The best thing about the Pixel 6 might not be the hardware

Pixel 6-related leaks have flooded the internet in recent weeks and months, but software improvements could end up being more important than hardware updates. To be more specific, the five years of guaranteed software updates. That doesn’t detract from the work Google has done with the Pixel 6 series hardware, featuring a design that really stands out in the sea of ​​boards made by other smartphone makers.

The company hasn’t hidden its admiration for the design either, introducing the phone even before its official launch. Google has already made bold claims about the AI ​​and ML capabilities of the Tensor chip and has also touted advanced camera features for its upcoming flagships. However, a key selling point of Pixel phones has always been their software, which combines a clean UI with a bunch of unique features and long-term software updates.

The last part is about to get even better with the debut of the Pixel 6 series. Carphone Warehouse recently put up a microsite for the Pixel 6 series that was up for a few hours before it was taken down. In the sea of ​​content praising the Pixel 6 duo, the materials also mentioned five years of Android updates. The fine print, however, clarified the situation – five years of Android security updates. In other words, it’s unclear exactly how many Android version updates the new Pixel phones will receive. Google’s current support document says that Pixel phones get ‘Android Version Updates for at least 3 years’ after launch, which means the Pixel 6 must at least reach Android 15 stage.

Google may well extend the duration of software support beyond three years, as the ability to extend the update period is one of the potential benefits of using an internal chip. While this is a formula already used by Apple, Google is unlikely to be able to surpass the iPhone maker in this, at least not on its first try. The iPhone 6S was released in 2015 and still received the iOS 15 update in 2021. By comparison, the Qualcomm chip-based Pixel 5 arrived in 2020, but Google didn’t guarantee any updates for it – operating system or security – after October. of 2023 .

However, it’s not just the Tensor chip that would allow Google to offer extended software support on the Pixel 6 series, as the foundations were laid years in advance. Project Mainline made its debut with Android 10 in 2019 and was the first step (after Project Treble) to speed up Android updates. Since then, the company has been building on the idea with its Android Generic Kernel Image (GKI), handing more control at the Linux kernel level to Google. The Pixel 6 will be the first mass-market device on which the GKI will be implemented as part of the Android 12 package.

With more control over the future of Pixel smartphone software updates, and even if Google provides five years of security updates for its Pixel 6 duo, it won’t be a remarkable achievement. Yes, it’s an improvement over the Pixel 5, but even companies like Samsung have promised four years of software updates, and their list includes cheap Galaxy-A-series phones and tablets as well. Improvements made to Project Treble will allow many Qualcomm-based phones to receive four Android version updates starting with Android 11. So it won’t just be Samsung, but a handful of other OEMs offering long-term updates for their phones. Ultimately, this lessens breathing space for Pixel smartphones, which have long touted extended software support as one of their selling points.

With five years of security updates guaranteed, Google could release at least four years of Android version updates for the Pixel 6, and especially given the flexibility it has with the Tensor chip. If it fails, Google risks losing a huge competitive edge to rival smartphone makers. Not to mention, with some previous rumors suggesting the asking price could be expensive, buyers will likely need everything to be convinced to choose a Pixel phone over rival Android devices or an iPhone that costs the same.

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