Just hours after Apple unveiled the new MacBook Pro with the M1 Pro and M1 Max
processors at its Unleashed event, it was Google's turn to grab
the spotlight with the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. And while the events
brought very different products, Google's strategy with its newest
phones seemed awfully familiar.
It's not like anyone will mistake the new Pixel for an iPhone.
After looking like a cheap iPhone knockoff for years, Google
finally broke out with a unique design that actually looks pretty
good. The marquee feature is the camera bar, a bulbous strip across
the back of the phone that houses a row of cameras. It's a nice
departure from the square array used by the iPhone and previous
Pixel and Galaxy phones and gives the Pixel 6 real character.
The camera bar is one
of the most unique features on any smartphone.
But aside from how it looks, the new Pixel phones are more
Apple-like than ever. For starters, they have a Google-made chip.
Dubbed Tensor, Google claims it's up to 80 percent faster than the
Pixel 5, but it's less about speed than it is about the things that
Google does best: on-device AI, computational photography, and
Tensor isn't just Google's first CPU, it's also a recognition
that off-the-shelf processors are limiting. Qualcomm's Snapdragon
888 may be fast and power-efficient, but it falls short for the
things Google needs it to do, not unlike Apple's Intel troubles. By
making its own CPU, Google is able to build a phone from the inside
out and focus on the features that make the Pixel stand out. It
might not be the fastest Android phone you can buy, but it'll be
the most capable.
When Apple introduced the A4 in the original iPad, its focus was
on speed and battery life. Apple called it a remarkably powerful
yet remarkably power-efficient mobile processor and praised its
multitasking abilities. It took several generations for the A12
Bionic to showcase the real benefits: camera processing and neural
Google's Tensor chip
will bring significant smarts to the Pixel 6.
Google's Tensor chip is already in a stronger position, and it
could become one of the best smartphone chips on an Android device.
For the first time, Google controls the whole stack (as they say),
and like the iPhone, Tensor could separate the Pixel from the pack.
Google already blows away most of its competitors with its AI and
photo processing, and a dedicated chip could do more for the Pixel
than the A-Series chip does for the iPhone.
We already know the Pixel 6 will bring a fantastic camera and
the best Android experience, but the Tensor chip could finally
deliver an experience that rivals—and maybe even surpasses—the
iPhone. For the first time, Google has built a phone that's more
Apple than Android, and it could mark a major shift in the
Leaning into the ecosystem
Google has been making two sizes of its Pixel phones for years,
but with the 6 it's taking a page from the iPhone by separating the
two models into Pro and non-Pro models. Aside from a better front
camera, the differences are similar too: a third telephoto camera,
larger and faster display, more RAM, a bigger battery, and
The Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro have major differences between
Apple has successfully driven up the iPhone's average selling
price and pushed people to the Pro models and it's a strategy that
should work for Google, too. Google is charging $599 for the Pixel
6 and $899 Pixel 6 Pro, which is a large enough gap to make the
Pixel 6 feel like a bargain and the Pixel 6 Pro feel like more of
an upgrade than it actually is.
Google is also offering a very Apple-like payment plan for the
Pixel that's a brilliant mash-up of Apple One and the iPhone
Upgrade Program. Here's how it works: For $45 (Pixel 6) or $55 (Pixel 6 Pro)
per month, you get 200GB of Google One storage, Preferred Care, and
subscriptions to YouTube Premium, YouTube Music Premium, and Google
Play Pass for two years. At the end of the two years, you can
upgrade to a new Pixel or keep your existing one.
Here's how much each would cost individually:
- YouTube/YouTube Music Premium: $12
- Google Play Pass: $5
- 200GB Google One: $2.99
- Pixel Preferred Care: $7/$9
- Pixel 6: $25
- Pixel 5 Pro: $37.50
That's a savings of $7 a month for the Pixel 6 and $11.50 a
month for the Pixel 6 Pro. It's like if Apple had an iPhone Apple
One plan that offered AppleCare+, Apple Music, Apple TV+, and Apple
Arcade, which would be a fantastic bundle. Instead, the iPhone
Upgrade Program is little more than a payment plan with no actual
The Pixel 6 will stand out in a crowd of iPhones.
The Pixel Pass is more than a discount. Google's Pixel Pass
takes Apple's ecosystem lock-in to a new level by combining
hardware and software in a unique way. No other Android phone
offers the software and services that Android does, and if the
Pixel can finally deliver a hardware experience to match, it might
be a true competitor to the iPhone.
It's no secret that Apple makes most of the smartphone profits
and has the most successful phones on the planet. Apple's strength
isn't just in design and features, it's about building an ecosystem
they enjoy being locked into. Google is trying to do something
similar with the Pixel 6—and some iPhone users might find
themselves changing keys.