Google’s next Pixel flagship is still far from being official, and we probably won’t hear a peep of confirmation about it until sometime around October.
The latest leak makes it sound like the Pixel 6 will come with five full years of software support. Combined with the eye-catching design and top-of-the-line specs we’re also expecting to see with the device, that could make for quite an enticing package. For all the promising possibilities, there’s one big unknown about this latest Pixel model. And it could have a massive impact on the phone’s positioning, its reception, and its ultimate odds of success.
With last year’s Pixel 5 Google made a significant shift with its phone-making strategy. In sharp contrast to all the Pixels before it, the Pixel 5 took a distinctively value-minded approach. That meant a lower and more Nexus-reminiscent price tag. But it also meant a noticeable move away from the more premium nature of the first four Pixels and the very vision Google had built up around the brand.
That, as you can imagine, made for a blessing-and-a-curse sort of situation. I mean, sure, there was plenty to be celebrated about the Pixel 5’s more economical price tag and the phone’s laser-like focus on the most important parts of the smartphone-using experience. But there was also something undeniably lost with the move away from the more cost-requiring, higher-level niceties, including the exceptional face unlocking system Google had introduced to the Pixel line just one year earlier.
All the leaks certainly seem to suggest the latter. But switching the very definition and identity of a phone’s brand just one year after such a big pivot would be one hell of a dizzying spin, even by Google’s vertigo-inducing standards. That’s even more true when you consider that it’d involve switching back to a high-priced strategy that clearly wasn’t generating the sorts of sales numbers Google wanted and switching away from a more value-minded approach that had, by all counts, been working rather well.
Of course, there’s always the possibility that Google could be aiming for some manner of more nuanced middle ground. After all, by creating the chip inside the Pixel 6 itself, Google gains the ability to save quite a bit of cash on the device’s base cost. Another viable explanation is that Google could emphasize the advantage of the Pixel 6’s longer support life as a balancing factor for any upward-trending phone cost.
So with that in mind, let’s do a little smart smartphone math. If you were to buy a shiny new Galaxy S21 Ultra for $1,200 around the time of that phone’s launch, you’d effectively be paying $400 per year over the course of your advisable phone ownership — $1,200 divided by three, in other words, since Samsung promises three years of OS updates for that device. Even if the Pixel 6 were to end up costing that same not-exactly-economical amount, then, it would come out to only $240 per year over the course of its advisable life — given its expected five-year window of ongoing OS updates. Quite a difference, no?
That extended window of support, as you can see, could prove to be a meaningful advantage for Google’s Pixel proposition. And if the Pixel 6’s price ends up being lower than average for a flagship-calibre phone, the per-year cost savings could come out to an even more exceptional amount.
It’ll probably be another few months before we’re able to say anything for sure about what the Pixel 6 is all about and what kind of strategy it actually represents. Based on everything we’re seeing so far, though, there’s every reason to be optimistic that this could be the Pixel’s defining moment — the one that finally helps Google’s phone line emerge from the shadows and find its rightful place within the bustling Android mob.