Pixel 6 Launch: Google gives us a deep-dive into the new Pixel’s refreshed product design

It’s rare for Silicon Valley companies to actually explain their design choices and decisions to their customers. Google flouted convention by beginning their Pixel Fall Launch keynote with a pretty comprehensive look at how they designed their latest flagship phone, from its hardware right down to its software.

Just yesterday Apple had us baffled with their MacBooks bringing back ports, connectors, and keyboard elements that Apple took away 5 years ago. Apple’s design process has always been a complete mystery, so it was really odd to see them finally walking back on their past design decisions and bringing MagSafe, HDMI, the SD Card slot, and the Function keys back to their MacBooks. While the Cupertino giant has a reputation of being shrouded by secrecy, Google on the other hand is perceived as much more open, forthcoming, and vocal… After all, they deliberately leaked their own Pixel 6 design MONTHS before it actually launched.

Just 10 minutes into the Pixel 6 reveal, head of hardware Rick Osterloh hands the stage to designer Isabelle Olson to talk about the Pixel 6’s design. Isabelle mentions the Pixel 6’s redesign on the back involves highlighting its breakout feature – its camera. With a bar running across the screen almost like a highlighter running across important text, the Pixel 6’s camera is the first thing you look at.

“So the Industrial Design team designed the phone to celebrate the camera”, Isabel mentions. “The camera bar brings a clean, symmetrical design that puts the camera front and center.” The bar, as strange as it looked back when the images were first leaked, is now an icon of the Pixel’s not-so-subtle evolution, and provides the perfect separating element for the phone’s dual-color back. The Pixel phones originally pioneered this with their split-tone design that had two different colors on the top and bottom of the phone’s rear surface. With the Pixel 6, that split-tone design gets a hearty refresh, with a black belt adding its fair share of contrast in the middle. The phones instantly look refreshing, and are immediately recognizable (a feature that really helps in a market where all smartphones are beginning to look alike).

The Pixel 6 comes in two variants, a 6 and a 6 Pro, which are different sized, and have slightly different designs, but are unified by the same visual language, UI, and the Tensor chip inside the phone. The 6 sports a black metal armature, with 3 color variants with their signature quirky names – Sorta Seafoam, Kinda Coral, and Stormy Black. The 6 Pro, on the other hand, has a more chrome armature (the team used jewelry references to highlight the differences between the Pro and regular models), and comes in Cloudy White, Sorta Sunny, and Stormy Black.

A concern I had earlier with the Pixel 6’s odd camera bump (it’s now referred to a camera bar) was how it made case-design impossible, or rather, difficult to elegantly execute. To subvert these worries, Google even released its own set of cases with a slightly tinted frosted design, matching colors with the phone you have underneath. When paired correctly, the case would actually complement the phone and highlight its color palette rather than being an obstructive piece of plastic that’s only purpose was to protect the phone. The cases, Isabelle claims, are also designed out of recycled plastic (the phone’s chassis is made from recycled aluminum too), helping further Google’s mission to build devices that have a minimal negative impact on the environment. From what it looks like, though, the cases don’t do much to protect the Pixel’s camera bar from direct impact, although that’s the kind of thing you find out months after customers actually buy and use the phones.

Moving onto software, Google has big plans for the Pixel thanks to how powerful its Tensor SoC is designed to be. The new chip unlocks a new era of Material Design that Google calls Material You. Instead of having you adjust to your phone’s settings, Material You has the phone adjust to YOU. For starters, the entire screen’s color palette changes to match your wallpaper, giving you an experience that’s unified. Widgets, icons, and elements complement your theme and they change when you change your wallpaper too. The phone also understands context exceptionally well, serving you up with the information you need right when you need it, from your fitness app’s stats while you’re jogging, to your boarding pass while you’re heading for a flight. As Rick Osterloh keeps reiterating, the Pixel 6 is a completely new take on smartphones, both inside as well as out.

Designer: Google

Watch the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro video below.

Google is rumored to be working on a foldable PIXEL Smartphone with a release date as early as 2021

It seems like Google was hibernating all through last year and the company finally woke up in May with their IO conference (which they canceled in 2020). As we gear up for Techtober (an informal term MKBHD uses to describe the September-October-November months that see all the major smartphone releases), rumors are suggesting that the Pixel 6 may be accompanied by the announcement of something MUCH more interesting… a foldable Pixel phone.

Developers who scanned through the Android 12 Beta were surprised to find model numbers for the Pixel 6 family, including foldable codenamed ‘Passport’. Suggesting that it would be a passport-shaped device that would open and close like the Samsung Galaxy Fold, with a similar dual-screen layout. The rumors prompted Tech YouTuber Waqar Khan to create renders of the purported device, which comes with a Pixel 5-inspired camera module, an outer screen with a hole-punch camera, and a large folding screen on the inside with yet another hole-punch camera.

The existence of a Pixel Fold was first touted by Ross Young, a digital analyst, who took to Twitter to mention that Google could launch the folding phone as early as 2021, or in the beginning of 2022. Young also said that the company was toying with the idea of a rollable smartphone, but the mention of “Project Passport” in Google’s own Android Beta seemed to confirm that they were working on developing a stock Android OS just for a foldable Pixel.

2021 is definitely an interesting year for Google, as they’re also developing their own silicon to rival Apple. Titled ‘Whitechapel’, Google’s silicon chip will make it to its smartphones, hopefully giving it a performance upgrade that should push it miles ahead of its competition. The Whitechapel chip could potentially even make the foldable Pixel an incredibly powerful and efficient device.

Waqar Khan’s renders give us a clue of what a folding Pixel would look/feel like. Schematically, it’s no different from Samsung’s first folding phone; although with significant developments made in the world of flexible OLED displays, maybe the ‘Pixel Fold’ could avoid the pitfalls of the Galaxy Fold that came 2 years before it. The renders show a clean matte body (like last year’s Pixel device) along with the presence of a fingerprint reader on the back. That particular detail could be a creative call on Khan’s part, given that in-screen fingerprint readers seem to be quite the norm with Android phones over the past year.

The confirmed Pixel 6 is set to debut at Google’s ‘Made By Google’ hardware event, which usually happens around October. It’s unclear if the event will be an in-person or a virtual one, and we can only hope that the company also teases (if not releases) the folding Pixel along with its expected lineup which includes a flagship phone, smart-speaker, and possibly Google’s first-ever smartwatch, which comes 2 years after the company announced it was acquiring Fitbit for $2.1 billion.

Designer/Visualizer: Waqar Khan

The only thing I absolutely hate about the Google Pixel 6 is how ugly its cases are going to be…

Google Pixel 6 Protective Cover Case Alibaba

The Google Pixel 6 is coming… and with it, a barrage of hideous cases that completely destroy its beautiful aesthetic.

Roughly a month ago Jon Prosser claimed he had credible information regarding how the upcoming Google Pixel 6 would look. The images he shared with the world showed a radical new design that had a pretty standout visual detail – an elongated camera bump that covered the entire phone’s width… it was less of a bump and more of a ‘bumper’. My own personal thoughts on the design were mixed, although I have to admit it was refreshing to see Google investing effort into its Pixel range after an extremely lackluster performance last year. I am, however, having second thoughts after seeing the kinds of smartphone cases appearing on websites like Alibaba as we slowly approach the Pixel 6’s launch.

Google Pixel 6 Protective Cover Case Alibaba

You see, that camera belt may be a design feature, but it’s also a major design flaw once you consider that most smartphone users would end up buying protective cases to shield their expensive smartphones from damage. The benefit with almost every smartphone’s camera bump is that its camera exists INSIDE its body, so when case-designers make cases, the simple solution of navigating around the smartphone’s camera bump is to create a cutout there. The case has a rather manageable hole through which the camera peeks through, sort of like a ski-mask. That, however, isn’t possible with the Pixel 6… A look at the image below should explain why.

The fact that the Pixel 6’s camera module extends all the way from the left to the right makes it very difficult to create one single cutout. If one were to simply go about creating a camera hole, you’d essentially have a case that exists in two parts that are barely connected together near the middle. The case becomes a merely decorative product that simply protects the edges of the smartphone, giving no cover to the cameras, which in the case of the Pixel 6, are dangerously exposed. The only way to really overcome this problem and make a proper case would be to design OVER the phone’s wide camera bump, adding another 1-2 millimeters to it and making the bump EVEN LARGER. The cutout would then exist only around the lenses and not the bump itself… as you can see in the image below.

This ‘technical’ solution spells disaster for the Pixel 6’s aesthetics. It exaggerates the phone’s elongated camera bump, turning an elegant detail into an ugly caricature… and the minute you choose an opaque cover over a transparent one, it practically conceals every element of the Pixel 6’s design, making it look like “just another phone”, albeit with a monstrous bump around its camera, exposing a major flaw in Google’s design approach to the Pixel 6 – that smartphone designs exist in a bubble where phone-makers expect you to NOT put protective cases on expensive and fragile phones. Not Okay, Google.

Google Pixel 6 Protective Cover Case Alibaba

Google Pixel 6 Protective Cover Case Alibaba

Images via: Alibaba

Google Pixel 6 leaked images show a smartphone with a ‘camera belt’ instead of a bump

When John Prosser leaks or predicts something, one usually takes it with a grain of salt. He’s been right about a bunch of designs, including the colorful iMacs, the AirTags, and even the AirPods Max, but he missed it with the Pixel 5, and even made a pretty big bet about the date of Apple’s Spring Loaded event this year. A bet which he lost and had to shave his eyebrows on YouTube for. However, taking things in his stride, Prosser is back for yet another prediction/leak which he feels is right on point. It’s the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, which Google is slated to release this year… with Google’s first homemade silicone chip on the inside to rival Apple’s M1, and more noticeably, a whopper of a camera bump.

I wouldn’t really call this a bump because it’s so wide and protruding, it’s practically a shelf. Prosser claims these images are as legit as they come, because they’re based on actual leaked photos from his inside source. Deciding it was better to protect the source by creating fresh 3D renders rather than just circulating those leaked images, Prosser collaborated with Ian Zelbo to bring the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro to life. Now I’ll be much more critical of Google’s strategy when the phone actually drops (because Google did such a horribly half-assed job with the Pixel 5 last year, drawing the ire of many Android lovers… me included), so let’s just look at these renders for what they are. According to Prosser, Google’s working on two phones, the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro (they ditched the XL name). The smaller 6 has a dual-camera setup on the back, while the slightly taller Pro opts for 3 cameras. The Pixel’s design language has been famous for its color-blocking design, with the upper half being glossy and black, and the lower half being a variety of colors and finishes. This concept develops on that original style, adding a band of black running between the upper and lower blocks.

Objectively speaking, the band protrudes at least 2-3 millimeters from the phone’s back, making it look almost like a belt or a shelf emerging from the phone. Subjectively, it kind of makes the phone look like a criminal – serves them right for stealing the ‘Pro’ nomenclature from Apple! However, that really isn’t an indictment on the phone’s design itself, it gives the Pixel a strong new character, which makes sense, because this is a new era for the Pixel.

Prosser further breaks down the renders, talking about how the two phones come in different colors too. The smaller Pixel 6 has an orange band on top and a pure white block at the bottom. The Pro version, however, ditches the white bottom for an orange-tinted white. Prosser also mentions the presence of a Champagne-Gold Pixel 6 Pro (the first image in this article) that I personally really love.

The renders are as close as possible to the leaked images Prosser has his hands on. In fact, it even exactly mimics the wallpaper and widget on the screen. The screen even comes with a centrally aligned hole-punch camera, and we still have no word on whether there’s an in-screen fingerprint reader, so the jury’s still out on that. Interestingly though, the final image in this piece has the Pixel 6 sitting beside a rather interesting-looking smartwatch. Could it be the highly anticipated Pixel smartwatch?? Let’s wait till Google’s product event to find out!

Image Credits: Jon Prosser & Ian Zelbo