Google’s new Tensor-powered Pixel 6 takes aim at Samsung and Apple

20 Oct 2021

Google's Pixel 6 Pro. Image: Google

The Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro feature Google’s own Tensor chip and will run on Android 12.

Google is stepping away from Qualcomm processors with the release of its flagship Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro smartphones, which feature its new in-house chip design Tensor.

Tensor has been years in the making. It was announced in early August by Google head of hardware devices Rick Osterloh, who said the custom Tensor chip would debut in the Pixel 6, following the likes of Apple and Samsung that have also taken to developing their own system-on-chips.

“Tensor enables us to make the Google phones we’ve always envisioned — phones that keep getting better, while tapping the most powerful parts of Google, all in a highly personalised experience,” he said at the time.

Now, Tensor is finally here, powering Google’s latest Pixel smartphone to take on Samsung’s Galaxy S series and Apple’s iPhone 13.

“We’re fortunate to have great insights when it comes to machine learning (ML) and built our chip based on where ML models are heading, not where they are today,” Monika Gupta, senior director of product management at Google, said at the Pixel 6 launch.

What’s new?

Just like Apple has been releasing standard and pro models for its devices, Google too has launched Pixel 6 along with a more premium Pixel 6 Pro to compete in different price brackets.

While the 6.4-inch Pixel 6 starts at €649 for the 128GB model, the 6.7-inch Pixel 6 Pro boasts upgraded specifications and is priced from €899 for the 128GB model. Both have an upgraded 50MP rear camera and will be available from 28 October.

Pixel 6 has seen significant camera improvements, according to Google, with the main sensor taking in 150pc more light than the previous model. The Real Tone feature can more accurately capture skin tones, while other features such as Face Unblur and Magic Eraser aim to improve the photography experience.

Both models have Gorilla Glass Victus screens with curved edges. Battery life has also been significantly upgraded, with Google claiming it can last more than 24 hours on a single charge, and both phones support the Qi wireless charging feature.

Also announced were new calling assistance features such as Wait Times and Direct My Call. The latter uses speech and language recognition to help simplify recorded instructions, transcribing automated messages and menu options for users in real time and displaying them on the phone screen.

Both phones will use Google’s latest operating system, Android 12, which will feature a host of new software capabilities.

“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,” said Sabrina Ellis, Google’s VP of product management. “So Pixel 6 is the best expression of Android.”

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic