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Google Pixel 6: The best Samsung phone of 2021?

Pixel 6 Portfolio
Pixel 6 Portfolio (Image credit: Google)

It sure looks like Samsung will be making the main camera sensor in the upcoming Google Pixel 6 series. Recent code-digging in the Android 12 beta Google camera app has unearthed references to the Samsung ISOCELL GN1, which would be the largest sensor we've seen in a Pixel by some margin — all the better to pull crisp, clear shots out of lower-light scenes, and feed ever more data to Google's HDR+ algorithms.

If true, the GN1 wouldn't be alone. Between the recent news that Samsung will manufacture Google's new Tensor processor and that the Pixel 6 will use a Samsung Exynos 5G modem, it sure looks like there's a lot of Samsung in Google's upcoming flagship phones. And that's led some to speculate whether the Pixel 6 is largely a Samsung flagship with Google branding.

Quite a lot of the Pixel 6's components will probably have come out of a Samsung factory.

Aside from the SoC (including the modem) and camera sensor, there's a decent chance the RAM, internal storage, and display in your future Pixel 6 might also have been made in a Samsung factory. Samsung is a major manufacturer in all three of those component areas, after all, and early leaks by Jon Prosser's FrontPageTech point to an AMOLED display for the smaller Pixel 6 — an acronym which specifically refers to Samsung's display tech. According to Strategy Analytics, Samsung claimed a leading 42% of the global smartphone memory market in the first quarter of 2021. The same firm gives Samsung a 50% profit share in smartphone displays and 29% profit share for smartphone image sensors — second only to Sony in that category.

So even if your phone doesn't have a Samsung logo on the back, it may be packed with Samsung components. For OLED phone screens, in particular, Samsung Display is far and away the market leader.

Samsung leads in smartphone memory and display tech and is second only to Sony in imaging.

Samsung LSI, the conglomerate's semiconductor arm, is also one of the few potential partners with the expertise — and existing close relationship with Google — to create the Tensor processor. Likewise, while there are plenty of options for relatively large smartphone image sensors, most of the comparable sensors from the dominant Sony have been developed exclusively in partnership with Chinese brands like Oppo, OnePlus, and Huawei, ruling them out for the Pixel.

Samsung can claim credit for a lot of the hardware inside what may be two of the best Android phones of the year. But there's a big difference between supplying the ingredients and baking the cake. Just because the Pixel 6 has a Samsung screen, a Samsung image sensor, and probably Samsung memory too, that doesn't mean it's a Samsung phone. The key difference between the Pixel 6 and, for example, older collaborations like the Nexus S and Galaxy Nexus has to do with who's truly in the driver's seat.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

There's a big difference between supplying the ingredients and baking the cake.

With Nexus products, manufacturers pitched devices to Google, and winners were chosen to be taken forward into development. The manufacturer was in charge of the nitty-gritty hardware details, for the most part, while Google led the software efforts. Both companies were in control.

Pixel phones are different, with Google designing everything in-house, making key component decisions, and contracting iPhone assembler Foxconn to put the whole package together. Samsung is a supplier, and Samsung components just happen to be the best fit for the phone Google wants to build this year. In the context of a growing partnership with Samsung around Wear OS, it's only natural that some observers see a pattern. But these are Google's phones, and the product decisions that really matter are made in Mountain View, not Seoul.

Will we see greater cooperation between Samsung and Google in the future? Given the nature of the relationship around Wear OS and Tensor, in particular, you can bet this year won't be a one-off. But whether the Pixel 6 is the high-end Google phone we've been waiting for or the biggest flop in the series' history, it'll be Google that deserves the credit (or the blame), not Samsung.

Alex was with Android Central for over a decade, producing written and video content for the site, and served as global Executive Editor from 2016 to 2022.

34 Comments
  • Surely we'll have to wait and see, my fear is the Pixel 6 will be too expensive.
  • it will be $1000 so yes. google wants to be the apple of android and they will remain a niche
  • They want to make money the are still a business and have to answer to shareholders eventually
  • 1K will be doable for me. Anything north of that will put me out of range.
  • This will wind Beno up 😂😂
  • Haven't seen him around lately, his spirit may have been crushed.
  • Oh he's about was posting about Apple Watch earlier on one of these posts
  • Nah I've been watching Love Island 🤣🤣, that's why you haven't seen me around on this ste, It doesn't bother me whether the Pixel 6 or any Pixel sells well or not, the Pixel interests me because it serves my needs better than any other Android phone as it has everything that I'm looking forward in an Android phone..... You get the picture.
  • I actually like this attitude...are you feeling well? lol
  • I'm fine, I just only what I want and it only took me 3 years 🤣😂.
  • Let's wait for the hardware issues to start rolling in before we judge it.
  • Nah. That's still the S21 Ultra. Though the Pixel will certainly benefit from Samsung components.
  • I still don't understand the camera hype honestly.
  • Then you have never used a pixel camera on a person. All top phones can take fine shots in the daytime of still objects. If you only take pictures during the day of your food or a cool store you visit, you will never get the camera hype. Once you use a pixel to take a picture of your child that never sits still, or use your camera indoor where there is terrible lighting, or BOTH, you will notice a MASSIVE difference in a pixel 3a that cost $150 and a Galaxy s21 Ultra that cost over $1000 (hint: pixel is miles better). Now that Google is trashing their 4 year old ass camera HARDWARE for NEW hardware and combining that with their magical software, with AI and other improvements, the camera is going to be easily the best in Android or Apple for taking pictures of fast moving children or in ****** lighting conditions. So again, if you are single person that takes picture of Avocado Toast and the outside of the new Poke Bar you visited, ignore the Pixel camera hype. But, if you are a parent, and realize now that after your company downsizes and let's you go and you contract cancer from second hand smoke and all you have left is looking at pictures/videos of your loved ones as you wind down the sunset of your life, pay ******* attention to the Pixel 6 Pro and it's better-than-any-other-smartphone-in-existence camera.
  • Eh the pixel 6 isn't even out yet so pump the brakes. Also the pixel camera currently isn't leaps and bounds better than other top tier cameras like you claim. 
  • Again, it is leaps and bounds better when it comes to pictures of your young kids moving constantly and indoors I'm bad lighting. It is about the same as all other top tier smartphones when taking daylight pictures of still objects. It's not complicated to understand!
  • Again its not. I have both android and IOS devices (pixel 4 and iPhone 12) and the pixel camera is not leaps and bounds better than the iPhone at anything.
  • In still pictures, the Pixel is much better than the iPhone 12, bht in video, the iPhone destroys the Pixel but I think the Pixel 6 is really going to be impressive as video, camera and AI is what Google's Tensor chip is made for.
  • you are wrong. Taking pictures of young kids with a pixel is ALWAYS BETTER than any phone out there. As beno said, iPhone is still better at video (hopefully pixel 6 changes this) but no phone, including iPhone, can take still pictures of fast moving kids in bad lighting as Pixel. They all are fine with STILL OBJECTS and Outdoor lighting, but that is just not impressive anymore. Those who care about taking the BEST pictures of their kids will get a pixel. Those who want good pictures of their kids from their smartphone can choose from over a dozen choices.
  • Give it a rest bud. You sound like a Pixel sales person with no objectivity.
  • iPhone 12 cameras are better.
  • I have no idea if your oddly specific example was done for hyperbolic comedy's sake or if it's serious, but just in case: take care man, hope everything's ok wherever you are. I'm afraid I'm still at a loss for the camera hype thought. I have in fact played with a pixel before (4a in this case, I've been eyeing that one up since I returned here.) I don't think there's a single Android tech enthusiast that hasn't played with one at some point, it's a Google phone. The only example you provided of something that I don't do with my cam is in fact taking pics of kids, I'll pass on that one. Everything else you mentioned I can do with a mid-range phone without complications. Phone cameras are good nowadays.
  • was obviously for comedy....and yeah i fully agree with your second paragraph. If you don't have young kids at home you want to take the best pictures of, Pixel camera does not stand out near as much. Pixel is still at the top when it comes to just "every single time you snap a photo with it it comes out really good" and not every smartphone can claim that. Samsung definitely can't claim that. But there are about 150 other aspects to a phone that are important to people. So if best screen or fastest processor or loudest speakers or most ram or etc etc is most important, go with that phone that provides it. But yeah I just know after owning Samsung flagships for years and years and then switching to the Pixel (and owning both concurrently for a couple years) that Pixel photos of my kids are just way better and more consistent in their quality. I don't need to read a review or debate pixels to know that. I (and my wife and anyone that looks at the photos) is always like, "Damn! Those are amazing photos". And it's because the pixel camera is magic :)
  • Why do you need to have kids to want great photo's people do go on vacations, go to sporting events, people do like take great photos especially when the situation presents itself , like a great sunset or whatever the case may be.
  • No one said that boswd lol. The point is pixel takes the best photos far and away of fast moving kids. IF IF IF IF you don't have kids AND want to take great photos there are a DOZEN or more phones that will accomplish that. So Pixel loses one of it's biggest advantages over other phones. That's what we are talking about :) If you just want to take a good sunset picture you can buy a pixel OR an iphone OR a samsung galaxy s series OR a huawei etc
  • I have dogs, faster than any kid, and had a Samsung S20...was no better than my pixel with the photo lag.
    However, a phone used as a camera is for those who are taking pictures. For actual true photos of quality, and for a millisecond lag time...get a DSLR.
  • Of course DSLR is best but that's such an apples to oranges comparison. You know how often a DSLR owner has their extra camera available when they want to take a special random picture? Somewhere between 30% and 70% of the time (made up stat). You know how often a Pixel owner has their Pixel when they want to take a special random picture? 100% of the time. Also, with Google's constant AI imaging advancements my wager is that the Pixel 6 will very often get pictures just as good as any DSLR under $5k and many times, even better. But DSLR's are cool too for hobbyist pixel peepers.
  • The Pixel camera is by far the best I've ever used, I love how I don't need to really do anything, just let Google do it's software and post processing magic with no annoying and complicated manual modes in sight.
  • Well, seeing how Samsmug is probably going to have to eat the majority of their new foldables for lack of sales...they may just make up the shortfall with the sales of the Pixel 6's! Ironic no?
  • I think that Z flip will be the best selling Samsung phone of the year, at least in the US.
  • With price a major factor.
  • If the rumors and specs are true, pretty sure the PixelPro 6 will be my first Pixel phone. I have been a Samsung Note user for years, but I have ZERO interest in a foldable phone. I think Samsung is going to miss their Fall revenue boost from Note phones. I don't see a lot of people moving to foldable.
  • Samsung also provides much of the hardware in the iPhone as well.
  • Don't understand the hype behind a phone that isn't even out yet.