Forget Pixel 6: Google Pixel 7 could be the mature Android flagship to give Apple's iPhone a hard time

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Forget Pixel 6: Google Pixel 7 could be the mature Android flagship to give Apple's iPhone a hard ti
The Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro are just a few hours away now. Hooray! But this doesn't stop us from contemplating what Google's next step is going to be - the Pixel 7. Bear with me because the lead-in is important.

The Pixel 6 is somewhat of a monumental step for Google. It's the first flagship that features a custom-built chip, thanks to Tensor, and it seems like this will finally allow Google to unleash its true potential. We are expecting four years of software updates and five years of security patches for the Google Pixel 6 series. Furthermore, Android 12 and Tensor should work more seamlessly together, which means optimization should be nothing short of brilliant.

Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro: Even the best phones come with some limitations

All that being said, we can't ignore a few details about the hardware on the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro:

  • The relatively lackluster raw power of the Tensor chip, which might come with some limitations
  • The slightly controversial design

In case you aren't aware, Tensor is a 5nm chip, built in collaboration with Samsung. The key to its design is that this processor is very much focused on the TPU, which stands for Tensor Processing Unit (hence the name). In other words, Tensor is heavily focused on machine learning in order to be able to handle Google's software trickery:

  • Photo and video processing (surprise, surprise!)
  • On-device systemwide translation and dictation
  • Google Assistant

The takeaway so far is:

  1. Google has a romance with software - in other words, the sky is blue.
  2. Google will keep pushing machine learning and the Google Assistant - if you didn't know, now you know.

But what's kind of left out from this equation is the other two pillars of a truly powerful chip - the CPU and GPU. And that's where Google starts to fall a little bit behind.

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Tensor is expected to be about on par with Samsung's current-gen flagship chips found in the Galaxy S21 series. Is this bad? No! Both the Exynos 2100 and Snapdragon 888 are powerful enough to handle pretty much anything and everything.

However, what about three, four, or five years down the line? Is the Pixel 6 going to be on par with the iPhone 13 in five years time? Software support is one thing, but having the hardware to prop it up is another.

Or if we want to get a bit more concrete, it doesn't seem like the Pixel 6 will be able to support some features we take for granted on Apple and Samsung flagships, such as:

  • Portrait mode for video / Cinematic video
  • 4K video recording with the front-facing camera

That's right. A few hours ahead of the Pixel 6 announcement, we haven't heard any rumors of Portrait mode video, while just yesterday we saw a leaked Amazon UK listing, which says the Pixel 6 Pro's selfie video will be capped at 1080p, which would be a bit disappointing for those who like to vlog. So, yes - if the leaks and rumors are to be believed, Pixel 6 will come with some limitations, which the iPhone 13 and Galaxy S21 series don't have.

Google Pixel 6 was supposed to come out in 2020 and it shows!

But why? Very simple - as we shared with you some time ago, the Pixel 6 was actually meant to be released in 2020. Yes - the Pixel 5 wasn't exactly meant to happen. However, Google came into some production trouble with Tensor and pushed the Pixel 6 to 2021.

Therefore, the processor and camera hardware on the Pixel 6 won't necessarily feel exactly "current" in 2021 since it was meant to be powering a 2020 phone. We've already gone through whether this will affect the camera on the Pixel 6 in this story.

And finally, this brings us to the Google Pixel 7, which is expected to arrive in the fall of 2022. To make myself clear: No - that's not going to be me telling you to skip the Pixel 6 and wait for the Pixel 7. I'll simply elaborate on why the Pixel 7 might feel more polished once it's out.

Is Pixel 6 an experiment: How companies pilot-test some major new features one year ahead of a major redesign:

As we know from a few other tech products, we often get a major rework/redesign the year after companies decide to launch a new major feature, packaged in an old or sometimes even almost unfinished design element. Or sometimes it’s the other way around - the design is new, but the core features are unpolished. Let’s look at some examples:

iPhone X and iPhone XS

The iPhone X was a monumental leap for Apple, but it came with a lackluster camera system compared to other flagships at the time. Then we got the XS, which looked exactly the same, yet it brought a much more powerful chip, and most importantly a working Smart HDR algorithm for photos and videos, which was leaps and bounds ahead of the X.

Galaxy Z Fold and Galaxy Z Fold 2

Not much to say here. The original Galaxy Z Fold looked like a prototype foldable, which Samsung could have easily left out of its portfolio. I believe this was just the Korean company being impatient. The Fold 2 was a different story - it had a much-improved design, as well as functionality, and honestly, it felt at least two generations ahead of the first Fold.

MacBook Pro with Apple silicone

Apple's first ARM-powered Macs made some headlines last year, and they deserved it. Everything from battery life to performance was basically uneatable for the price point. The transition to ARM-based chips was truly monumental. However, we just got the first MacBook redesign since 2016 (enjoy the notch!), which again brings me to the point that the "next version" of something new and exciting might actually be the one worth considering.

Just imagine how the people who bought a MacBook Pro last year would feel now when they see a new one today! Apple is also expected to redesign the iPhone 14 Pro, after the iPhone 13 Pro finally brought the most anticipated new feature for a while - ProMotion. 

Google Pixel 7: Hopefully as powerful as a Galaxy S22, and with as symmetrical bezels 

In the end, I personally think this will also apply to the Pixel 6 and Pixel 7. It's expected that all flagships in 2022, alongside the Pixel 7 will adopt 3/4nm chips, and this will be Google's chance to even the playing field and make the Pixel 7 as competitive as it can be. Remember, Tensor is a 2020 chip, which was meant to be in Google’s 2020 Pixel. Does that mean Google will take its chances? Who knows… We’ll have to wait and see.

With that, I come to the last point of today's story - the controversial design of Google's Tensor-ed Pixel 6 flagship. I don't know about you, but all in all, I found last year's Pixel 5 pretty… boring. However, this phone carried two features, which I loved and want to see on any flagship, not just Google's:

  • A metal-ish back panel
  • Symmetrical bezels 

It seems like Google dropped both of these features for the Pixel 6, which I simply don't understand. Glass backs are… made of glass, and they break. Google itself showed us that wireless charging is possible even with a metal-plastic build.

Then this one's going to be subjective, but the bezels on the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro are just… not great to look at at. First, they look uneven - on both the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, and then they are rather chunky for today's standards. 

Is this a big deal? Not exactly. However, knowing that Google gave us uniform bezels with the Pixel 5, which IMO was amongst the best-looking phones of 2020 (at least from the front), thisstings. It really feels like a step back and makes no sense.

What is the Pixel 7 going to look like? Like the HTC One, please...

Renders courtesy of ConceptCreator.

Unfortunately, we don't have any leaks for you yet. However, I've collected a few concepts from our good ol' friend - the internet. These concepts aren't specifically for the Pixel 7.

In fact, they are for HTC devices, but I've had this idea in my head: What if Google injects itself with some of that good HTC DNA, from the days of the Pixel 2, and brings back the HTC One design to life with the Pixel 7?

Renders courtesy of Techiside.

I know, I'm romanticizing, but come on… I still have the original HTC One. It's an absolutely iconic phone for Android, and a 2021 twist on this build for Google's next flagship would be incredible, wouldn't it?

In fact, Google already has a bunch of HTC employees in its current design team, so this job shouldn't even be that difficult. Isn't it going to be awesome to see Apple's iPhone 4 tribute design on the iPhone 14 compete with HTC's One design on the Pixel 7?

Tell me - which render do you like most? The on in the thumbnail is courtesy of Ferdinand Aichriedler.

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