However Google decides to ultimately spin it, the Pixel 6 is another reboot of the range. It comes exactly one year after its last flagship refresh, which resulted in the affordable, toned-down Pixel 5.
You would be forgiven for thinking that this is the behaviour of a company without direction. If you’re familiar with Google’s products, which are sometimes quietly whisked away with the vim typically reserved for secret police, you’d be right. But behind the rebrands and shapeshifting specifications, Google’s search and AI work gives us a better idea of its future plans for the Pixel line, alongside a small glimpse into the Pixel 6’s abilities.
Last month Google hosted its Search On event that unveiled new features that ultimately promise deeper, context-rich search results. One announcement that caught my eye is Google Lens’ ability to handle more complex queries. Google gives the example of tapping on an image with a pattern that you like and asking it to find the same design, but on a different article of clothing. Finding the right words to search for that pattern could be awkward, as Google explains it.
“This helps when you’re looking for something that might be difficult to describe accurately with words alone. You could type “white floral Victorian socks,” but you might not find the exact pattern you’re looking for. By combining images and text into a single query, we’re making it easier to search visually and express your questions in more natural ways.”
Another example is finding advice for a broken part of your bike that you don’t know the name of. Lens will name it, find an instructional video and take to you to the relevant moment in said video. This adds a deeper layer of functionality and perfectly represents what Google’s Pixel phones are about: the simplification of common user activities without fuss or hassle.
These are improvements to the very fabric of phone usage rather than introducing new, flashy, features that come with a learning curve. Convincing people to add new practices to their daily tech usage, like AR games or astrophotography, are a harder sell.
My life isn’t adventurous, or experimental enough to not see those types of features as anything but a fun thing to try once or twice. But identifying the type of hinge I need for my broken cupboard drawer? Or knowing if an item is in stock before I venture out to the shop? I actually need that. It’s the difference between entertainment-based features and what we need for the daily grind of life.
Other recent news has pointed to Assistant gaining the ability to respond to commands - like answering a call or dismissing an alarm - without having to say the wake phrase “hey Google”. There also might be an enhanced version of voice typing that has deeper functionality debuting in the Pixel 6, too.
Of course most of this will be available on other devices. But Google’s phone being built around these features makes them more accessible. You don’t have to swap out assistants, or find a way to get your Samsung phone to let Google’s tech take the reigns.
There will likely also be some exclusive AI-powered features included with the Pixel 6. Previous Pixels have launched with exclusive applications like Call Screen, Now Playing, Adaptive Audio, Voice recorder and others. Most of which require no setup or any sort of learning curve, they just improve the core phone experience. Future Feature Drops - Google's quarterly update that adds new functionality - will be heavily influenced by the updates we’ve seen in search and Assistant technology over the last two months.
I see this all coming together in the new Pixel 6. A powerful new camera, a new chip and a fresh design alongside these intuitive search and Assistant upgrades suddenly becomes a very convincing sell. Whatever physical form Google’s phones take in the future, the underlying AI remains the most exciting constant.
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