The Google Pixel 6 disrupts the Apple-Samsung status quo, but there is one big looming question
This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
A lot has been said about the Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro: we have compared the cameras to the best iPhones and Galaxy phones around, we have run the benchmarks, and we have actually used the phones in real life. The takeaway is that the Pixel 6 family is... well, mostly great!
Sure, there have been some minor issues: a slight green tint on some units at a certain angle, the fingerprint scanner not working quite as fast as we'd like, and there might be a few others that we have missed, but none of them have spoiled the general success of the Pixel 6 series.
Google is back!
But it is not just about the feature set on these new Pixels (which is impressive), but it's also about the price this year as there is a massive and hard to justify $300 gap between the Pixel 6 and the higher-end Pixel 6 Pro. The differences between the two phones are minuscule: the Pro is the ever so slightly larger phone, it has a 4X periscope zoom lens that you don't get on the non-Pro model, and instead of 120Hz, you only have 90Hz on the regular model. That's about it. There are some other minor things like the Pro model using the latest Gorilla Glass Victus on its back compared to an earlier generation of the toughened glass on the back of the non-Pro version, but nothing major really.
The elephant in the room
So with the lack of major features missing, it seems that most people would agree that the non-Pro Google Pixel 6 is actually one of the best deals around at its starting price of $600. Is it even worth it buying the Pixel 6 Pro? The Pixel 6 seems like the ultimate Apple and Galaxy killer. After all, it costs two Benjamins less than an iPhone 13 that doesn't even have a high refresh rate. It's also two Benjamins less than a Galaxy S21 too. And did we mention it's cheaper than even the OnePlus 9, a phone from the company that... makes cheap flagship phones!
The price of the Pixel 6 has definitely been the biggest surprise of this smartphone season and it shows that Google is serious about grabbing some market share away from Apple and Samsung.
But there is one big looming question after the Pixel 6 launch and that is whether Google will actually stick with this pricing long-term, after the Pixel 6, or if it's just pulling a OnePlus on us. See, OnePlus lured users with incredibly affordable phones, the so called "flagship killers" for years, slowly raising prices until we got... the $1,000+ OnePlus 9 Pro this year. Yep, no tracy of affordability on that one. And it was a successful strategy for the most part as users were incredibly enthusiastic about their early cheap flagships and spread the word to others, much like a tiny little ponzi scheme. Who wouldn't want a cheaper version of a flagship phone anyway?
But while OnePlus is actually relying on its phone sales for its revenue, Google is a big company that makes the majority of its profits from ads. It can afford to make a cheaper phone for years, slashing a bit of the price and giving users a great device... at the only slight condition that those users stick with Google Search and YouTube. That certainly seemed to be the way Google saw things when it made the Nexus lineup, another series of affordable flagship phones infused with the pure Google experience. So... is the Pixel 6 a phone subsidized by Google?
The Pixel 6 is great, but is its pricing sustainable for future generations?
And if Google can afford to do that, won't that be considered unfair practice by other Android phone makers that don't have the advantage of managing and running a search engine of their own?
What gives: as big guys fight, customers win
Those are the big looming questions around the Pixel 6 and we don't have an answer to them just yet. Frankly, we're not sure Google has an answer either.
But our guess is that cheaper Pixel flagship phones will be here for at least a short while. Google has invested years in this mobile processing endeavour of its own and it just cannot afford to lose all those years of building a silicone team and making its own mobile chip, the precious Google Tensor. Google is seriously in it this time around.
But how will other phone makers react? We certainly don't see Samsung and Apple suddenly dropping prices, but other more competitive brands like Xiaomi might step it up. In either case, the Pixel 6 has opened a can of worms that smells a lot like a Google Nexus, that is a cheaper phone with great specs that undercuts the competition. And unlike the Nexus lineup, this one actually has a great camera. Meanwhile, customers can only enjoy a great deal they are getting as the industry is shaking and readjusting.