How my fun (but unpredictable) Pixel 6 Pro got me craving an iPhone 14 Pro

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
How my fun (but unpredictable) Pixel 6 Pro got me craving an iPhone 14 Pro
I've been trying to imagine what this story should look like a dozen times. In fact, I really didn't want to have to write it, but here we are…

The Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro are the most ambitious smartphones Google's ever made. The company went all-in with top-of-the-line hardware, an intimate Android 12 experience, some truly unique software wizardry, and even competitive pricing. However, (unfortunately) what at first seemed like it was going to be a runaway success, turned out to be a rather frustrating flagship phone experience.

I have to acknowledge something: I paid for the Pixel 6 Pro in full - with my own money. To acknowledge something else, which might shock some of you: Until now, I had never paid a full (launch) price for a flagship phone. I always felt they are ridiculously overpriced, and with most brands, you could easily shave off $200-300 off the original price if you wait a couple of months or shop from eBay. Not to mention if you were to buy about six months after release when some Android flagships could cost 30-50% less on the resale market.

However, the Pixel 6 Pro deal seemed so (potentially) good that I actually went for it! I paid 899 EUR for a flagship phone without having used a review unit. My trust and money... it all went to Google. What made this deal seem even better, and probably what put me over the line, was the fact that Google offered a pair of Bose 700s, worth about 300 EUR. Call it a coincidence or destiny, but the earcups on my current pair of Audio-Technicas started falling apart right “on time”, as if Google had something to do with it.

But! Like most things that seem too good to be true, I certainly came to a realization:

  1. It's not a coincidence the aforementioned saying exists
  2. Not all "amazing deals" will be the right choice for you, despite bringing incredible value on the surface

You probably saw it coming, but here comes the moment to talk about the elephant(s) in the room - the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro's issues. Yes, elephants, and yes, issues, because there are about a dozen of them and counting…

Pixel 6 Pro: Display flickering

In a nutshell, this would happen when your Pixel 6 or Pixel 6 Pro is turned off, and (for some weird reason) you decide to start clicking the power button instead of holding it down (to turn the phone on). Is it a flaw? Yes, definitely. Is it an actual problem that people will encounter in their daily use? Absolutely not.

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However, I did encounter a weird display flickering issue, where the phone would display blinking lines of static noise. I have no idea if the low battery and the fact that I was watching a youtube video had anything to do with the bug. Fortunately, so far I haven’t managed to replicate the issue. Fingers crossed it’s gone for good.

  • Was I able to replicate the issue: Yes, before the December update
  • How likely is it that you'll encounter the issue: Unlikely after the December update

Pixel 6 Pro: Slow and inconsistent fingerprint sensor

Let's skip the tomfoolery, the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro's biggest problem (by a mile) is their slow and inconsistent fingerprint readers, which stay in the forefront of the Pixel 6's mixed reputation.

You know how Apple had their Bentgate, Batterygate, and Whatnotgate scandals; the Galaxy Note 7 shook up Samsung's image of a reliable smartphone brand, and whatever happened to the Essential Phone?

Well, this is one of Google's biggest flagship busts of the decade. Now, you might think: "Oh, come on… is it that bad?". It is. Due to a few factors:

The expectations for Google's first phones with a custom-built processor and long-anticipated camera upgrades were very high. Although priced competitively for what they are, the Pixel 6 ($599) and Pixel 6 Pro ($899) aren't even close to being "cheap".

It’s not rocket science. Even mid-range phones have quicker and more reliable under-display fingerprint readers! It’s not a cutting-edge under-display camera, or a tricky folding mechanism, which is hard to figure out…

And yet, it appears as if Google's opted for cheaper fingerprint sensors, which are a far cry from the good, reliable ultrasonic ones found on phones like the Galaxy S21, or even the more traditional optical readers in phones like the OnePlus 9 or the almost three-year-old Huawei P30 Pro, which still has a faster and more accurate fingerprint reader than the Pixel 6.

Now, the company said the Pixel 6's fingerprint reader is slower due to it being "more secure", but I don't buy that. Also, Google's issued an update that's supposed to improve the performance of the fingerprint reader, but while the update has made the sensor on my Pixel 6 Pro slightly faster, it’s still rather inconsistent and unresponsive at times, as it was before the December update.

Furthermore, my cousin’s Pixel 6 (not Pro) doesn’t even let him register his fingerprint. That’s prior and post the December update. He’ll try resetting the phone, as this is believed to resolve the issue, but remember - Google promised to fix this with the December update…

  • Was I able to replicate the issue: Yes
  • How likely is it that you'll encounter the issue: Highly likely, even after updates

Pixel 6 Pro: Ghost-dialing contacts

I have not experienced or been able to replicate this problem myself, but we've heard reports about Pixel 6 units that would randomly dial phone numbers. Apparently, this issue has been resolved following a software update, so we can let Google off on this one.

  • Was I able to replicate the issue: No
  • How likely is it that you'll encounter the issue: Unlikely

Pixel 6 Pro: Painfully slow charging speeds

Now, this one wouldn't have been a problem if Google simply advertized the Pixel 6 correctly. According to Android Authority, the Pixel 6 supports fast-charging up to 22W, which is 8W short of the promised 30W speeds.

Furthermore, Google’s 30W Pixel 6 charger, which again - is supposed to charge your phone with speeds up to 30W, also fails to do so. Add to that the fact the charger doesn't come in the box, and you've got yourself a big bowl of charging disappointment.

I've felt it myself. Plugging in my Pixel 6 Pro alongside my almost-three-year-old Huawei P30 Pro, the Pixel feels ancient. It takes two hours to fully charge, which can be a real issue if you want to top it up and leave home ASAP.

I've come to really appreciate fast-charging after I started using the P30 Pro, and the fact that Google isn't able to come even close to it after three years is frankly… sad. In fact, even the iPhone 13 Pro Max charges quicker than the Pixel 6 Pro, and iPhones are known for having some of the slowest charging amongst all phones…

So far, Google hasn't addressed this issue, so we don't know whether the slower charging speeds on the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro are a result of hardware, or software limitations, which might or might not be intentional.

  • Was I able to replicate the issue: Unfortunately, yes - every day
  • How likely is it that you'll encounter the issue: Extremely likely

Pixel 6 Pro: Inconsistent battery life and poor stand-by performance

While most of the other Pixel 6 issues are easy to see and recognize, this one is much more ambiguous, and it seems to vary from user to user. Therefore I'll address it from my point of view, as someone who's used the phone for about two months.

For the record, if you take a look at our full review, you’ll see that Peter’s experience with the Pixel 6 Pro’s endurance is actually satisfying, even compared to the Galaxy S21 Ultra. This only shows that battery life will depend on your personal use, which happens to be especially true for Google’s latest and greatest flagship.

But back to my personal impressions. First of all, stand-by time on the Pixel 6 Pro is simply not great. The phone tends to lose a significant amount of charge without being used, whether that's overnight or during the day. I can't put my finger on what's causing this. I tried toggling Adaptive Battery on and off, but it doesn't seem to make a big difference.

The same applies to battery life as a whole. On some days, the Pixel 6 will give me 6 hours of screen-on-time. However, sometimes this would go down to just over 3 hours with less than 15% battery left, which is… hilarious.

However, I was away for a few days (I took my P30 Pro and iPhone with me) and started using the Pixel 6 Pro again today, so the really poor battery life after my first day back from holiday could mean the phone needs to "warm up" and adapt to my use (again). Either way, the Pixel 6 Pro is unreliable when it comes to battery life, no matter whether my SIM is in it or not.

I’m already rocking the massive December update, which promises to fix some of the battery life concerns, but I’ll need to use the phone for longer, before I’m ready to tell you whether that’s made any difference. I doubt it will take the B- battery life on my Pixel 6 Pro to A+, but let’s hope for the best!

  • Was I able to replicate the issue: Unfortunately, yes
  • How likely is it that you'll encounter the issue: Very likely, but it might depend on personal use

Pixel 6 Pro: Ironically dysfunctional "Adaptive Brightness"

If the unreliable and inconsistent fingerprint sensor on the Pixel 6 ranks first on my personal list of problems, and the poor battery and charging experience is second, this might wrap up my top three.

Smartphones use ambient light sensors in order to adjust brightness according to your environment. If you never knew that, it’s probably because your phone’s automatic brightness works as expected. Congratulations!

The Pixel 6 and 6 Pro have AL sensors, but Google being Google, has decided that the traditional way of automatic brightness adjustment isn't good enough. So, we get "Adaptive Brightness", which promises to "automatically adjust to your environment and activities", whatever that's supposed to mean.

Google advises you to move the brightness slider manually to help Adaptive Brightness learn your preferences so it becomes more accurate and reliable over time. But the thing is - I don't want to wait a few weeks or months for my $1,000 phone (900 EUR) to start working as it's meant to.

Has Adaptive Brightness become more reliable after two months of use? Maybe? Honestly, I’m not sure. Is it great? It isn't. It often jumps up and down when it senses a light change from a TV, or a bedside lamp, or even for no apparent reason whatsoever, while I'm watching a YouTube video late at night.

One especially annoying habit the Pixel 6 Pro has is to blind me with super-high screen brightness when I pick it up for the first time in the morning. The only way to “fix” this is to adjust the brightness manually.

  • Was I able to replicate the issue: Yes…
  • How likely is it that you'll encounter the issue: Very likely, but (apparently) it should get better on its own, especially after the December update

Pixel 6 Pro: It's not all bad, and (sometimes) it's not you... it's me

And that's not even the full list of Pixel 6 issues. People have also experienced problems like unavailable carrier networks, broken Wi-Fi calling, and even a literal second punch-hole in the display, which seemed to be a manufacturing flaw with a handful of units - still unclear of how they were able to make it out of the factory.

On a more personal note

Except for the list of bugs and issues, the Pixel 6 Pro seems to also be pretty big for me. That's understandable, and I take responsibility for choosing to buy it. However, I do take issue with the Pixel 6, which is supposed to be Google's "smaller" flagship, but isn’t even close to being compact, and in my eyes, that's wrong.

Both Apple and Samsung offer compact-ish flagships. In fact, Samsung's Galaxy S22 is getting even smaller than the S21 and iPhone 13. Meanwhile, the Pixel 6 is almost as big and bulky as the 6 Pro, which means even if I had bought the "smaller" Pixel, it wouldn't have made a big difference when it comes to size. That's one less selling point in my book.

My favourite Pixel 6 Pro features

Of course, it's not all bad. Some of my favorite Pixel 6 Pro features include:

  • The mostly brilliant camera system (surprise!)
  • Loud and clear stereo speakers
  • Incredible haptics/vibration motor
  • Overall excellent display
  • Intuitive, customizable, and feature-rich Android 12 (which doesn't bore me like iOS does)

However, is this enough to rescue the Pixel 6 Pro, which is meant to compete with Samsung's discounted S21 Ultra and iPhone 13 Pro, or even Samsung's S22? Unfortunately, I don't think so. At least not for 95% of the people. Not yet.

Google’s December feature drop update promising over 80 (!!!) bug fixes, including for some of the issues we've just discussed, has now arrived. However, the fact that any phone would need 80 bug fixes in the first place, doesn’t speak well for its reliability.

Moreover, as I said earlier, the update hasn’t fixed probably the most major issue where some Pixel 6 units won’t let you enrol your fingerprint. So, how am I supposed to believe it will tackle the rest of the Pixel’s problems? Maybe we need another major update?

In the end: Pixel 6 Pro might not be Android’s iPhone 13 Pro / iPhone 14 Pro equivalent

Suppose you're looking for a reliable device right now, which nails the basics of a great phone, like a reliable and secure unlocking method, consistent battery life, swift charging, and automatic brightness that you don't need to adjust manually - in that case, the Pixel 6 Pro isn’t the phone for you. Not unless Google fixes it… properly.

Which is why I simply can't wait for Apple's iPhone 14 Pro! Hold on, let me explain...

I've always favored Android over iPhone, simply because I've always gotten bored with every iPhone I've used in just a few months. However, I've also switched to using a Mac as my main computer of choice, and I've come to the conclusion that Apple's ecosystem and customer service are things that shouldn't be underestimated.

It's what Apple does best and so far much better than any other company out there. And if your work involves having a reliable laptop-smartphone combo, Apple seems to be the one to go with.

But why am I waiting for the iPhone 14 Pro instead of getting the iPhone 13 Pro? Although unlike the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, the iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max nail the basics of a great smartphone, this simply wasn't enough for me to justify spending 1,150 EUR on a phone that looks pretty much the same as the iPhone X (at least from the front, which is what matters).

Also, I'm a sucker for a long-range zoom camera, which the iPhone 13 Pro doesn't have (though 3x zoom is much better than 2x). That's why I'm so looking forward to the iPhone 14 Pro, which promises to come with a brand new design reminiscent of the iPhone 4. I'm also looking forward to waving goodbye to the notch and welcoming a Pixel 6-style punch-hole, which would be a first for an iPhone.

Another thing I'm craving is the new camera system on the iPhone 14 Pro series. Rumour has it that Apple’s cooking up a new 48MP main camera, which hopefully will bring the iPhone 14 Pro closer to taking DSLR-like photos. Currently, iPhone photos look too oversharpened and over-processed for my taste.

It's also believed that the iPhone 14 Pro Max might get a periscope zoom camera, but this rumor isn't quite surefire. What I’m positive about is that the 48MP primary camera could be used to aid zoom thanks to available resolution and room for sensor-cropping, similar to SuperRes zoom on Pixel phones.

Speaking of phones feeling like real cameras, accessories are another factor that pulls me towards the iPhone 14 Pro. At first, I wasn't a fan of MagSafe, and as far as charging is concerned, I still think it's worse than simply giving the iPhone a USB-C port.

However, MagSafe isn't there only for the sake of enabling wireless charging. It has the potential to open a dozen doors for accessories that you wouldn't even have thought of. You can already attach magnetic wallets, battery packs, and cases to your iPhone 12 and iPhone 13, but a high-quality magnetic camera grip is the accessory I'm looking forward to!

Fjorden is already on the job, and after a few delays, it promises to bring the potentially game-changing camera accessory to life in Q3 of 2022, which coincidentally is right about when the iPhone 14 will be out.

If all the stars align for Apple, and especially if Google doesn't make the Pixel 6 Pro a more usable flagship phone with updates, I might be jumping on the iPhone 14 Pro like a moth to a flame…

Let's see who wins me over!

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