Pixel 6 Review

November 28, 2022
pixel 6

Pixel 6 Review

In late August, 2022, I purchased the Pixel 6 Pro for my wife and the Pixel 6 for myself. I was excited to have a Google device again with vanila Android on it. This is a Gen 1 on the main processor, designed by Google itself, but another in a long line of phones otherwise, and having read some reviews prior to getting, I expected going into this some bugs, but what I am experiencing is not what I read about. Overall, I am not impressed, and below I will detail some of my experience.  

The Hardware

I like the design of this phone. It is an attractive aesthetic, with an all screen front design and a two-tone rear, mine is black and gray. The camera bump is straight across the back, which gives the phone a unique look and keeps the phone from wobbling when placed on a flat surface. The rear feels like plastic though, and the phone is very slippery in the hand or on a surface.  

I took photos of my phone well after purchase, post a serious fall from my work desk where it landed on the floor. It was without a case and sustained cracks in the screen protector. Thankfully I had that on there, or it could have been the screen itself. I decided to take the picture with those clearly visible as a demonstration of how slick this phone is. I just set it on the desk, and it slid right off.  

Pixel 6 Front Side

Pixel 6 Front Side

The Pixel 6 has a flat screen, unlike the pro version. This is a benefit as it is easier to apply screen protectors, and cases are more effective. I have used the curved screens, and I am not a fan. Any of the edge use cases that I have seen advertised in the past never ended up being something that I found myself using.  

The regular Pixel 6 only has a wide angle and ultra-wide angle camera on the back, which would be the wrong one. I would prefer the zoom, but since I am not a major picture taker, I am going without. I determined that the slightly smaller size was preferable, since I have smaller hands. Phones keep getting larger, which makes them harder for me to use single handed. All of the software tricks that some phone makers add to make them able to be used with one hand are not good. It usually means shrinking the UI elements down to one side where the thumb can reach them, but I have thick thumbs, so the smaller elements are harder to touch properly. The short of it is I like slightly smaller phones/screens with full size UI elements.  

The cameras have been great so far for standard pictures, and the digital zoom from Google has been fine for the most part.  

pixel 6 camera 1x zoom

Pixel 6 camera at 1x zoom

pixel 6 camera 2x zoom

Pixel 6 camera 2x zoom

pixel 6 camera ultra-wide angle

Pixel 6 camera ultra-wide angle

The button placement, with both the volume and power on the same side is frustrating for me. I find myself feeling around frequently to ensure that I am about to press the button that I am meaning to. The benefit is that when watching a movie in landscape mode, it is easy to have the phone turned so that accidentally touching the buttons is difficult. Long pressing power also no longer turns the phone off, functionality I have been used to from many other phones.  

I miss the headphone jack already as my last phone was old enough to have still had it, but having USB-C for charging is nice; my previous phone had that as well. And wireless charging is great. Since my previous phone had it, I have invested in several wireless chargers, and I required the wireless charging for my phone.  

The screen is bright and good resolution. I have turned down the refresh rate for battery life, so I am not getting the benefit of the faster refresh rate. That is not honestly something that I care about with a phone.  

The Tensor chip seems fine, but sometimes applications are slow to load. Previous phones felt faster and smoother out of the gate, like the Samsung Galaxy phone I had, as well as my previous LG Thin-Q V40. This next issue could be the accelerometer or the Tensor chip, but one item that the Pixel 6 seems poor at is screen rotation detection. Especially if I am watching YouTube videos through the app, when tilting the phone, full-screen/landscape does not happen automatically. I must press the ‘full screen’ button, and then the rotation engages. I have experienced this slowness to rotate using the browser and other apps, but YouTube is the worst.  

I have not tested the phone’s hardware for any intense gaming, though perhaps one day I will. It has handled most productivity tasks easily and seems powerful enough for daily use. Battery life has also been all right, better than my four-year-old LG. I get mostly all-day battery unless I am heavily using the phone.  


Default Android, I thought I would like it more, but I was wrong. It is interesting that Google is outdone by other companies who take their work and put their own skin over it, but here we are.  

The good news is it looks great and has most of the features one would want. Notifications, ability to arrange icons and widgets wherever one would like, Google account integration... It is Android, and better yet, it does not come heavily bogged down with software that the third-party company designed and included. Samsung throws so much of their own software on their phones, it is annoying. I do not want to use Bixby; I do not want Samsung Health or a Samsung browser. The Pixel phones come with the Google applications that you want to use. It feels like a better starting point.  

If you are tied into the Google ecosystem, which if you are using Android, you must be to some extent, then you will start with what you want. Google Calendar, Messages, Chrome browser, Google Maps, Gmail, Docs, Sheets, etc. It is all there, with default saving of photos to Google Photo and Google Drive. 

Here is one of my first gripes. While the Google camera application is fine, I cannot find a way to switch its default of uploading photos to Google Drive/Photos. I pay for Microsoft Office 365 and have 1Tb of storage for OneDrive. If I am already paying for storage, I do not want to pay for more through Google. Google has also switched to limited storage and combining everything to one storage location, meaning email, documents, and photos. While I am still a long way off from using all the storage, my wife has used all of hers up. While she is able to take photos and store them in local storage, there is not an effortless way that I can find for her photos to automatically start backing up to OneDrive.  

The new Android feature of automatically setting an accent color system wide based on the background selected is a nice feature, but it is not necessary. I like it and I have it turned on, but I will take some of the customization features that I had on previous versions of Android.  

One, the settings in default android are lacking. One example is the number of home screens and animations. On my ol LG, I was able to turn off the news feed screen, and then set three home screens. I set each screen up the way that I wanted it for a certain purpose. I was able to customize the animation when changing between screens and choose whether I could loop through the screens if I kept swiping in one direction, or not. This may seem like trivial customizations, but they allowed for an ability to make the phone function is a way that was intuitive and how I wanted. With default Android, those options are gone. It is a paired down list and has meant that I must adjust how I use the phone to match what this allows.  

pixel 6 homescreen

My Pixel 6 Home Screen

Swiping down from the top brings down quick use functions, which is customizable on which four you would like there. But now there is an extra swipe to get to screen brightness and settings. Over time, this extra swipe, especially when operating the phone one handed while juggling other tasks, is difficult. I like previous layouts where one swipe brought everything down, even if the buttons were slightly smaller.  

pixel 6 quick settings

My Pixel 6 Quick Settings

pixel 6 extended quick settings

My Pixel 6 Extended Quick Settings

The open application switcher works as expected, though in this implementation, the ‘close all applications’ function is all the way to the left. Bring this function up, and if you want to clear everything and have a lot of applications open, you must scroll through all of them. I preferred a small button at the bottom to touch at any time. One first use, I did not even realize it was still there.  

pixel 6 application switcher

My Pixel 6 Application Switcher

The Google Search widget is also locked at the bottom. If that is something that you do not use or want on the screen, too back because it will be taking up screen real-estate along with the saved row of icons. I use it frequently, but I would like the option of moving it somewhere else on the screen.  

Overall Thoughts

Overall, the Pixel 6 is a suitable entry into the flagship phone line up, but it is no great and I would go with a Samsung Galaxy phone if I chose again. The camera is good, the phone feels premium, and the Tensor chip is a good first entry. But there are a lot of little cuts, especially with the UI/OS, where I miss options. Some of it feels like a drive towards lock-in, similar to what Apple has done in the past.  

My wife hates the phone and does not want to go past two years with it. For me, the phone is fine, but I do not totally disagree with her that it is not one I want to use for years to come. My last phone lasted four years, this one will be lucky to make it two.