Wednesday, 20 October 2021 07:23

Google launches Pixel 6 and flagship Pixel 6 Pro with custom Tensor chip, stunning features and a huge challenge to competitors Featured

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The newest MUST WATCH keynote has arrived, this time from Google, showcasing its premium Pixel 6 smartphone and flagship Pixel 6 Pro, with a very impressive range of features and benefits to challenge the best from competitors, and making the statement that "the best of expression of Android" is on Google's own Pixel devices.

Where Google's Pixel 5 smartphone maximised its capabilities and power without using the most powerful chip available at the time, Google has finally unleashed its own Tensor CPU and system on a chip (SoC), to deliver truly unique capabilities on truly high-end smartphones designed to send a message to consumers and competitors that Google is fighting for the hearts, minds and wallets of consumers as never before with its very best technologies.

Historically, Google hasn't sold massive volumes of Pixel devices, probably in a way that is similar to Samsung selling a ginormous volume of smartphones each year, but the majority of those being low, to mid, to upper-mid range models, rather than its super premium flagship devices.

In contrast, Apple's newest smartphones are its biggest sellers each year, so it's absolutely fantastic to see Google step up with not only its own custom CPU and SoC, its own compelling designs and by doubling down on exclusive features that truly show off Google's AI and ML prowess, as well as continuing to innovate with computational photography and computational videography.

This is crucially important, because Google's competitors certainly aren't sitting on their laurels, with Samsung no slouch when it comes to performance and stunning hardware such as its folding screens, while Apple is a force unto itself with incredibly sophisticated and mature custom SoCs, along with the best vertical integration in the business.

This has also meant Google announcing it is finally bringing its "Call Screen" and "Hold for Me" features to Australia, which we'll see Google's description of below, along with many other features and benefits it has announced, but first, here's that keynote video - it really is a MUST WATCH event:

Ok, so Google says the wait for its completely redesigned smartphones is over, with its first-ever custom designer processor, and shipping with Android 12, making these phones "fast, smart, secure and designed to adapt to you."

The Pixel 6 with 90Hz FHD 6.4-inch screen, and plenty more, starts at $999 for the 8GB RAM/128GB version, while the flagship Pixel 6 Pro, with 120Hz QHD 6.7-inch screen, 12GB RAM with 128GB storage and loads more starts at $1299.

Google explains its Tensor SoC is "designed specifically around Google’s industry-leading AI. Google Tensor enables entirely new capabilities for your smartphone, and makes Pixel 6 and 6 Pro more helpful and more personal."

The Pixel 6 has a 4614mAh battery while the Pixel 6 Pro boosts that to a 5003mAh battery, meaning they last "beyond 24 hours, even on 5G."

Google is also heavily touting the security of both modes, stating the Titan M2 security chip within, along with new features within Android 12, "helps protect you, your stuff and your privacy."

mmWave 5G

The Pixel 6 Pro is the first smartphone in Australia to launch with mmWave 5G capabilities, with one report from Telstra that I've seen quoting 3.6Gbps download speeds.

Telstra says "mmWave is the next stage in the evolution of Telstra 5G. 5G already dramatically improves the capacity of the network but mmWave multiplies that by a factor of ten and can deliver even faster speeds. mmWave signal only travels a few hundred metres from a cell so it is best suited for areas of intensive customer demand such as transport hubs, shopping districts and even sports stadiums or tourism hotspots, such as the Sydney Opera House at New Year’s Eve. mmWave can allow tens of thousands of people at such locations to connect, stream or upload photographs simultaneously.

Telstra notes it has already begun rolling out mmWave 5G with 65 sites currently live and plans to nearly triple that number before the end of the calendar year. Among others, Telstra currently has mmWave sites live providing coverage around the following locations:

  • The QVB, Opera House and Darling Harbour in Sydney,
  • The MCG and Flinders Lane in Melbourne
  • And Fortitude Valley in Brisbane.

Cameras and design

Naturally, smartphones have to look good, and distinctly different. Apple's camera arrangements and its notch are iconic and instant signals to others that you're using an iPhone. Similarly, Samsung has made its camera arrangements an easy way to see if you're using a Samsung, while its folding screens are also unmissably Samsung.

Both Pixels now have a "camera bar" on the back, with the Pixel 6 offering a 50 megapixel wide camera with large pixels, and a 12 megapixel ultra wide, while the 6 Pro adds a 48 megapixel telephoto lens with 4x optical zoom (going one better than iPhone 13 Pro's 3 optical zoom), although unlike with the new iPhone 13 models and many Android competitors, there's no mention of a macro mode.

However, Google proudly states both smartphones have "the most advanced cameras" the company has ever built, with "the entire camera experience improved from the hardware to Pixel’s revolutionary computational photography, so you can get photos and videos with even greater detail and richer colour than previous Pixels."

The cameras also offer some very cool features, including:

  • Magic Eraser that makes distractions in your photos disappear, just like that. With a few taps in Google Photos, remove strangers and unwanted objects.
  • Motion Mode that makes everyday shots epic so you can bring movement to your shots with features like Action Pan and Long Exposure.
  • Real Tone where portraits on Pixel represent all people and skin tones beautifully and accurately.
  • Face Unblur that can unblur a face to make it sharper so you can catch the action and see your favourite faces clearly.
  • And if you pick up a Pixel 6 Pro, it has an amazing telephoto lens with 4x optical zoom and up to 20x zoom with an improved version of Pixel’s Super Res Zoom.
  • There’s also an upgraded ultrawide front camera that records 4K video.

The Pixel 6 Pro camera bar:

Snap and Google's partnership on the lockscreen, exclusive augmented reality lenses and Live Translate coming to Snapchat

Evan Spiegel, CEO of Snap Inc, the makers of Snapchat, was featured in the Google Pixel 6 and 6 Pro launch video showcasing the forthcoming "Quick Tap to Snap" feature, launching later this year. The feature is a partnership with Google, and it "marks the first time Snap has created a camera-mode version of Snapchat accessible directly from a phone lockscreen, and will make the Pixel 6 the fastest phone to make a Snap."

Snap and Google will also luaunch some exclusive augmented reality lenses, while the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro exclusive "Live Translation" service is coming to the Snapchat app on Pixel 6.

So, what of the vaunted AI smarts and on-device speech recognition, and the live translation capabilities seen in the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro launch above?

Well, besides an extremely impressive live translation between the Japanese-speaking Marie Kondo and one of Google's English-speaking employees, it really does look like the introduction of Star Trek's universal translator, or the Babelfish from the HitchHiker's Guide to the Galaxy is really here, although obviously not in every language yet.

Google's Translate app has already been performing translation miracles for years, but now the process appears to be even faster and even more accurate, and no doubt a whole range of upcoming reviews from people around the world will examine how true that all is.

In any case, Google says the 6 and 6 Pro have "improved speech recognition so it can make everyday tasks easier," and they give these examples (which can be seen in the launch video above):

  • Use your voice to quickly type, edit, and send messages with Assistant voice typing in Messages, Gmail and more.
  • Let Google Assistant help with adding punctuation, making corrections, inserting emojis and sending your messages – hands-free.
  • Message with people in different languages, including English, French, German, Italian and a beta version in Japanese, with Live Translate.7
  • One more thing: when you get an incoming call, just say “accept” or “decline” without having to use “Hey Google” every time by enabling Quick phrases. You can also “stop” and “snooze” alarms and timers!

So, what about the long awaited Call Screen and Hold for me features that let you know who’s calling and why, and can intelligently stay on hold for you when you call companies whose recorded messages say "your call is important to us" but take an age to actually answer that call?

Well, these features are finally being launched in Australia, with Google stating "Call Screen helps you avoid unwanted calls. Google Assistant can automatically screen unknown callers and filter out unknown numbers before your phone ever rings. Call Screen works on your device and does not use Wi-Fi or data, which makes the screening fast and the content private to you."

Google adds: "Hold for Me is also coming to Australia to help you get time back. Now, when you call a toll-free number and a business puts you on hold, Google Assistant can wait on the line for you. You can go back to your day, and Google Assistant will notify you with sound, vibration and a prompt on your screen once someone is on the line and ready to talk."

What else?

There's much, much more you can see in the launch video above, and here.

There's no mention of a Face ID-style of unlock, but an under-screen fingerprint reader was demonstrated in the launch video, and while the launch video didn't mention it, the Pixel store offers a second-generation wireless charging stand, which uses a "near silent" fan to enable 23 watt wireless charging, as well as regular 15w wireless charging, which will sell for $119, and which is "coming soon".

There also a 30w wired charger adapter available to purchase for $45, which you can see here

There are plenty more features, capabilities and benefits, and iTWire is reviewing both models.

Availability:

You can pre-order Pixel 6 today, starting at $999 and $1,299 for the Pixel 6 Pro. The phones will be available in store with Google Store, Telstra, JB Hi-Fi, Optus, Vodafone, Harvey Norman and Officeworks from October 28.

Telstra pricing with special pre-order discounts if pre-ordered between the 20th and 27th of October:

Pixel 6:

The 128GB Pixel 6 in Stormy Black, Sorta Seafoam and the exclusive Kinda Coral colour is normally $999, but the pre-order price is $799.

The 256GB model in Stormy Black is normally $1129, with the pre-order special price of $929.

Pixel 6 Pro:

The 128GB mode in Stormy Black, Cloudy White and the exclusive Sorta Sunny colour is $1299, but is on pre-order special for $1099.

The 256GB model in Stormy Black is normally $1449, but is $1249 on pre-order special.

Meanwhile, the 512GB Stormy Black is normally $1599 but is on pre-order special for $1399.

Telstra monthly plans can be seen at its website, with the $115 per month for 180GB plan discounted to $65 per month until November 2 only.

Vodafone pricing:

Vodafone says its customers can pre-order the Google Pixel 6 (128GB) with 40GB/month for $67.75 a month (device cost + plan fees included) over 36 months on a $40 Lite Plan (total min cost $1039.00).

Those who would prefer Google Pixel 6 Pro (128GB) can get it with 40GB/month for $76.08 a month (device cost + plan fees included) over 36 months on a $40 Lite Plan (total min cost $1338.88).

Vodafone also notes "customers will also be eligible to redeem Google Pixel Buds A-Series (RRP $159) with the pre order of either phone in the Google Pixel 6 series on a Vodafone Infinite Plan when they sign up by 27 October 2021", and which must be redeemed in store by December 31, 2021.

JB Hi-Fi pricing:

Meanwhile, an offer from JB Hi-Fi has just popped into my inbox offering $499 upfront pricing for the Google Pixel 6 128GB model, available until October 27 only, when paired with a $69 per month over 12 months Telstra plan with unlimited talk and text and 80GB of data, along with a Google Nest Audio smart speaker as a bonus.

No doubt Officeworks and Harvey Norman will have pre-order offers too, so it's always worth shopping around for the best deal.

Here'a a range of quotes from the Google executives seen in the launch video above:

“This year is quite a bit different — we have state-of-the-art hardware, which means Pixel can deliver even more impressive real-world performance, as well as new AI-driven experiences that have never been possible before.”
RICK OSTERLOH

“For the Pixel 6 Pro, we were inspired by the high-quality finishes used in jewelry and watches. It’s our most refined phone, made with the polished unibody metal transitioning fluidly into the gorgeous 3D glass.”
ISABELLE OLSSON

“Android 12 looks especially stunning on Pixel 6. We designed it using our years of mobile OS experience, while keeping our own hardware in mind. So Pixel 6 is the best expression of Android.”
SABRINA ELLIS

“Pixel 6 is the most secure Pixel yet. It includes...the next generation Titan M2, which works with Tensor security core to protect your sensitive user data, PINs, and passwords.”
SABRINA ELLIS

“Google Tensor is the biggest mobile hardware innovation in the history of the company. It’s the culmination of years of investment in AI, and Google’s deep experience in silicon.”
RICK OSTERLOH

“We’re fortunate to have great insights when it comes to ML and built our chip based on where ML models are heading, not where they are today.”
MONIKA GUPTA

“Pixel 6 is leagues ahead of our previous Pixel Cameras, from the hardware, to the software, to the computational photography.”
BRIAN RAKOWSKI

“Pixel 6 has an on-device speech recognition model that can transcribe speech with incredible accuracy. And thanks to Tensor, it does it using half as much power as previously possible.”
BRIAN RAKOWSKI

“Between the incredible new Pixel 6 design, the phenomenal camera and speech capabilities, helpful new features, and all the Android 12 goodness, there’s a lot to be excited about this year.”
RICK OSTERLOH

“Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro completely reimagine Google’s approach to smartphones, and represent the very best of Google’s helpfulness.”
RICK OSTERLOH

All the details of Google's new smartphones can be found here


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

Alex Zaharov-Reutt is iTWire's Technology Editor is one of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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