The Pixel 6 Pro is Google’s reinvigorated attempt to beat Apple and Samsung’s best smartphones, with powerful new cameras, custom chips and a standout design.
The new model is Google’s top phone for 2021 and costs £849 ($899/A$1,299), sitting above the standard Pixel 6 costing £599.
From the front, the Pixel 6 Pro looks like a standard top-end phone with a large 6.7in OLED screen that’s really good-looking, crisp, bright and smooth, with a 120Hz refresh rate. There’s a small hole punch at the top for the selfie camera and a good fingerprint sensor under the display for unlocking the phone.
Flip it over to reveal a much more unusual design. Instead of the cameras clustered in a lump down one side or in the top corner, the lenses are arranged in a large horizontal bar that stretches right across the back. I can’t say it is particularly attractive, but it means the phone doesn’t rock around when placed on a desk or table like most other smartphones, which is a plus.
The 6 Pro is certainly a very big phone, but its curved glass sides make it easier to grip than some and very similar in size to Samsung’s Galaxy S21 Ultra, just 17g lighter. It feels a well made and premium device ready to compete at the top of the market.
Connectivity: 5G, eSIM, wifi 6E, UWB, NFC, Bluetooth 5.2 and GNSS
Water resistance: IP68 (1.5m for 30 minutes)
Dimensions: 163.9 x 75.9 x 8.9mm
The Pixel 6 Pro has Google’s first custom Tensor processor, which performs similarly to other top-flight Android chips from Samsung and Qualcomm in benchmarks and general use. The custom elements, however, are designed to speed up and reduce power consumption when running Google’s various AI elements.
From local speech and object recognition to camera processing and photo editing, all of Google’s more advanced systems certainly run faster on the 6 Pro than on the previous Pixel 5. But comparing like for like with rivals such as the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra and OnePlus 9 Pro proved difficult.
Overall, performance was at least on par with top-flight rivals: responsive, smooth and snappy all round.
Battery life is good but not great, lasting a good 36 hours between charges with the screen on for about five hours using various messaging, note-taking and utility apps, the browser and about 20 photos, spending about two hours on 5G and the rest on wifi. That puts the 6 Pro on par with the S21 Ultra, but some way behind the 42-hour iPhone 13 Pro.
Google does not provide an expected lifespan for the battery. Those in similar devices typically maintain at least 80% of their original capacity after 500 full charge cycles. The Pixel 6 Pro is generally repairable by Google and third-party repair shops. Screen repairs cost £189, back glass repairs cost £149 and battery replacements cost £99 out of warranty.
The 6 Pro is one of the first smartphones to ship with the latest Android 12, which introduces Google’s Material You design and systems. It is one of the biggest visual overhauls given to standard Android and adds personalisation options that have required third-party apps or tools offered by the likes of Samsung, OnePlus and others in the past.
The whole interface can now be colour coordinated, including icons and widgets. System animations are refined with nice touches such as the screen turning on by expanding outwards from the power button.
A new “privacy dashboard” shows how often apps are accessing features such as location, your contacts, the mic, camera and other bits. Privacy icons for the camera and mic pop up at the top of the screen when they’re being accessed by apps, and you can turn mic and camera access completely off with new quick-settings toggles.
Google will provide at least three years of major Android updates and monthly security fixes. It will then provide an additional two years of updates with the “frequency and categories of updates depending on the hardware capabilities and needs”. Samsung supports its top phones for four years, while Fairphone is aiming for six years, and Apple supports its iPhone for up to seven years.
The 6 Pro has Google’s first truly new set of cameras in years. On the back there is a 50-megapixel main camera, 12MP ultrawide camera and a 48MP 4x optical zoom telephoto camera, plus an ultrawide 11.1MP selfie camera on the front.
The main 50MP camera is, simply put, one of the very best on a smartphone. It easily captures a stunning amount of detail across a range of good and tricky lighting conditions, with generally well-judged colour balance and a pleasing level of vibrancy. The telephoto camera is easily one of the best available, producing unrivalled shots at 4x magnification in good and medium light, with very little quality drop-off compared to the main camera, which is rare. Only Samsung’s S21 Ultra with both 5x and 10x optical zoom beats it on utility, though not necessarily on quality.
The ultrawide camera is the weakest of the three. With a 0.7x magnification, it isn’t quite as “ultrawide” as I would like, compared with rivals that have 0.5x magnification and a wider field of view. But it produces really good images that are a little bit softer on detail than the main camera.
Low light performance on the main camera is very good, while the dedicated night sight mode works wonders on all three cameras in very dim scenes. The 11.1MP selfie camera is also very good and can shoot normal and ultrawide photos for when you need to fit more people into a group shot.
Video quality is a step up from previous Pixels, but is still not nearly as good as Google’s still photography, and lags behind Apple and Samsung.
Fun new tools include dedicated modes to blur the background when shooting a fast-moving object such as a bike, or to blur moving objects in a static scene such as the light trails of moving cars on a street at night. These are impressive technical feats, but I have yet to master them, producing some very mixed results.
The “Magic Eraser” tool will remove unwanted objects from photos, such as strangers or power lines, similar to the inpainting tools of desktop photo editors. It works miraculously about 70% of the time, but sometimes leaves artefacts on the image where the object was removed.
The haptics or vibrations that recreate a sense of touch for buttons and other interactions are really sharp and good compared with most Android competitors.
The telephoto camera assembly rattles a little when you flip the phone over, similar to a Galaxy S21 Ultra.
Call quality and 5G reception was good, as was Bluetooth performance to several sets of headphones.
The Google Pixel 6 Pro costs £849 ($899/A$1,299) with 128GB of storage, or £949 ($999/$A1,449) for 256GB.
With the Pixel 6 Pro, Google has finally delivered a flagship-class phone that can compete with the very best in the business in all aspects, not just the camera.
The battery life is reasonable, the screen is fantastic and Android 12 is the most polished and refined software Google has put on a phone. The promise of five years of security updates is good, too.
It looks, feels and operates like a £1,000 phone, with all the bells and whistles you can expect for that sort of money. But aggressively priced at £850, it undercuts top-flight rivals by as much as £300, making it surprisingly good value if not exactly cheap.
The Pixel 6 Pro is the best phone Google has ever made. Whether that will be enough for it to be a hit remains to be seen.
Pros: class-leading camera, 4x optical zoom, fantastic screen, excellent performance, good battery life, recycled aluminium, five years of security updates, Android 12, impressive local AI features, competitively priced.
Cons: fairly slow charging, fingerprint scanner not as fast as competitors, no face unlock option, only three years of Android version updates despite five years of security support.
Assessment and planning by the government relating to risks facing the UK are deficient and “veiled in secrecy”, a report has found.
The 129-page report, entitled Preparing for Extreme Risks: Building a Resilient Society, was produced by the House of Lords select committee on risk assessment and risk planning – a group appointed in October 2020.
James Arbuthnot, chair of the committee, said that while the UK’s risk assessment processes had been praised across the world before the pandemic, the impact of Covid suggested there may be problems.
“It had been advised that if there were to be a coronavirus pandemic, as a country we would suffer up to 100 deaths,” he said. “Over 140,000 deaths later, we realised that we could perhaps have been doing rather better in our assessment and our planning.”
The report – which draws on sources including oral evidence from 85 witnesses, including from the chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, during 29 sessions – looked at the country’s approach to assessing and preparing for a wide range of risks, from chemical warfare to the climate crisis and severe space weather.
“If you ask, what keeps me awake at nights, it is the growing possibility of major disruption due to more and more frequent cyber-attacks,” said Lord Rees, a committee member. “And even more, I worry on a timescale of tens of years about bioterrorism, bioengineered viruses and all that, which are going to be feasible.”
The report’s conclusions point to a number of shortcomings. Among them the committee highlighted a tendency for the government to focus on immediate problems rather than preparing for the long term.
“The likelihood of major risks actually occurring during the term of the government is low,” said committee member Lord Mair, noting as a result there is no incentive to prepare for them.
The committee also flagged concerns over the National Risk Register and the National Security Risk Assessment (NSRA), and called for better processes to categorise risks, including looking at how vulnerable the country would be to certain threats, and better modelling of how risks can cascade – with Arbuthnot noting as an example the impact of Covid on school exams.
Among other issues the report criticised a lack of transparency by the government. “The current risk management system is veiled in an unacceptable and unnecessary level of secrecy,” the report noted, adding that in turn has hampered the country’s preparedness, with frontline responders including local government and volunteer groups struggling to access the information they need.
Among other actions, the latest report recommends:
The establishment of an Office for Preparedness and Resilience by the government, headed by a newly created post of government chief risk officer.
A presumption of publication by the government, and the publication of the content of the Official-Sensitive National Security Risk Assessment except where there is a direct national security risk.
The publication, every two years, by the government of a brochure on risk preparedness to inform the public on topics including what to do in an emergency.
“[It’s] much better to face some of these issues, having prepared for, and practised for, and exercised for them in advance rather than doing them first in the heat of battle,” said Arbuthnot
Arbuthnot added the Covid pandemic had offered the chance to “address a public that is ready to be addressed. And people have proved that they’re up to it.”
Prof David Spiegelhalter, chair of the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication at Cambridge University, and who contributed evidence to the report, welcomed its publication.
“It’s extraordinary that the National Risk Register does not get any public promotion or media coverage, and I welcome the committee’s recommendation to radically improve the communication with the public about the risks they face,” he said. “These vital issues deserve to be widely known and discussed.”
A Ubiquiti developer has been charged with stealing data from the company and extortion attempts totalling $2m in what prosecutors claim was a vicious campaign to harm the firm’s share price – including allegedly planting fake press stories about the breaches.
US federal prosecutors claimed that 36-year-old Nickolas Sharp had used his “access as a trusted insider” to steal data from his employer’s AWS and GitHub instances before “posing as an anonymous hacker” to send a ransom demand of 50 Bitcoins.
The DoJ statement does not mention Sharp’s employer by name, but a Linkedin account in Sharp’s name says he worked for Ubiquiti as a cloud lead between August 2018 and March 2021, having previously worked for Amazon as a software development engineer.
In an eyebrow-raising indictment [PDF, 19 pages, non-searchable] prosecutors claim Sharp not only pwned his employer’s business from the inside but joined internal damage control efforts, and allegedly posed as a concerned whistleblower to make false claims about the company wrongly downplaying the attack’s severity, wiping $4bn off its market capitalisation.
Criminal charges were filed overnight in an American federal court against Sharp, of Portland, Oregon. The indictment valued the 50 Bitcoins at $1.9m “based on the prevailing exchange rate at the time.”
US attorney Damian Williams said in a US Justice Department statement: “As further alleged, after the FBI searched his home in connection with the theft, Sharp, now posing as an anonymous company whistle-blower, planted damaging news stories falsely claiming the theft had been by a hacker enabled by a vulnerability in the company’s computer systems.”
Sharp is alleged to have downloaded an admin key which gave him “access to other credentials within Company-1’s infrastructure” from Ubiquiti’s AWS servers at 03:16 local time on 10 December 2020, using his home internet connection. Two minutes later, that same key was used to make the AWS API call GetCallerIdentity from an IP address linked to VPN provider Surfshark – to which Sharp was a subscriber, prosecutors claimed.
Later that month, according to the prosecution, he is alleged to have set AWS logs to a one-day retention policy, effectively masking his presence.
Eleven days after the AWS naughtiness, the indictment claims, he used his own connection to log into Ubiquiti’s GitHub infrastructure. “Approximately one minute later,” alleged the indictment, Sharp used Surfshark to ssh into GitHub and clone around 155 Ubiquiti repos to his home computer.
“In one fleeting instance during the exfiltration of data,” said the indictment, “the Sharp IP address was logged making an SSH connection to use GitHub Account-1 to clone a repository.”
For the rest of that night, prosecutors said, logs showed Sharp’s personal IP alternating with a Surfshark exit node while making clone calls. Although it was not spelled out in the court filing, prosecutors appeared to be suggesting that Surfshark VPN was dropping out and revealing “the attacker’s” true IP.
Ubiquiti discovered what was happening on 28 December. Prosecutors claimed Sharp then joined the company’s internal response to the breaches.
In January 2021 Ubiquiti received a ransom note sent from a Surfshark VPN IP address demanding 25 Bitcoins. If it paid an extra 25 Bitcoins on top of that, said the note, its anonymous author would reveal a backdoor in the company’s infrastructure. This appears to be what prompted Ubiquiti to write to its customers that month alerting them to a data breach. Ubiquiti did not pay the ransom, said the indictment.
Shortly after Federal Bureau of Investigation workers raided Sharp’s home, prosecutors claim he “caused false or misleading news stories to be published about the Incident and Company-1’s disclosures and response to the Incident. Sharp identified himself as an anonymous source within Company-1 who had worked on remediating the Incident. In particular, Sharp pretended that Company-1 had been hacked by an unidentified perpetrator who maliciously acquired root administrator access [to] Company-1’s AWS accounts.”
Sharp is innocent unless proven guilty. He is formally charged with breaches of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, transmitting interstate threats, wire fraud and making false statements to the FBI. If found guilty on all counts and handed maximum, consecutive sentences on each, he faces 37 years in prison. ®
Other winners at the Irish Medtech Association awards included Alcon Ireland, West, Vertigenius, Luminate Medical, BioMEC, Jabil Healthcare, Cook Medical and Aerogen.
Limerick-headquartered business Serosep has been named Irish Medtech Company of the Year at a virtual conference hosted today (2 December) by The Irish Medtech Association with Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland.
The Irish Medtech Association which represents the medtech sector in Ireland made the announcement at its annual Medtech Rising conference. This year’s awards ceremony was the first to feature new categories. Alcon Ireland won the Sustainable Medtech company of the Year, while West scooped the Best Medtech Talent Strategy Award.
According to the association’s director Sinéad Keogh, the annual awards ceremony offers the medtech community a chance to “recognise and celebrate the strength and importance of the industry in improving life.”
“The sector has remained resilient despite the challenges of the Covid pandemic, with over 42,000 people now working in the industry, across 450 companies,” she added.
The overall winner, Serosep, is a self-funded, family run business, which manufactures clinical diagnostic products at its base in Annacotty, Co Limerick. It serves more than 35 different countries spread over 5 continents. The company is 25 years in business and employs 114 people. Earlier this year, it announced a five-year contract to supply its gastroenteritis diagnostic system to Liverpool University Hospital. The company already supplies the NHS.
Serosep CEO and founder Dermot Scanlon, said he was “humbled” to receive the award, adding that the company’s innovative diagnostic test tools have “changed the way gastroenteritis is tested in clinical laboratories.”
“We are currently manufacturing in excess of one million tests in our state-of-the-art facility,” he said, explaining that the award would motivate the whole company to “continue forging ahead, achieving bigger and better things.”
Other award winners included:
Trinity College Dublin spin-out Vertigenius, winner of the eHealth Innovation of the Year Award. Vertigenius is a platform which aims to enhance clinical and patient engagement in the treatment of balance problems.
Luminate Medical, winners of the Emerging Medtech Company of the Year Award. The NUI Galway spin-out has developed a technology to prevent chemotherapy induced hair loss.
NUI Galway’s Biomechanics Research Centre (BioMEC) won the Academic Contribution to Medtech Award. The company’s technology integrates the latest in silico computational models to simulate the mechanical performance of implanted coronary stents.
Bray-based Jabil Healthcare scooped the Medtech Partner/Supplier of the Year Award for its new Covid-19 PCR testing device.
Cook Medical received the Women in Leadership Company initiative Award for its commitment to gender balance in the workplace.
The Covid-19 Response Recognition Award was awarded to Aerogen which has developed an inhaled vaccine station. The company’s products have been used on more than 3m critically ill people since March 2020, according to Enterprise Ireland’s head of life sciences, Deirdre Glenn. Aerogen won last year’s Medtech Company of the Year award.
Don’t miss out on the knowledge you need to succeed. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of need-to-know sci-tech news.