This is the Pixel 6, Google's take on an 'ultra high end' phone

Google will announce the Pixel 6 Pro and Pixel 6 Pro today. However, it may be more appropriate to call it a preview. Instead of revealing all details about its new Android phones today, Google will instead focus on the new system (SoC), which will be inside the new Pixels. It's the Tensor SoC and is named after the Tensor Processing Units, (TPU), that Google uses in its data centres.Tensor is a SoC and not a single processor. While it is fair to say that Tensor was Google-designed, it's still not clear which components are Google-made or licensed from other companies. Google is certain to bring two things: an AI-powered mobile TPU and a security-focused Titan M2 chip. The rest of the details, including the CPU and GPU as well as 5G modem are still unknown.The phones themselves are less mysterious. Last week, I spent an hour at Google's Mountain View campus looking at the phones and speaking with Rick Osterloh, Google's hardware chief about Tensor. After all this, the main thing I can take away about the Pixel 6 phones are their simplicity.Google is finally trying to create a flagship phone that is competitive.Google will launch two different Pixel phones this fall: the Pixel 6 Pro and the Pixel 6 Pro. If they are anything like the prototypes last week, these will be the first Pixel phones to feel high-quality and not sandbagging in terms of build quality. Osterloh acknowledges that we knew we weren't up to the task of being at the top end in the past. This is the first time we feel we have it.Both Pixel versions were glass sandwiches with fit and finish that are now in the same league of what Apple, Samsung, Huawei, or Apple have to offer. Osterloh says that while we haven't been in the flagship tier for the last couple of years, this time will be different. Osterloh also admitted that the product will be premium-priced, which I interpret to mean above $1,000.Google only shared a few key specs about each phone. Details will be revealed in October, most likely. (And no, the phone was not mentioned as a foldable or watch. Google wouldn't allow us to take photos of or record video of the devices during the meeting. Here's what we know:The Pixel 6 Pro will feature a 6.7-inch QHD+ screen with a 120Hz refresh speed. The screen's edges are slightly curled, and blend into the shiny, polished aluminum rails to the sides. There are three cameras at the back of it: an ultrawide sensor, a wide-angle main sensor and a folded 4X optical zoom telephoto lens. Google has not shared any details about the camera other than to say that the main wide-angle sensor absorbs 150 percent more light.Regular Pixel 6 features a 6.4 inch FHD+ screen at a 90Hz refresh rate. The screen is flat and has matte-finished rails. It also loses its telephoto camera.While there will be some memory differences, both phones will feature the Tensor SoC and a Titan M2 security chips. The two models will have slightly different color options.The Pixel 6 and 6 Pro look a lot more real in person than the leaked images, as is the case with polarizing designs. The phones have a large camera bar that spans the entire width. It is protected from scratches by a barely raised metal rail. Google's solution to massive camera bumps on large phones is to highlight and celebrate them. Osterloh says there are only so many options.Google could save the Pixel line from the midrange doldrums if all it did was rescue the Pixel line. However, this would not be worth the months-early announcement. The best part about the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro are that Google uses that new Tensor SoC inside.We took a while to build a technology platform we believe is important. Tensor is based on our two decades of computing experience. It's our most significant innovation in Pixel. In fall, Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro will be available. Sundar Pichai (@sundarpichai) August 2, 2021Qualcomm holds the US's only real monopoly of processors for Android devices. There is some competition worldwide, with chips from Huawei, MediaTek and Samsung all being available in Android phones. However, Android phones' processing power is still far behind Apple's A-Series chips.There is a lot of interest in seeing if Google can make a better chip to differentiate its products. Tensor is not the same as Apple's A-Series chips. Tensor is a system on a chip that includes components that Google has created and licensed.Google is not sharing the names of the people who created the CPU and GPU nor benchmarks on their performance, though Osterloh said that they should share benchmarks. He says that the standard stuff people will look at will be very comparable and that the AI stuff will not be.This weeks announcement is a reframe of the story away from gigahertz to emphasize artificial intelligence and machine-learning in areas where Google has a significant advantage.When you think about specs for a phone, the three core components are CPU, GPU and RAM. These pieces make a huge difference in your day-today experience. They affect how fast the phone works, how long it lasts, how easy it connects to cellular networks, and so forth. There are usually some co-processors on the side that perform discrete tasks such as image processing and security. Google has made some of these chips, the Pixel Visual Core and Titan M chip.Osterloh states that it is definitely different from any other co-processor. As with all SoCs, we license technology, but this one is our design. It is not like Apple's Neural Core in its A-Series CPUs.Osterloh asserts that the computers of the future will be more diverse than in the past. Osterloh has been predicting that Moore's law will be overturned and that phones and computers will have to be made differently. To be able do specific things, there will be more sub-elements in the design. He says this is because raw computing power has run out of headroom, or it grows slower than we want to do the types of processing with AI.A mobile version of a Tensor Processing Unit is the most important of these chips. Google has been producing TPUs for its servers for more than five years. They are dedicated to performing AI and machine learning tasks more efficiently. While it offered an edge version for enterprise solutions a few decades ago, the Pixel 6 is the first time that Google has placed a mobile TPU inside a phone.What can Tensor's new TPU do? Google only had a few demos. Unsurprisingly, the first two demos were related to photography. ML has been a significant advantage to Pixel phones in the past, but over time progress has slowed and other competitors have caught up to it and far surpassed it in video.Google wants to regain the crown, and the TPU seems to be the best way to do that. Google's first demo showed a blurry picture of a toddler. The kid was moving because it is what children do. The second photo was identical, but it was run through Tensors PPU. The kids' faces were sharper.This is a difficult problem in smartphone camera physics. These kinds of problems can be turned into data problems with Tensor.It was not a ruse. The Pixel 6 takes a number of photos from the main sensor, and combines them into one HDR image. The Pixel 6 now has the ability to grab an ultra wide image that captures more detail. The TPU then recognizes the face and combines the widest image with the rest.However, impressive image demonstrations are not common these days. Google famously claimed that it would remove chain link fences in photos by 2017 but has never fulfilled this promise. Tensor promises faster results because the SoC can run data more efficiently through the TPU.You can be skeptical of the camera until you have a chance to try it. Given the history of Pixel lines mediocre video, it is normal to be skeptical about the Pixel 6s' video capabilities. However, Google's second demo did not make it easy to doubt the camera.The shot was simple and focused on a beach. The setting sun was in the frame for most of the frame. It was difficult to make HDR video. Google created a rig using the Pixel 6, Pixel 5 and iPhone 12 Pro Max, and shot the same pan using all three. Google's new phone video was, as you would expect from a demo, the best.It didn't artificially brighten shadows like the iPhone 12 Pro Max. Also, it maintained a natural white balance all through. It was a close match for the Pixel 5. The Pixel 5 was too sharp and turned everything into abstract art last year, while the Pixel 6 looked more natural.Osterloh claims that the main reason that Pixel 6s video is better than the rest was that by aligning the TPU with the entire image processing stand, the HDRNet process Google uses to create still images can be applied to every frame of video. The demo was shown in 4K at 30fps.Other demos were more subtle and related to translating text to speech, which Tensor managed locally without the need for an internet connection. One demo showed that the Pixels on-device Auto-Caption feature was a bit faster and more precise. It could even translate from French into English from a video. Osterloh says that we are now capable of running data-center quality model on our device.Osterloh demonstrated another demonstration, where he showed that typing was almost instantaneous. He also demonstrated that he could use his keyboard to edit words inline while speaking.The Pixel 6 will include the new version of Google's Titan M security chips. Google claims that the Pixel 6 will feature Tensors' new security core and Titan M2, and that it will offer the most layers in hardware security. However, the post also mentions that this claim is based upon a count of hardware security components.Osterloh also stated that there will be an all-on computer capable of handling low-power, low-level processes such as the ambient display. However, the Pixel 6's battery life is only for 24 hours.AI and ML may make your search more precise and photos better, but it won't necessarily improve every thing that happens on your phone. Osterloh suggested that the TPU could take up more AI cycles which could allow for more performance. It may be true, but it is still difficult to make AI a selling point on a phone.Google is facing a lot of work. It is not surprising, considering that the Google Pixel line has languished at the low single digits in market share in the US since its announcement.Osterloh believes that this will change with the Google Pixel 6. Osterloh is ready to grab market share from wherever he can, whether it be from Apple or Samsung. Osterloh states that the product is now The Google Phone. We are willing to invest in marketing and want to grow.Ruth Porat, Google's Chief Financial Officer, warned investors last week to watch out for higher marketing costs. We also expect sales and marketing expenses will be heavier to the back half the year to help with holiday product launches.This is the first time Google really pulled out all the stops to make a Pixel phone. But will it be enough?Google has made Pixel phones for five years now. In each of those years, I've asked the same question: Is Google serious about hardware? Is it really aiming to compete and make real money, or just repeating the Nexus strategy? Or, to be more specific, is the Pixel line just a sort of Pantry Mode, just in case it ever needs for real?Osterloh claims that the work on the new Tensor silicon started four years ago. It was four years ago that Google announced its intention to purchase HTC's phone hardware division. This must have been the year Google started to seriously consider the Pixel line. It is only now that we are beginning to see the results of that effort.Is it enough? The Pixel 6 will be able to compete for the attention of the enthusiasts who want the best phone, and also to capture measurable market share. These questions are not yet answered by us.I'm not going to tell anyone to get excited about the Pixel 6. It's too early, and we don't know enough. However, I find it very interesting that Google is trying to build hype.