Pixel 6 - Android gets its own iPhone, after a 13-year wait: Time to go Google?

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Pixel 6 - Android gets its own iPhone, after a 13-year wait: Time to go Google?
Google did it! Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro will soon be in the pockets of thousands, and it's safe to assume, probably even millions of people. After months of leaks, renders, teasers, and even pre-announcements, we finally know everything there's to know about Google's new flagships - at least on paper.

Our full review will do the rest, but until then, let's chat about the significance of the Pixel 6 for Android, but also about Apple's role in Google's decision to go from the Pixel 5 - a seemingly mid-range device to the completely reimagined Pixel 6.

The good news here is that everything Google's done, which might hint at an "iPhone inspiration," is mostly positive. However, no company or phone is perfect, and I'll try to bring forward some of the more controversial and less obvious iPhone motives that I discovered during Google's Pixel 6 event.

You may also want to read:

Tensor - Google's answer to Apple's A15 isn't as powerful, but it's more... AI

Starting with the most obvious change - Tensor is Google's answer to Apple's A-series of in-house chips, and we are thrilled to welcome Sundar Pichai and company to the "break-free club". Break free from what? Of course, I'm referring to Qualcomm. If you follow the tech industry, and specifically devices powered by mobile chips, you'd know it's become trendy to start producing your own processors.

For example, Huawei has been doing it for a while, while Oppo is expected to join the club soon. Then Samsung's been making its original Exynos chips pretty much from the very beginning. Of course, the disadvantage for the Korean company is that they don't have the tightest control over Android.

Furthermore, Galaxy flagships in the US use Qualcomm chips, which indicates Samsung isn't ready to commit. There's a good reason for that. S21 flagships in the US are of better quality than these sold in the rest of the world.

But of course, one manufacturer that does have full control over both software and hardware is Apple, thanks to iOS and the A-series of chips. Google is clearly very excited to finally be able to do the same. In fact, during the Pixel 6 announcement, referring to the lack of a Google chip in the past, it was said:

Although Rado suspects Google was taking shots at Qualcomm, which might be part of it, I also think it was very nice to see that Google is honest about its past - it felt like an honorable thing to do - almost like a revelation.

According to Google, Qualcomm's chips couldn't keep up with Google's powerful research and data to allow it to unleash its full potential. Google went as far as to claim 370% (not a typo) better GPU performance than before (Pixel 5), and while benchmarks aren't everything, this would still be very impressive if it's true.

Only three years of guaranteed software updates for Pixel 6: A missed opportunity?

Then we come to the second most important takeaway from the Pixel 6 announcement, and that's the fact that Google will finally (!) match Apple and provide five years of updates for the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro!

Unfortunately, that's less optimistic when you consider the fact that Google was referring to "security updates" rather than "software updates" - as in a new Android version. The latter will boil down to "at least three" years, which is disappointing. It's enough for those who switch phones every two-three years (Hi!), but it would've been much more "Apple" to offer five or at least four years of guaranteed software updates.

Privacy and security: Is Pixel 6 the most secure phone in the world? 

And we get to Apple's favorite buzzword - privacy, which is now Google's thing too. The company's doubling down on privacy and security, thanks to on-device encryption and "Tensor security core", which is supposed to give Pixel 6 "the most layers of hardware security in any phone".

Google's Apple-y attention to privacy is also expressed in a few new software additions to Android 12

  • The new Security Hub where your phone will be able to assure you that "security is up to date".
  • The Privacy dashboard that will allow you to control app accessibility and location permissions - reminiscent of App Tracking Transparency on iOS
  • The camera and mic indicators, which will appear in the top right corner of your phone to tell you when the microphone or camera is being used - that's directly borrowed from iOS.

Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro: The design isn't very Apple, but also... it's kindaApple

And we come to the more fun part of today's story, and that's some of Google's design decisions for the Pixel 6. The first two things that were very obvious to me were that Google wants the Pixel 6 Pro to be "shinier" and "flashier" than the regular Pixel 6 - presumably, because that's supposed to make it look and feel "more premium".

And surprise, surprise, Google went directly for the "iPhone 13 versus iPhone 13 Pro" solution - a shiny stainless steel frame for the Pixel 6 Pro and a matte aluminum frame for the Pixel 6. But there are a few other Pixel 6 design elements that might seem unrelated to Apple at first, but...

Let me explain...

Google hasn't gone back to the Pixel 3 XL notch (God forbid) to make the Pixel 6 stand out, but in my opinion, the company's striving to achieve a similar effect with the new visor camera bar on the back of the Pixel 6!

This almost unique design touch (almost, because it's sort of reminiscent of the TCL 10 Pro) will undoubtedly make the Pixel 6 recognizable. On the iPhone, this job belongs to the notch, and to some extent, the camera array, as well. Apple wants its devices to be recognizable from miles away.

And finally, when you turn to the front of the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, you realize they look rather different from one another. The Pixel 6 reminds me of Sony's boxy Xperia, while the Pixel 6 Pro looks about as common as it gets - it takes after the Huawei P50 Pro and a bunch of other phones with a similar design. Also, the bezels are uneven (#mad), but that's a whole other rant, which we'll skip for now.

The point here is - the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro will look and feel different when you handle them. Well, guess what, although the iPhone 13 and 13 Pro share the same screen and front look, it's expected that the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro won't! The first is said to keep the same iPhone 13 style notch, while Apple's 2022 Pro iPhone is rumored to feature a punch-hole design.

So, it seems like Apple is about to set the standard and pro iPhones further apart, and Google's already taken a step in that direction - similar approaches there. I can't say I'm a fan, but it is what it is.

It's settled: "Pixel 6 Pro is the best Pixel ever" and "iPhone 13 Pro is the best iPhone ever"

And finally, onto the most Apple thing Google did during the Pixel 6 event, and that's the lingo the company used while presenting the phones. If you've watched any of the past few iPhone events, you'll know that Tim Cook and company like to act like the iPhone is the only phone in the universe. Well, Google just pulled an Apple.

Throughout the Pixel 6 presentation, I kept hearing:

The examples are too many, but the point is - it was a one-to-one copy of the way Tim Cook talks about the iPhone. Of course, this might not leave a huge impression on the average consumer. Moreover, in the end, just about 250,000 people streamed the Pixel 6 event versus over 750,000 for Apple's Unleashed event that took place a day earlier (1.8M vs 5.8M as of now, if you're curious).

But from the perspective of someone who follows the smartphone industry, Google's lack of desire to find its own voice is puzzling. I'd go as far as to say it appears amateur, since Apple's probably Google's biggest competitor. Yet, somehow this didn't stop Sundar Pichai from giving this presentation a thumbs up? I would've been on board if Google's goal was to ironize Apple, but it certainly didn't look like it.

Ultimately: Pixel 6 is better than Adele's new song

In the end, it doesn't even matter if the Pixel 6 is Android's iPhone or if Google copied a certain Apple feature or trick. Companies do that all the time.

Here's a weird one: Last year, Apple borrowed Android's widgets idea with iOS 14, but this year Samsung revamped One UI to make the Galaxy widgets look more iPhone-ish. It's as if Samsung waited 12 years for Apple to introduce widgets and then replicate them. Ironic.

But what matters is that all the features we talked about - from Tensor's tight integration with Google's Android, the more frequent (security) updates, and attention to privacy, all the way to the distinct camera bar, are positive changes for Google's Pixel 6, which bring it a step closer to elusive perfection.

And if this also happens to bring it "a step closer to the iPhone", I frankly... don't care! I think I like it even better than Adele’s new song!
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