Google’s Pixel 6 Android phone is available now — here’s what you need to know

·Buyer's Guide Editor
·5 min read

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The Pixel 6 Pro measures 6.7 inches, has four cameras on the back and comes in lemony yellow. (Photo: Google)
The Pixel 6 Pro measures 6.7 inches, has four cameras on the back and comes in lemony yellow. (Photo: Google)

Fall is new-phone season, with fresh models from Apple and Google hitting the shelves just in time for the holidays. While the iPhone draws the lion's share of attention, the Google Pixel is definitely worth a look, especially if you depend heavily on services like Gmail and Google Maps. 

Today the newest models are out, with 6.4- and 6.7-inch screen sizes — the Pixel 6 and its big sibling the Pixel 6 Pro. Mulling them over? Below we do our best to answer your questions, and help you figure out if the Pixel 6 line is right for you. 

$599 at Amazon

$599 at Best Buy

What’s a Pixel phone?

So, when you buy a phone you have a choice between buying an iPhone or an Android device. Apple makes the iPhone, but Android products are made by a bunch of different companies like Samsung and Motorola. The Pixel is the Android phone that Google makes and sells itself. The first one was released back in 2016, and we’re now up to the sixth generation of the line: the Pixel 6.

What makes the Pixel so special?

Android is an open-source operating system (OS), which means that companies can basically use it for free on the phones they make. But companies almost always end up putting their own “spin” on it, messing with the interface and adding software that you may or may not use. Sometimes these changes are good, but they almost always mean it takes a bit longer for your phone to get updates. Because the Pixel is made by Google, it contains a pure version of Android, and you’ll get updates as soon as Google sends them out — security updates once a month, and OS upgrades once a year, in early fall.

Pixel 6 in black, green and pink
The Pixel 6 comes in three colors: Stormy Black, Sorta Seafoam and Kinda Coral. (Photo: Google)

I don’t really need updates or a sleek OS. Why else should I care?

Because Pixels have always been very good pieces of hardware. Our friends over at Engadget have consistently given Pixel devices scores in the high 80s or low 90s, ranking them among the best Android phones available (alongside Samsung Galaxy devices). That’s because of their slim build, colorful screens and absolutely spectacular camera quality. I personally own a Pixel 3 that I still take great pictures with today.

What’s so great about the Pixel 6?

Last year’s Pixel 5 was a bit of a disappointment. It didn’t push the line forward in any significant way and, though it was cheaper than past generations of the Pixel, the 5 faced some tough competition from other devices in the same price range. There was no compelling reason to buy one.

This year however, Google brought its A-game. A few years ago Apple switched to making its own chips, and now Google is getting in on the action with its new Tensor CPU. This makes it a lot easier for Google to add new features like live translation. There’s also a special security coprocessor: If you’ve ever worried someone was trying to spy on you or hack into your phone, the new security features should put your mind at ease.

Pixel 6 Pro in black, yellow and white
If you're not into yellow, the Pixel 6 Pro also comes in a more staid black or white tone. (Photo: Google)

Aside from that, the camera biggest upgrade is the camera. It’s now much better at capturing a full range of skin tones. And the new “Face Unblur” feature will combine multiple shots into one so your subject will always be in focus, no matter how much they’re moving around.

All these features are good enough that our colleague Cherlynn over at Engadget called the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro “a superb return to form,” with “smart software and excellent photography.” Both handsets scored a 91 out of 100, placing them along the iPhone and Galaxy S21 as the best phones of 2021.

The two handsets, side by side
You should pick the size that fits in your hand best. (Photo: David Imel for Engadget)

What’s the difference between the Pixel 6 and the 6 Pro?

The $599 Pixel 6 has a 6.4-inch screen, while the $899 6 Pro has a larger 6.7 screen — and yes, it’s enough to notice the difference. The Pro also has four cameras to the three on the back of the regular 6: the smaller device doesn’t have a telephoto lens. So you won’t be able to shoot at a distance as well, but if you’re mostly shooting portraits of friends and family, you probably don’t need the extra lens. And the Pro also has a slightly bigger battery to power the larger screen and additional camera.

The colors are also different, with the 6 available in "Kinda Coral" and a greyish "Sorta Seafoam" tone while the 6 Pro comes in "Cloudy White" and a lemon-tinted "Sorta Sunny." But you were probably planning to buy a good case anyway, so don’t worry about the color so much. Both phones also come in "Stormy Black" if you want to keep it simple.

But which one of the two should I buy?

You may find the 6.7-inch Pro a little too big for your hands, so you should probably go for the standard Pixel 6. Not only is it smaller, but it’s also $300 cheaper. It's an amazing collection of fabulous flagship features, at a price much lower than its main competition over at Apple and Samsung.

$599 at Amazon

$599 at Best Buy

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