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New Pixel 6 leak reveals an important design change

Published Mar 11th, 2021 6:50AM EST
Pixel 6 Rumors
Image: Google

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The Pixel 5 was a disappointment in terms of specs and power, but 2021 might bring Pixel fans devices that would be a lot more exciting than last year’s “flagship.” For starters, rumors said last year that Google and Samsung are working on a custom processor that could power Pixel handsets and other gadgets. This would allow Google to free itself from Qualcomm and better control one of the most important smartphone components. Separately, Google is also supposedly working on a foldable Pixel, which would mark the company’s first attempt in this smartphone form factor.

A brand new leak teases at a few design changes that Google is considering for the upcoming Pixels, including the Pixel 6. But there’s no sign of folding screens just yet, although Google might be preparing the software for that particular type of smartphone design.

Google will launch a Pixel 5a version as soon as June, various reports have said. The handset’s design leaked a few weeks ago, indicating that Google might use the current Pixel 4a 5G phone design for the new handset. 9to5Google dug through the recently released Google Camera app for Pixel phones and found a few details about the Pixel 5a and Pixel 6.

The Camera app has code that explains how the app handles the hole-punch selfie camera’s location. This code indicates that the selfie camera will have a smaller radius than the Pixel 4a — 55 pixels vs. 65 pixels. The hole punch camera should be slightly smaller than last year.

More interesting are the details concerning the Pixel 6 camera that suggest the selfie camera will support 4K video recording. That would be a massive upgrade over what’s currently possible on the Pixel 5, which only supports Full HD video recordings at this time.

The code also indicates that the Pixel 6 camera will be placed in the top-center of the screen rather than the top-left like on the Pixel 5. That might seem like a tiny, inconsequential detail. It doesn’t matter where the hole punch selfie camera sits, as the results are identical in terms of overall appearance and screen-to-body ratio. But the placement change will also force Google to make changes to the user interface. The clock and notification indicators will return to the top-left of the screen.

Galaxy Z Fold 2
The Galaxy Z Fold 2’s internal hole-punch selfie camera is placed in the top-center of the screen’s right half. Image source: Samsung

More importantly, the selfie placement is essential for future foldable Pixel phones. It’s unclear what design Google is going for. The foldable Pixel could sport a clamshell design like the Galaxy Z Flip, or Google could go for the regular smartphone/tablet Galaxy Z Fold 2 option.

If it’s the latter, and Google is making a Pixel Fold type of phone, then Google has various options for the selfie camera. If the internal screen should feature a selfie camera, then it can’t be placed right in the middle of the foldable screen, as that’s where the hinge sits. That’s why the Galaxy Z Fold 2’s internal selfie camera is off-center. It’s centered on the right half of the foldable display.

On the other hand, if Google will only place a selfie camera on the external display, then the selfie camera can’t sit in the top-left corner, which is where the hinge will be. Again, the Galaxy Z Fold 2 can be used as an example.

Galaxy Z Fold 2
The Galaxy Z Fold 2’s external hole-punch selfie camera is located in the top-center of the external display. Image source: Samsung

That said, there’s no indication that Google will launch a foldable Pixel this year. But 9to5Google does say that it’s aware of two codenames for purported Pixel 6 devices, including Oriole and Raven. The former might be the Pixel 6. It’s unclear whether Google will launch a Pixel 6 XL phone this year or whether a Pixel Fold would act as the XL version.

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.