Just like most smartphone enthusiasts, I’m incredibly excited about what Google is doing with the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. The phones have been revealed (although not fully), and we already know that they are going to use a custom-built Tensor SoC, which is new for Google, and new for the world of Android. On top of that, the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro design is far beyond what we ever asked for – it’s better than that! The Pixel 6 carries “that Nexus 6P” look, which gives it character.
1. Google’s Tensor chip & AI & Machine Learning: Enough marketing for selling smartphones?
Is Tensor good enough?
No, of course, it’s not enough.
However, to understand why Google is doing it, we have to look into two things – what Google does best and what Google does… worst(?!)What Google does best is (surprise!) data. Google collects data, manages data, interprets data, sells your data (you’ve agreed to it, so calm down!), and of course, they use data to make products that they can sell. Not on an Apple or Samsung scale – these two mainly make money from selling hardware. The reason why things like Google Assistant & Pixel’s powerful AI camera algorithm exist is data. Data that Google can collect, read, and utilize to improve your conversations with Assistant or make your Portrait Mode photo look more realistic.
Simply put – the software needs to learn from data (which is an asset). Then when it knows enough, it can then be used to create another asset – an app, or service, which can then be used to create another asset – a phone, a smart speaker, a smartwatch, or a pair of earbuds.
And all of this is brilliant. Until you realize that you love it and appreciate it, but don’t buy a phone for its AI capabilities. But then, why is Google marketing the Pixel 6 Tensor SoC with words like “voice commands, translation, captioning, and dictation”?Because… Google is a software company. Apparently, that’s a huge part of Tensor’s identity. The company doesn’t focus on bringing the absolute latest and greatest when it comes to hardware like a foldable phone, 10x optical zoom, or an under-display camera.
Now, AI is going to be a central part of Google’s Pixel project in the future, and that’s great – it will do a lot for the camera and all Machine Learning operations. However, what’s the problem with that? Well, if Google is going to compete with Apple, Samsung, Xiaomi, etc., they will need to sell a phone that’s as good, or better – both on paper and in practical use.
2. Is Google too late to the game: Competition overview – Apple, Samsung, Xiaomi, OnePlus
The catch is that Apple is already leaps and bounds ahead of Qualcomm, Mediatek, and Samsung’s Exynos. And then Samsung itself is expected to break new ground by collaborating with AMD for the upcoming Galaxy flagships. Therefore, despite how exciting the Pixel 6 is, if we look at it in isolation, the truth is it won’t exist in a vacuum. Rather the opposite. It’s going to have a really hard time competing with Apple’s iPhone 13, which is going to be even better than the iPhone 12 that’s already the most powerful phone on the market.
Why? Well, Pixel 6 Pro is doing 120Hz, guess what – Apple is also doing 120Hz on the iPhone 13; the Pixel 6 Pro has three cameras – the iPhone 13 will too; the Pixel 6 is finally said to catch up with the iPhone when it comes to video – Apple is already there…
Not to mention Xiaomi is about to become the top-selling smartphone brand in the world anytime now (Apple & Samsung still make more money), as it’s already past Apple, and only just behind Samsung, which will put further pressure on the big dogs to perform (even) better. In fact, Xiaomi just became Europe’s top smartphone maker.
Then we’ve got OnePlus, which is hungry for sales and glory. Sure, the company might be sinking into the mainstream, but this new identity seems to be paying off financially. OnePlus is currently the fastest-growing smartphone brand in the US.
3. Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro price and availability: The Make or Break factor
Out of stock? Not in your country? Too expensive?
So, what… What is the thing that might make Google’s Pixel 6 and 6 Pro more competitive? Sure, a brilliant camera system, and the rumored five years of software updates for Pixel 6 (exciting!), would be great. However, if the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro end up costing an ARM (wink, wink) and a leg, let’s be honest… Not many will be interested.
Think about it:
- How many Pixel users are out there? A handful, compared to Apple, Samsung, etc.
- Who is Google going to try to sell the Pixel 6 to – Pixel users?
- Who should Google sell phones to? Apple/Samsung users.
If there’s something about smartphones that everyone should know is that it’s extremely hard to take an iPhone user and sell them an Android phone. You can argue it’s slightly easier to pitch an iPhone to an Android user because of Apple’s overall premium image, but even then – iPhones are still much more limiting for those who haven’t emerged into Apple’s ecosystem.
The takeaway is that the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro price will more or less set it up for a win or a failure. Bear in mind that a win scenario for Google that doesn’t sell many phones anyway is to convert just 5-10% of Apple and Samsung’s users. That’s going to be Hard. Capital “H”.
It’s realistically much easier for Google to… fail. And I hate to say that because I love the way the Pixel 6 looks and the fact that Google is finally trying. However, the “trying” part should extend to pricing and availability too. It’s now confirmed that the Google Pixel 6 series will be available in about only eight countries at launch. That’s literally less than the Pixel 5 (available in nine countries).
- Pixel 6 – $799, Pixel 6 Pro – $999?
- Pixel 6 – $849, Pixel 6 Pro – $999?
- Pixel 6 – $899, Pixel 6 Pro – $1099?
How about something that will attract those who want a “flagship killer”?
- Pixel 6 – $599, Pixel 6 Pro – $699?
- Pixel 6 – $649, Pixel 6 Pro – $749?
- Pixel 6 – $799, Pixel 6 Pro – $899?
We don’t know. We don’t know how much the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro are going to cost. However, we know that factors like price, availability, and how Google chooses to market the Pixel 6 will determine sales. Also, the competition isn’t sleeping. Even Apple’s iPhone 12 is going to compete with all new Android flagships next year, as Apple’s “last year” flagships have proven to be a huge hit when their price drops after a new iPhone launch.
So… We remain cautiously optimistic and wish Google good luck!