Google completely reimagined the Pixel line with the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. Google itself called the Pixel 6 Pro. And compared to previous Pixels, it’s hard not to see that, even in the non- “Pro” model. The company uses higher-end materials throughout the phone, making some early Google phones feel like children’s toys. The Pixel 6 is its first real shot at giving people a viable alternative to the latest Galaxy S and iPhone.
The glass curves at the edges on the front, too, as does the display beneath it, making it not only look more premium, but feel like a truly flagship device when you hold it in your hand. It’s big though, packing in a 6.7-inch display, which will make it more cumbersome for some than the 6-inch Pixel 5 or 6.4-inch Pixel 6. That glass makes it slippery, too, so consider one of Google’s protective cases if you’re nervous about dropping it.
It is IP68-rated for water resistance, meaning it can withstand being in 1 meter (about 3 feet) of water for up to 30 minutes. No, that doesn’t mean you can take it swimming, but it does mean it should be able to shake off having the odd beer spilled over it by your clumsy mates.
The difference on the 6a is the two camera sensors are housed in a small pill-shaped blob on the left of the black bar that’s camouflaged by also being black, with a circular flash on the right. On the other Pixel 6 models, the lenses are spread out across the length of the bar.
The screen is a 6.1in AMOLED, putting this phone in the ‘small’ phone camp – not actually small like phones used to be, but more compact than most modern Android slabs.
the 6a has a 12.2Mp f/1.7 Sony IMX363 sensor with optical image stabilisation. This is the same sensor Google used from the Pixel 3 to Pixel 5 era.
I personally would have rather had the newer 50Mp lens and a lower-powered processor, but Google has changed its approach. The good news is the main camera on the 6a is still phenomenally good – it just isn’t quite as good as the Pixel 6 or 6 Pro in the detail it can capture, but Google’s post-processing in software is so good, that differences are barely noticeable.
In even more good news, the ultrawide 12Mp f/2.2 Sony IMX386 lens is the same one used in the pricier 6 models.
The Pixel 6 Pro packs the biggest battery we’ve ever seen in a Pixel, clocking in at a huge 5,000 mAh. That’s the same size as the Galaxy S21 Ultra and 500 mAh bigger than the OnePlus 9 Pro. We don’t know the exact size of the iPhone 13 Pro Max’s battery in milliamp-hours, but you can’t draw direct comparisons between Android and iPhone batteries anyway.
The OnePlus Nord 2T is cheaper than the Pixel 6a but comes with an 80W charger in the box that charges to 100% in 30 minutes, which makes Google look stingy on both included accessories and speed.
A phone shouldn’t be this hot when charging. Over time such heat could lead to battery degradation, but this is impossible to tell right now. At the moment, the 6a has solid, all-day battery life. Even roaming abroad on 4G all day while taking tons of photos never saw me dip below 20%.
Google has made its very own SoC, and the Google Pixel 6 is the first smartphone to run it. That means performance on the Pixel 6 series is more important than ever.
Google didn’t create its own chipset just to rival the likes of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 or the Apple A15 Bionic. Raw power is important, of course, but the Google Tensor chipset focuses more on image processing and on-device machine learning than performing well in speed tests.
The Google Pixel 6 is backed by 8GB of LPDDR5 RAM. For my usage, this amount of RAM has more than sufficed for multitasking. However, if you’re truly after the most powerful Pixel 6 device, you’ll want to opt for the Pixel 6 Pro with its 12GB of RAM. I think 12GB across the board would have future-proofed the Pixel 6 line a bit more, especially because we’re not sure how well the Google Tensor chipset will hold up over time.
The Google Pixel 6 is one of the first devices to ship with Android 12. The latest version of Google’s OS is a major visual overhaul from Android 11, with an all-new design language called Material You. It themes just about every aspect of the software — the quick settings, keyboard, icons, settings menus, and more — with a color scheme that matches your wallpaper. It’s incredibly personal and addictive to use at times.
Android 12 is a joy to use. It looks great and performs just as well as on a Pixel 6 Pro – no mean feat. The included new ‘Nature swept’ wallpapers are right up my street (see one in action below), and the colour picker that takes four colours from whatever wallpaper you have and lets you select it as the icon and accent colour for the whole OS is superb.