Kevin Bae

Non-Social in a Socially Networked World

A regular person’s review of the Pixel 6

I wasn’t going to do it. But I did. I bit the bullet and purchased a Pixel 6 because the battery life on my Pixel 3 is getting to the point where I need to plug it in several times a day and the phone’s hardware feels like it’s getting long in the tooth. After 3 years it was time for something new even though I was very happy with the Pixel 3. I still love the pictures it takes and I much prefer the smaller size to new flagship type phones. This review is based on one week of normal usage.

I purchased the Pixel 6 with 256 GB of storage in Black (I refuse to use their stupid silly color names). On paper, this phone has everything I’m asking for with the exception of it’s gargantuan size. I don’t like big phones and this one is a 1/2 inch taller and about a 1/4 inch wider than the Pixel 3. I carry my phone in my back pocket and this the Pixel 6 sticks out too far and the camera bar is uncomfortable. Don’t try to sit down with this slab in your pocket. Speaking of the camera bar, it is massive and makes the phone top heavy.

Android 12, to me, is much the same as Android 11. I’m past the point in my life where I notice any real differences between mobile OS upgrades. They’re all incremental. One thing that bothers me a lot is the default date & weather widget in the upper left corner of the screen. In Android 11 the widget utilized the entire width of the screen. In Android 12 the widget gets shoved over to the left but acts as if it’s spanned across the screen. The area immediately to the right can’t be used. There is no way to customize this either so you just have wasted space in the upper right for no good reason.

The behind the screen fingerprint sensor is a piece of shit. The hardware sensor on the Pixel 3 was great, even if it was inconveniently on the back, all I had to do is touch it with one of my index fingers and I’m in. With the Pixel 6 it is now a minimum of two steps. You first have to tap on the screen then press your finger on the sensor area. Not a huge issue if the sensor worked. Most of the time I have to press my finger to it two to three times for it to work. It gets annoying after a while when you’re used to a quick unlocking of the phone. I also use biometric login for Lastpass, my bank, my grocery store app, and others. The phone rarely recognizes either thumb on the first try. It’s shit.

The camera is okay. It’s an upgrade. Not a great one but an upgrade. I do have one issue with it. The default pics, meaning without any editing or tapping on the screen, are too warm. I prefer the Pixel 3’s cooler color tones to the Pixel 6. You can adjust it manually but it’s not sticky. You’ll have to make the adjustment every single time you open the camera app. Here are some examples. Pixel 3 is on the left and Pixel 6 is on the right.

Pixel 3 on the left and Pixel 6 on the right
Pixel 3 on the left and Pixel 6 on the right
Pixel 3 on the left and Pixel 6 on the right
Pixel 3 on the left and Pixel 6 on the right
Pixel 3 on the left and Pixel 6 on the right

The same goes for video. I don’t take much video anyway but I’ve never been impressed with video out of any of my Pixel phones. Video samples aren’t worth uploading.

There are some new features in the camera app like Action Pan. I tried it out with my dogs and find it’s useless in this limited test. The feature was unable to give me a proper pic with the dogs in focus with the background blurred. It does give you two versions of the same picture though. One with the blur applied and one without. The picture without the blur is not bad. I wonder why the software can’t figure out the dog needs to be in focus when clearly in the untouched picture it is.

The left is using Action Pan the right is without
The left is using Action Pan the right is without

There is also Long Exposure mode. I plan on testing that out when I go out hiking. There are always streams and waterfalls where I wish I could have brought my DSLR to photograph.

Battery life is great for me. I unplug my phone at 6:00 am every day. Usually by now (it’s 5:30 pm) I have already plugged in my Pixel 3 at least once if not twice depending on usage. Typically I would be down to 20% or less at this point in the day if I didn’t charge it. The Pixel 6 is at 63% and that’s with 5 hours of podcast listening and roughly 3 hours of other assorted use.

Using the phone for any length of time is not comfortable. It’s heavy and the camera bar location makes it top heavy. Sitting around browsing the web or using Instagram it doesn’t take long for my pinky finger and index finger to feel fatigued. I have to hold it more like a tablet with all my fingers in the back and my thumb on the side. But because the phone is too small to be a tablet holding it that way doesn’t feel secure. The bottom line is this phone is big, heavy, and bulky.

I’m on the fence with regard to returning it. The only thing that is a significant upgrade for me is the battery. I wish it was easy to replace the battery in the Pixel 3 and that Google wasn’t cutting off updates so soon. I wouldn’t think twice to replace the battery in it and continue using it. The size and capabilities more than meet my needs. But I guess that’s the point of cutting off updates. This forces people into buying new hardware. $700 is a steep price for what amounts to a battery replacement when the cost for that repair is less than $100.

Can Google fix the fingerprint sensor and photo colors with software updates? I hope so. I have a week to go until I have to decide.