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Android 12 beta 3 might have spoiled the big Pixel 6 XL camera upgrade

Published Jul 15th, 2021 6:08PM EDT

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Google will deliver a big Pixel 6 upgrade this year to compensate for the lackluster Pixel 5 series. That’s what most of the leaks say, and Pixel leaks are usually accurate. Google plans to launch as many as three Pixel devices this year, including its first foldable handset. The Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 XL/Pro have appeared in various leaks so far, with the Pixel Fold being the most mysterious of the three. Google seemed to confirm the name of the regular Pixel handsets a few days ago. After listing the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 XL monikers online, Google quickly removed them. But Google also released a new Android 12 beta that might include a big spoiler about the Pixel 6 XL’s camera upgrade.

The Pixel has one of the best cameras around. Google made sure of that years ago. With every new version, we expect Google to refine the camera experience further. But there’s one camera upgrade Google resisted over the years. Google never added a third camera to the Pixel phones. But the Pixel 6 XL might become the first Google handset with three rear cameras.

The Pixel 6 XL camera zoom lens

Google certainly took its time adding a second camera to the Pixel line, explaining that its software can compensate for the lack of additional lenses. It’s also true that multiple cameras do not consistently deliver better photography. There’s a myriad of mid-range phones featuring triple-lens camera modules just because that’s the new norm. People expect to see three cameras on the back, and that’s what they get.

Recent Pixel 6 design leaks indicated that the Pixel 6 XL would feature a triple-lens camera. Joining the primary and ultra-wide lens is a telephoto camera that would improve zoom significantly.

Jon Prosser, one of the leakers who provided the first Pixel 6 renders, also dropped the phones’ specs a few days ago. The list included three cameras for Pixel 6 XL: 50-megapixel primary, 12-megapixel ultra-wide, and 48-megapixel telephoto.

As before, leaks and rumors can’t be verified. But Pixel leaks usually tend to come true. And the Android 12 beta 3 release that rolled out on Wednesday includes a new Camera app version that lists new zoom capabilities.

Android 12 beta 3’s hidden code

A new xda-developers report says that the Google Camera update includes references to an “ultra tele” camera that would support 5x zoom.

A developer looked at the code and found a new line related to the Google Camera app’s zoom UI. The line contains the id “zoom_toggle_ultratele” and the text “5x.” That’s an indication that a new 5x zoom option might appear in the viewfinder.

The actual optical zoom level for the camera may be 4.3x, slightly below the 5x above. That’s similar to the Pixel 4, whose real optical zoom is 1.6x, but it appears as 2x zoom in the camera app. Also, the ultra-wide-angle camera has a new zoom compared to previous Pixels. That’s 0.615x for the Pixel 6 XL versus 0.670x for the Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5.

Finally, a video shown at Google I/O seemed to feature a camera UI that included a 5x zoom option. But the Android 12 findings seem to suggest the Pixel 6 XL significant camera zoom upgrade is indeed real.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.