A new smartphone doesn't feel all that different. Smartphones are all mature technology, and the new smartphone is just incrementally different than the previous one. This is the common refrain. Apple has produced 15 generations of iPhones. The newness that you get from spending hundreds of dollars every two years to upgrade your iPhone is rarely a change in your daily life.
The new Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro smartphones from Google are slightly different than your typical smartphone, even though they don't fold in half or feature unusual designs. These new smartphones have new cameras, new materials and new hardware. They also feature new software.
Google's new features are not only different than what you get from other smartphone manufacturers, but they also make it easier to find information that is relevant. Google's new $599 Pixel 6 and $899 Pixel 6 Pro smartphones are a reset for its smartphone ambitions. This is a fresh start for the company, which has already gone through five generations without making a dent on the smartphone market.
The Pixel 6 and 6 Pro may not be the most refined phones, or do all that Google claims they can, but they are still very good devices. They are still among the most popular phones and the best Android phones you can buy right now.
Our review of Google Pixel 6, Verge Score 9 of 10 Good Stuff Snappy performance
Battery life is amazing
The best value in Bad Stuff comes in big
Slow fingerprint scanner
Very slippery Buy for $599.00 at Google Buy for $599.00 at Best Buy
Our review of Google Pixel6 Pro Verge Score 8 of 10 Good Stuff Snappy performance
Battery life is amazing
Great value for Bad Stuff Large and unwieldy design
Slow fingerprint scanner
The Pixel 6 is a lot more expensive
Not as good as phones at this price point in terms of fit and finish
Google's new Pixel phones are a departure from the norms set by other Android phone manufacturers over the years. They are not the unusual textured finishes that feature fun pops of color but instead they are standard glass and metal sandwich slabs with aluminum frames. They have less character and whimsy than previous Pixel phones. This is something that I miss. You can see a few imperfections in the seams if you take a closer look.
It is difficult to tell the front of these phones from many other large Android phones; I think they resemble a Samsung Galaxy Note 10 and Note 20. The back is a distinct bar at the top housing the cameras. However, the entire thing reminds me of an TCL phone.
The Pixel 6 comes in black, red, and green in two-tone, while the Pixel 6 Pro only comes in staid versions of black, white, and gold. The sides of the regular Pixel 6 are thick and matte black. While the sides of the 6 Pro are thin and shiny, they are more streamlined. The 6 is more fun than the 6 Pro, but the 6 Pro's design and fit are not as good as other phones in its price range.
These designs are less whimsical and characterful than Google's previous efforts.
The camera bar, which spans the back of each phone, is the most distinctive design element. It is large and sticks out from the rest of the phone. It doesn't cause the phone or tablet to shake on a desk or table when it is placed down, which is a plus.
These design critiques can be purely academic. However, in reality, you will put a case on each phone to cover any rough edges and boring colors. It's a great idea because both phones are large and have smooth glass backs that are very slippery. They have slipped off my desk, wireless chargers and sofa arms, tables, laps, couches, tables, and even my lap. One of the sample units was so hard that it cracked the Gorilla Glass Victus panel. Side note: While I have been using the translucent plastic cases from Google alongside the Pixel 6, they are terrible. I suggest looking into third-party options.
My main issue with the Pixel 6 Pros and Pixel 6 Pros designs is their size. They can be difficult to hold in one hand, don't fit in many of my pants pockets and are easy to fall. Google used to offer both large and small versions of its phones in the past. However, this sixth generation is either bigger or smaller. The size difference between them is negligible. These phones are iPhone Pro Max-sized, which is great if you need a large phone, but it leaves out the rest of us who don't like big slabs.
Both phones feature large, spacious displays. The Pixel 6s has a 6.4 inch OLED panel with 1080p resolution, while the 6 Pro is a 6.7 inch OLED screen with 1440p resolution. The Pixel 6s screen is flat while the 6 Pro's has curved sides that taper into the frame. The flat screen of the Pixel 6s is my preference, but I found the curves of the 6 Pro to be more comfortable.
Both phones are bright, vivid, and colorful. The 6 Pro is slightly more visible outdoors in direct sunlight. Both phones are free from the same glaring issues that plagued older Pixel phones like flickering or weird color reproduction.
If you pay attention, there are some issues, such as a subtle color shift at oblique angles and a shadow under the 6 Pro's curved sides when using a light background. These are things that we don't see on Samsung or Apple phones. These displays are the best example of why these phones come with a lower price tag. These displays are good but not at the same level as flagship phones.
Although the displays are impressive, they are not among the best we have seen.
The Pixel 6 Pro has a fast refresh rate of 90Hz, while the Pixel 6 has a speedy refresh rate of 120Hz. This makes scrolling very easy and smooth. Google should follow the lead of other premium phones with fast refresh screens. I didn't notice any difference between the 120Hz and 90Hz refresh rates, except when I compared both phones side-by side. Both are very smooth to use.
The fingerprint scanner underneath the screen is less smooth. Although it is located about a quarter way up from the screen's bottom, it is much slower than other fingerprint scanners such as those on older Pixel phones. The screen light up when you scan your finger. This can cause disruption in darkened rooms. Sometimes the scanner misread my finger, which required multiple attempts to unlock it.
This error is compounded by the fact that the Pixel 6 Pro and Pixel 6 Pro don't have facial recognition. The fingerprint scanner is the only biometric authentication option available and it is not very good.
The most important thing about the Pixel 6 pair of Pixel 6 is the Tensor chip inside, Google's new Tensor processor. It is the first Google custom processor, following Apple's lead and replacing off-the-shelf processors like MediaTek or Qualcomm.
The Tensor processor powers the phone and also allows for AI-based customization that enhances features such as the camera, speech recognition, gaming, and other areas.
Google claims that the new processor is comparable to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8888 in terms of performance. I have found this to be true. The interface is fast, apps open quickly, it's easy to switch between them seamlessly, and there are no stutters or hang-ups. Twitter was the only app that crashed on both phones. However, it was an exception. Although the Tensor chip won't benchmark as high as Apples new processors, it is far better than the one that was in last year's Pixel 5 and up there with premium Android phones.
The Pixel 6 packs 8GB RAM and the Pixel 6 Pro packs 12GB. The 6's less RAM didn't cause any problems streaming apps don't close aggressively in the background as they did with older Pixel phones.
The battery life of the phones was also comparable. Both phones can easily last a day without any issues. I was able to go to bed with 35-40% battery left, even though I used the camera frequently and enabled the always-on display. For light users, this can easily be extended to two days with minimal effort. This is due to the fact that big phones have big batteries which provide long battery life and huge batteries.
Both models can be charged wirelessly or wired, but they don't come with a charging cable. Google sells the $25 30-watt brick separately. In the near future, they will release a $79 fast wireless charging charger. I have not been able to try it yet.
Even with a fast charger, neither of these phones charge very quickly. Google slows down charging after it reaches 80 percent. This is to ensure the battery cells lasts a long time. The long battery life means that you won't need to charge it while you sleep.
Google has nailed the Pixel 6's haptic feedback. It is clicky and subtle with just the right amount feedback
The Pixels also excel in haptic feedback. Bad, buzzy feedback can ruin an experience on a phone. But the Pixel 6 Pro and Pixel 6 Pro provide subtle, clicky feedback that provides just the right amount. It makes it very easy to use the keyboard and interact with the UI.
The Pixel 6 and 6 Pro both have stereo speakers with proper, dual stereos. They can stream music and video as well as make calls and take speakerphone calls. Goodbye to the fake vibrating screen speaker Google used last year in the Pixel 5.
Google advertises 5G connectivity on both the Pixel 6 Pro and Pixel 6 Pro. However, the details aren't as clear. T-Mobile and unlocked versions of the Pixel 6 only support sub-6 5G. Verizon and AT&T models, on the other hand, are faster and offer 5G at a much lower speed.
The Pixel 6 Pro is unambiguous, regardless of how you purchase it. It will work with both sub-6 and 5G mmWave. AT&T's additional cost for its model relative the unlocked, T–Mobile or Verizon versions only buys you the privilege to be an AT&T customer.
Unlocked Pixel 6 and 6 Pro were tested on Google Fi which uses T-Mobiles 5G network. The performance was comparable to other premium phones that I have used on T-Mobile. I was able reach speeds of 300-400Mbps in some areas of New York City which is much faster than what I get on LTE.
New sensors, lenses, and capabilities are all part of the Pixel 6 and 6 Pros cameras systems. Google has upgraded the Pixel line's camera hardware for the first time since 2017. It is a big deal. The Pixel 6 Pro's main camera sensor is larger than that used in the Pixel 5 and earlier. It also has ultrawide, wide and telephoto cameras.
Both phones feature the same main wide camera as well as an ultrawide. The main camera has a 50-megapixel sensor and an optically stabilized f/1.85 lens. It can produce 12.5-megapixel images. This means that you won't be able to capture 50-megapixel resolution images and the images created aren't sharper or more detailed then other 12-megapixel cameras such as the Pixel 5s.
The Pixel 6 Pro's telephoto camera is one of the most enjoyable to use
The images look great in low and normal light and are comparable to the best of Apple. There is no clear winner. Some images from the Pixel 6 are better than others, but some images from iPhone 13 Pro are better. It all comes down to personal preference, which we have been saying for years about smartphone cameras.
Pixel 6 images feature the classic Pixel look with high contrast, mild overexposure, extreme sharpness and a cooler white balance. The camera app has a few on-screen sliders that can be used to adjust the white balance. However, sharpening images requires some post processing. Google's artificial portrait mode remains largely unchanged. It blurs the background so much that it almost appears like the subject is a cardboard cutout.
Google's famed night mode is one area that I want to see improve. Although it is amazing how detailed the night mode can capture in dark scenes and it only takes a few seconds, either the subject or the photographer loses their patience, blurring the shot. It took the iPhone's night mode twice as long as the Pixel to capture night scenes.
The main camera's image quality improvements aren't as impressive as you would expect with newer, more powerful hardware. It is often difficult to see the difference with older Pixel phones. This is especially true when there is good lighting.
The Pixel 6s ultrawide cameras is the weakest link. Images are soft and not as wide as other links. There's also a noticeable difference between it and its main camera in terms of color and processing. The iPhone 13 Pros ultrawide camera has macro focusing capabilities.
The Pixel 6 Pros telephoto lens is great. This is the first phone with telephoto that I have enjoyed using. It might even be enough reason to buy the Pixel 6 Pro instead of the regular 6. Although the 4x reach is longer than the iPhone 13 Pro's 3x telephoto, it's still much more useful than the 10x zoom on Samsungs Galaxy S21 Ultra.
The telephoto takes sharp, detailed images with excellent subject separation. It also requires less software-based portrait modes. It's great fun to use and can change the way you use your phone.
Images show the classic Pixel look with high contrast and lots of detail.
Google claims that the Pixel 6s has improved its video recording capabilities, but it is still far behind the iPhone which remains the standard. The phone can record 4K 60fps for as long as you like without overheating. However, there is still visible artifacting with image stabilization and weird differences in how the Pixel processes video images. Video processing of highly saturated colors like oranges and reds is almost identical to how Samsung used colors to process years ago.
The cameras on the front of the phones differ. The Pixel 6 has an 8 megapixel camera with an 84 degree field of view and the 6 Pro has a 11 megapixel camera with a 95-degree field. The 6 Pro's frame will accommodate more people, while the image quality will be noticeably better.
The Pixel's Tensor chip allows for a few special software tricks within the camera and photos app. With one tap, you can remove unwanted items or people from a photo. Or you can highlight the things you want to remove. Although it is very useful, it will not replace skilled Photoshop editors. It is not necessary to purchase a Pixel for similar results. Third-party apps can do the same thing.
I find the new motion capture modes to be more fascinating. They allow you to mimic panning motion shots or long exposures with just one tap of the shutter. A blurred background can be used to freeze a moving object like a car or capture traffic light streaks.
This type of image requires years of practice with lots of gear and a lot of gear. But the Pixel 6 makes it easy to snap a selfie.
Google also highlighted the improvements it made to its image processing algorithm to better deal with darker skin tones. It calls this "Real Tone". The problem of bias in image processing has plagued the industry for decades. It dates back to film and it is encouraging to see Google take action. Google claims that the Real Tone processing has been built into Pixels' image processing pipeline, and it is not possible to turn the processing off or on at will.
Nicole Nguyen from the WSJ, and Julian Chokkattu of Wired were able test the camera using a variety of darker skin tones. Their conclusions are fascinating; I encourage to you to read their articles. The photos show that the Pixel does Pixel things. They have high contrast and a lot of overexposure to compensate. There are also sharp details. This look might be appealing to some people, but it is not for everyone.
The Pixel 6 and 6 Pro are running the most recent version of Google's Android, the newly redesigned Android 12. Android 12 has been thoroughly reviewed. We will just add that the software feels more fun than the new Pixels' hardware design. It is colorful and easy-to-read, with lots of personalization options.
Unsurprisingly, the Pixel 6 has a variety of software features that are specific to it, including those that have been improved by Google's Tensor chip. The Pixel 6 can now do voice transcription locally and can also translate foreign languages into messages and media more quickly than ever before.
The phone app has the best software features. The Pixel 6 is capable of helping you to navigate spam routes and can even tell you the wait time for calls from businesses. The Pixel 6 can wait for you on hold and notify you when they pick up.
Automated phone tree will listen to the call and then transcribe all the options. Then you can use big, tappable buttons for making choices. It is far more convenient than trying to hear every word the system says only to miss something important and having to wait for it restart.
However, it was clear that it still needs to be improved. It can't recognize other languages (such as Spanish when you are asked to press 2, for instance) and often misses words or contexts that could prevent it from giving the right buttons. It's a great idea, and I hope Google will continue to improve it.
You can also show boarding passes or other useful information on your lock screen. Additionally, you can use voice commands to the Assistant to make certain voice commands without saying Hey Google. It is very convenient to simply mumble "snooze" when the alarm goes off, and have your phone follow.
The biggest question surrounding the Pixel 6 announcement was, "Did Google actually do it?" Is it possible to create a flagship-level smartphone with no show-stopping bugs and no big getchas?
The answer is a clear yes. Both the Pixel 6 Pro and Pixel 6 Pro are great phones. Although they may not be the best phones in every category, overall, they are excellent phones. They perform well, have great screens and great cameras. If you don't like big phones, this is probably not the right phone for you.
The Pixel 6 is a stunning phone at $600
Their value adds to their appeal. For $600, the Pixel 6 is a great phone. It's hard to imagine a smartphone that can match it. Google offers a superior experience than any other Android phone manufacturer in all markets where it is available. And often, at a lower price. It even beat OnePlus, which has built its entire brand around premium phones at lower prices.
Is this a sign that the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro will be bought by a lot of people, given Google's long-standing struggles to gain market share? Since those who buy it will get a great phone for a great price, I don't really care. This is hard to argue with.