Gone are the days when the Google Pixel was seen as a cheaper alternative to flagships from the likes of Apple and Samsung. In 2021, Google has seen fit to complement its more “standard” Pixel 6 model with the Pixel 6 Pro, a souped-up premium smartphone that rivals the iPhone and Galaxy S for performance while also remaining competitively priced. It builds on the solid foundation laid by previous Pixels (particularly in the camera and software departments) by adding a powerful new processor, a very big 5,003mAh battery, a triple-lens rear camera, and a gorgeously detailed 6.71-inch AMOLED screen.
It looks like a strong contender for flagship of the year, but then again, it faces some stiff competition. Most notably, the iPhone 13 Pro is the best smartphone Apple released to date, with some highly impressive features. Compared to 2020’s iPhone 12 Pro, it sports a larger battery, newly upgraded specs, and some enhanced camera hardware. Its display has also been treated to a delicious 120Hz refresh rate (like the Pixel 6 Pro’s), making it a real feast for the senses.
Which phone is the best overall: The Pixel 6 Pro or the iPhone 13 Pro? Read on to find out.
|iPhone 13 Pro||Google Pixel 6 Pro|
|Size||146.7 x 71.5 x 7.7mm (5.78 x 2.81 x 0.30 inches)||163.9 x 75.9 x 8.9 mm (6.45 x 2.99 x 0.35 inches)|
|Weight||204 grams (7.2 ounces)||210 grams (7.41 ounces)|
|Screen size||6.1-inch Super Retina XDR OLED||6.71-inch LTPO AMOLED|
|Screen resolution||2532 x 1170 pixels (460 ppi)||3120 x 1440 pixels (512 ppi)|
|Operating system||iOS 15||Android 12|
|Storage||128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB||128GB, 256GB, 512GB|
|MicroSD card slot||No||No|
|Processor||Apple A15 Bionic (5nm)||Google Tensor (5nm)|
|Camera||Triple lens 12-megapixel wide, 12MP ultrawide, and 12MP telephoto rear, 12MP front||Triple lens 50MP wide, 12MP ultrawide, and 48MP telephoto rear, 11.1MP front|
|Video||4K at up to 60 fps, 1080p at 120 fps||4K at up to 60 fps, 1080p at 240 fps|
|Bluetooth version||Bluetooth 5.1||Bluetooth 5.2|
|Fingerprint sensor||No, FaceID instead||Yes (in-display ultrasonic)|
20W wired charging (no charger included in the box)
15W MagSafe charging
7.5W wireless charging
30W wired charging (no charger included in the box)
23W wireless charging
|App marketplace||Apple App Store||Google Play Store|
|Network support||All major carriers||All major carriers|
|Colors||Graphite, Gold, Silver, Sierra Blue||Cloudy White, Sorta Sunny, Stormy Black|
|Price||Starting at $999||Starting at $899|
|Review score||4.5 out of 5 stars||4 stars out of 5|
Design, display, and durability
Looks are usually very subjective, but this year we can at least acknowledge that Google has gone for a completely new design with the Pixel 6 Pro, while Apple has largely stuck with its guns for the iPhone 13 Pro. That is, the iPhone features the same flat-edged sides as the iPhone 12 series, although the notch at the top of its display is 20% smaller (not that it makes a massive difference). By contrast, while the Pixel 6 Pro does have a familiar edge-to-edge display (with a punch-hole selfie camera at the top center), its rear has been completely renovated. This now features a camera bar/visor that runs horizontally across the back of the phone and houses the device’s three camera lenses (and flashlight). It looks very striking, and when combined with the sleek glass back, it makes the Pixel look like a decidedly premium and sophisticated device.
Speaking of being a premium device, the Pixel 6 Pro offers a 6.71-inch AMOLED display, in contrast to the OLED variants used on last year’s Pixel 5 (and on the iPhone 13 Pro). This allows it to display some beautifully deep blacks and rich colors, and when combined with a 120Hz refresh rate, it looks very alluring indeed. On top of this, with a resolution of 3120 x 1440 pixels, it packs 512 pixels per inch. This is in contrast to the 460 ppi of the iPhone 13 Pro, which doesn’t look quite as lush, even if it’s no slouch. However, while you might think this gives the Pixel the superior screen, our review found issues with jittering when using its 120Hz mode, an issue exacerbated by a variety of third-party apps. When combined with its unreliable in-screen fingerprint sensor, this takes the Pixel’s display down a notch.
When it comes to durability, both phones carry an official IP68 rating, so you can dip them in up to 1.5 meters of water for as long as 30 minutes. This puts things on a level footing, and so does the fact that the Pixel’s prettier design is balanced out by its occasionally disappointing display.
Performance, battery life, and charging
Both devices stand at the forefront of smartphone performance this year. The Pixel 6 Pro runs on the Google Tensor chip, which uses 5nm transistors and is more than fast enough to handle all of the latest games, applications, and functions, particularly when married to the 12GB of RAM that also comes with the phone. Likewise, the iPhone 13 Pro’s A15 Bionic chip is similarly capable, and while the iPhone comes with only 6GB of RAM, differences in how its software operates mean that it will be pretty much as fast as the Pixel.
It’s worth noting that the iPhone 13 Pro and Pixel 6 Pro both contain 128GB of internal memory as standard, although the Pixel can be bumped up to 512GB, while the iPhone goes as far as 1TB. This will of course cost extra, with the 1TB version of the iPhone selling for $1,499 (as opposed to $999 for the 128GB version). Neither phone has a slot for microSD cards, so you may need to be careful (or use a cloud service) if you happen to be a compulsive photographer.
Moving to the battery, the iPhone 13 Pro can go for two days at a stretch with a single charge, assuming you don’t use it too heavily. As for the Pixel 6 Pro, its battery is bigger than the iPhone’s (5,003mAh vs. 3,125mAh), but we found it can last around a day and a half without recharging, it still doesn’t have quite as much stamina as the iPhone.
Because battery life is so important in this day and age, we’re giving this round to the iPhone 13 Pro, even if performance is otherwise comparable across both devices.
Winner: iPhone 13 Pro
The camera has always been the Pixel’s strong point, and it seems that Google has tried to capitalize on this with the Pixel 6 Pro. It features a triple-lens rear setup, comprising a 50-megapixel wide lens, a 12MP ultrawide, and a 48MP telephoto lens. The iPhone 13 Pro also goes with a triple-lens array, although in its case each camera (wide, ultrawide, and telephoto) contains only 12MP.
You might therefore suppose that the Pixel has the edge over the iPhone as far as taking impressive photos is concerned. Well, in practice it’s not quite so straightforward, since software always plays a big part in determining camera performance. For example, while our tests with the Pixel 6 Pro up to this point have found that it generally takes excellent, detailed photos in the vast majority of cases, we found the same with the iPhone 13 Pro, even if its specs aren’t superficially as impressive.
That said, a later and very thorough camera comparison test we conducted found that the Pixel 6 Pro does actually beat the iPhone 13 Pro in most categories. The difference isn’t massive, but from interior and exterior environments to zoomed shots and portraits, the Pixel 6 Pro won in nearly every bracket. As such, this round goes to Google’s device, not that the iPhone 13 Pro isn’t a great camera phone itself. It’s just that the 6 Pro is that good.
Winner: Pixel 6 Pro
Software and updates
We all know the drill when it comes to comparing software: iOS and Android are both good in different ways, and choosing a favorite all depends on what you’re already used to and your priorities. Needless to say, Android 12 — which the Pixel 6 Pro uses out of the box — offers one of the best updates that stock Android has seen in years, incorporating a revamped design, a new notification shade, support for digital car keys, and lots of nifty features for the camera (such as Magic Eraser). Conversely, iOS 15 provides the iPhone 13 Pro with some welcome new features of its own, with Focus Mode (letting you set customized do-not-disturb modes for different situations) being a particular highlight.
However, iPhones still have the advantage in terms of updates. While Google has committed to providing the Pixel 6 Pro with three core software updates (taking you up to Android 15), the iPhone 13 Pro is likely to get double this amount. Indeed, the iPhone 6S — released in 2015 — has received this year’s iOS 15, highlighting just how much lifespan iPhones have if you’re the type of person who really likes to get their dollar’s worth.
Winner: iPhone 13 Pro
Both phones have 5G, including support for the faster mmWave 5G bands. This covers all carriers, which is unlike what you find with the standard Pixel 6, which doesn’t support mmWave on T-Mobile.
Other than that, the Pixel 6 Pro takes the lead in terms of special features. It offers a wealth of software-based tricks and tweaks, ranging from the aforementioned Magic Eraser (letting you Photoshop pics) and Motion Mode (bringing movement to photos), to Wait Times and Direct My Call, both of which take the hassle out of calling toll-free numbers and navigating automated phone menus.
These feature may all be fairly minor, but together, they transform the Pixel 6 Pro into a seriously useful and convent device. By contrast, the iPhone 13 Pro falls back on recurring special features such as Face ID and Memojis, which are nice enough, but hardly new.
Winner: Pixel 6 Pro
Price and availability
The Apple iPhone 13 Pro is currently available from Apple, and prices start from $999. Pretty much every retailer sells it, while all major carriers support it on their networks.
The Pixel 6 Pro begins from $899, with the 512GB version rising to $1,099. It can be ordered directly from Google, while it will also be widely available elsewhere and supported by all major networks.
Overall winner: Apple iPhone 13 Pro
The Apple iPhone 13 Pro is the winner here, and while it’s fairly close, it’s still quite decisive. It offers a longer-lasting battery than the Pixel 6 Pro, a more consistent (and stunning) 120Hz-capable display, and a guarantee of longer update support. At the same time, both devices are evenly matched in terms of speed and performance, although the Pixel does boast a more interesting design and an even more impressive camera.
Sure, if you prefer Android we would certainly agree that the Pixel 6 Pro is worth more than a look, not least because it offers some very clever software. We hope it marks the start of Google devoting more time and attention to its smartphones, because it’s definitely the best it has produced to date.
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