuted there in 2019 - but the Pixel 6 seems unlikely. The Pixel 5 is still quite new, and we're still waiting on the Pixel 5a - the latter of which actually could come at Google IO.
We gave the Pixel 5 four stars out of five, and its budget alternative, the Pixel 4a 5G, only three and a half, so there's definitely progress the company can make on these phones.
Below we've put together all of the leaks and rumors we've heard so far around the Google Pixel 6. Then, we've come up with a wish list of what changes we want to see in the phone.
Expect to learn more about the Google Pixel 6 as the months go on, but right now the picture of the upcoming Pixel phone isn't entirely clear.
It now looks likely that the Google Pixel 6 will come running a custom CPU codenamed Whitechapel: and that could mean better performance and tighter integration with Android 12.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? Google's next flagship phone
- When is it out? Expect it toward the end of 2021
- How much will it cost? Around $699 / £599 / AU$999
Google Pixel 6 release date and price
All we know about the Google Pixel 6 price and availability are guesses based on the Pixel 5.
We'd expect the phone to come out towards the end of 2021, based on Google's flagship trends. October is most likely the best bet.
With regards to price, that's a bit harder to guess, because while the Pixel 3 and Pixel 4 were more premium offerings, the Pixel 5 is a mid-ranged phone, and we don't know if Google will stick in that price range or return to the top end.
Our guess is the former, though, as the company will likely want to stick with a big change for more than one year to see if it pays off. The Pixel 5 cost $699 / £599 / AU$999 so maybe we could see a similar price again.
News and leaks
In early Android 12 code, there are two hints of possible Google Pixel 6 features. One of these is the existence of a one-handed mode, which suggests a Pixel 6 XL could be on the way, as a non-XL phone wouldn't necessitate such a feature.
The other is the possibility of an in-screen fingerprint scanner, something Google hasn't used before in its smartphones. A second Android 12 developer beta has turned up more evidence of an in-screen fingerprint scanner, so this is now looking more likely.
Code in the Google camera app meanwhile suggests that the front-facing camera on the Pixel 6 might support 4K video recording, which is higher resolution than most selfie cameras can get.
In terms of specs, the Pixel 6 may use an in-house chipset going by the codename of Whitechapel. This is rumored to be in the works for the phone and co-developed by Samsung, though we don't yet know any details of how it might perform. Rumors around this chip are gaining momentum, and there's a good chance we'll learn more about it at Google IO on May 18-20.
On the other hand, the Pixel 6 could use the Snapdragon 780G chipset. This has made its debut in the Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G, and it promises big performance improvements and better low light photography than the chipset in the Pixel 5.
It's worth noting that this chipset hasn't specifically been linked to the Pixel 6, but it's a successor to the Snapdragon 765G chipset in the Pixel 5, so it would make sense.
Alternatively the Pixel 6 could come running the Qualcomm Snapdragon 775 processor – this CPU hasn't been announced yet though, and may not exist as it's just a rumor for now.
One other sign of the Google Pixel 6 is in a Google patent, detailing a possible future phone that doesn't have a visible selfie camera.
While the patent doesn't explain how this is achieved, it looks likely that the camera would be underneath the screen, as we've now seen on the ZTE Axon 20 5G. Of course, just because Google is exploring this idea it doesn't mean we'll get an under-display camera on the Pixel 6, but it's possible.
Finally, we've heard the Pixel 6 could have UWB, or ultra-wideband technology. This is a short-range communications function that lets devices talk to each other if they're nearby - it can be useful for location tracking, so maybe the Pixel 6 will have some new feature regarding this?
Google Pixel 6: what we want to see
While we wait for further Google Pixel 6 leaks, we've pulled together some improvements we're hoping to see from the company for its next smartphone.
1. A more inspired design
The Google Pixel 5 wasn't the most interesting-looking smartphone in the world - in fact, some would go as far as calling it 'boring' as a standard 'chocolate-bar'-looking handset.
Pixel phones have never been real lookers, but we'd like to see a Pixel 6 that was a little more memorable. Months before the Pixel 5 launch we saw an intriguing render that was as divisive as it was distinct, but it got people talking, which is more than you can say for the Pixel 5.
2. A telephoto camera
Google Pixel phones have made a name for themselves by being great camera phones, but recent devices from the company don't actually have telephoto lenses, meaning all zooming is digital. That's essentially just cropping.
This means zoom pictures tend to have lower resolutions and therefore look grainy, and it stops you zooming in as far using the camera app itself.
We'd like to see Google bring telephoto cameras back to the Pixel line so we can take better zoom shots with the phones.
3. Compact form factors
The earliest few generations of Google Pixel smartphone were pretty small, so they were easy to use one-handed, fit in pockets well, and felt comfortable in the hand for people with smaller palms.
That hasn't been the case for the brand's 2020 smartphones as much, but we'd love to see a return to smaller devices. The compact phone (or 'small phone') market is severely lacking, and Google could really corner it if it wanted.
4. More processing power
One of the main differences between older Pixel flagships, and the Pixel 5, was the choice to use a mid-range chipset instead of a top-end one. That's a fair decision in theory - not everyone needs top processing power, and most people can make do with middling power.
However, the Pixel 5 didn't have 'middling power' as it was pretty weak. In our benchmark tests it performed poorly, and it didn't always handle gaming well.
We'd like to see Google improve the performance of its phones, whether that's by using better chipsets, or by using mid-range processors with better optimizations.
- These are the best Google Pixel smartphones