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The Pixel 6, the "Tensor" chip and the perfect storm to sweep Galaxies and take over

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The Google Pixel 6 and its new "Tensor" chip are the perfect storm to sweep Galaxies and take over
Google knows it: the upcoming Pixel 6 launch is going to be big. Not only has Google chief executive Sundar Pichai teased this moment a year ago, most recently Google has upped their estimates for Pixel sales way higher than on any other Google Pixel phone before.

It is the perfect storm forming around the Pixel 6: Tensor, the first Google-made mobile chip, the first new camera sensor on a Pixel in years, and a radical new redesign that is actually not a bland black rectangle (I'm looking at you, Pixel 5!). But in order for a perfect storm to form you need some outside conditions and if they lack, it may never form.

In this article, I want to dive deeper in why Google has those perfect tailwinds and let's start with the heart of every smartphone, its processor.

2021 was/is a bad year for Qualcomm



Qualcomm has been dominating the smartphone market for years now. Android phones from the most expensive and premium flagship devices down to budget models almost exclusively rely on Qualcomm's Snapdragon chips. It has been a comfortable position for the chip maker and while Snapdragon chips are not quite as fast as Apple's own Bionic series, they are not too far behind and that has just been good enough.

So how do you even challenge a dominant player like Snapdragon? Well, it is not an easy task. Google has been developing its own mobile processor, the Google "Tensor", but if you read reports carefully you would see insiders warning that this chip won't be quite as fast as the best Snapdragons around. Qualcomm has too much of a headstart.

BUT then came 2021 and the Snapdragon 888. This chip succeeded the popular Snapdragon 865, and legend has it that Qualcomm picked the 888 name to honor Chinese culture where the number 888 symbolizes luck and prosperity (12 out of 14 major Qualcomm partners are Chinese companies). Well, luck has been the opposite of the situation around the Snapdragon 888, and various reports agree that this might be the least lucky launch for the company. I have personally tested a few high-end phones powered by the Snapdragon 888 SoC, and have seen first-hand how these devices overheat with even basic tasks. The OnePlus 9 series had this issue to an extent where the company had to throttle the chip in order to ensure a decent user experience, the Sony Xperia 1 III, a promising camera-centric phone, overheated like a stove with various easy tasks like just playing a YouTube video or browsing through social media, and most recently, the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 I tested got scorching hot under seemingly no serious load.

The Snapdragon 888 has been one of the main reasons holding back Android flagships in 2021, and it seems that only those phones that focused on having slightly more advanced cooling system avoided those issues partly.

Which brings us to Google's Pixel 6 moment and the Tensor chip. Yes, it might not be as fast in theory, but the bar has been set lower than in previous years: it just needs to NOT overheat and perform well. And if Google gets those two things right, it might just have the winner it needs to carve a niche it couldn't carve in the smartphone space before.

Pixel 6 focuses on polish and refinement amidst Samsung's foldable phone uncertainty


Apart from troubles with the Snapdragon 888 chip, Google might benefit from another unique occurrence: the lack of strong Android competition.

Samsung, the dominant name in the industry, has abandoned its popular Galaxy Note series and is left with no traditional flagship phone for the second half of the year, instead focusing on expensive and unproven foldable phones. This is a big gamble for Samsung: it has bet the house on people loving the new foldable phone form factor, but we are yet to see about that. Initial reviews have been mostly positive, but Samsung cannot get around the physical limitations of foldable designs like a smaller battery size, a display crease and the need to use your both hands to even unlock the phone. As with everything new and experimental, even if hugely successful, foldable phone update will take time, and it just seems like Samsung is leaving money off the table in the short term.

And that is a perfect opportunity for Google and its Pixel 6 which is the opposite of experimental: it's supposed to be all about polish and traditional smartphone design. If you are not ready to risk it with a radical new phone form factor (which we'd be is most people), the Pixel 6 will be among few good options in the second half of the year.

Competitors are out


Not only have high-end Android phones in 2021 had a bad year due and Samsung given ground in the flagship battle, the biggest competitors are out.

LG has exited the phone market in the beginning of 2021 and is no longer a factor. No one has yet taken its place in the United States, and even in Europe, rising phone maker Xiaomi is taking over with its budget models rather than higher end phones.

The smartphone market landscape has never been so vacant in the past few years. And such vast and vacant spaces are easily swept by the perfect storm that is forming in Pixel land.

Google's biggest obstacle is... Google itself!


With all that said, my biggest worry is whether Google will be able to overcome the biggest obstacle it has to face: itself!

The company has been compromising its own launches. Its best phones are often hard to get as it doesn't answer the consumer demand, it has failed to forge strong partnerships with carriers, and its international presence is far weaker than Samsung's and Apple's. It also has a chip shortage situation on hand that it has to deal with.

But if Google takes hardware serious for once and it knows it has that perfect storm moment right now, it should do its best to take advantage of the opportunity.

New reasons to get excited every week

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