Skip to main content

Google’s Pixel 6 Pro has quickly usurped the iPhone 13 Pro as my go-to camera

I’ve spent several weeks with the Google Pixel 6 Pro now, and even more time with the Apple iPhone 13 Pro, two of the very best new smartphones you can buy at the moment. The iPhone has always been my default smartphone for photography when I’m not reviewing a new device, but I don’t think the iPhone 13 Pro is Apple’s best, and spending more time with the Pixel 6 Pro has only reinforced that opinion.

The iPhone 13 Pro is just not quite good enough

The iPhone 13 Pro’s camera is very good, but the Pixel 6 Pro’s camera is better, and I do think the iPhone 12 Pro’s camera was better too. It was the iPhone 12 Pro’s camera that made me reach for the iPhone when I wanted a brilliant photo in almost any situation, but now having had the Pixel 6 Pro in my pocket and seeing just what it can do (and what the iPhone 13 Pro can’t) Google’s top smartphone has become my choice.

Related Videos
iPhone 13 Pro wide-angle photo.
iPhone 13 Pro wide-angle photo Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Here’s a wide-angle photo to illustrate my point. The first is shot on the iPhone 13 Pro and it isn’t great. The sky is blown out, the grass is dreary and cold, and the distortion makes the house in the background an homage to the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I wouldn’t think about sharing the picture on social media, at least not without trying to improve the way it looks with a filter or editing.

Pixel 6 Pro wide-angle photo.
Pixel 6 Pro wide-angle photo Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The second shot above was taken with the Google Pixel 6 Pro just a few seconds after the iPhone 13 Pro’s photo. The sky has been balanced far more attractively, the grass is green and warm, the house isn’t quite so angled, and the general tone and feeling is of a fall day, while the iPhone 13 Pro’s photo is of a harsh winter’s day. The iPhone 13 Pro’s wider-angle camera is obvious, though. Forced to share one without editing, it would be the Pixel 6 Pro’s photo, and it was more representative of real life too.

iPhone 13 Pro close-up photo.
iPhone 13 Pro close-up photo. Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

I don’t want this to turn into a Pixel 6 Pro vs. iPhone 13 Pro camera story, but I will say that the iPhone 13 Pro does beat the Pixel 6 Pro in some areas. In particular, if the subject is up close, the iPhone wipes the floor with the Pixel 6 Pro. The photos of the leaves here really show the iPhone 13 Pro can take stunning, beautiful photos when everything is exactly right.

Pixel 6 Pro close-up photo.
Pixel 6 Pro close-up photo Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

However, the times when the iPhone 13 Pro does beat the Pixel are few and far between, so it hasn’t endeared itself to me. I have found myself longing for the Pixel 6 Pro when I have another Android phone with me alongside the iPhone, and I’ve never had that feeling before, as, despite the prowess of older Pixel phones, the iPhone’s camera has always suited my taste more. Not so this year. I have used and enjoyed the Pixel’s special camera modes more than the iPhone’s Cinematic video mode too.

Wonderful software

Is my appreciation of the Pixel 6 Pro only based on the camera? No, the Android 12 software has also helped shape my positive opinion of the Google Pixel 6 Pro since it was released. What attracted me most, and continues to make living with the phone so pleasing, is its relative simplicity. Google’s Material You design isn’t intrusive, makes good use of space around fonts and options, and presents everything in a very clear manner.

iPhone 13 Pro and Pixel 6 Pro in hand.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Notifications are a good example of how friendly Android 12 is on the Pixel 6 Pro. The always-on screen shows icons for current notifications, and when you press the power key a pretty fade-in animation shows more detail. If the phone is unlocked you can press the arrow icon to expand notifications, and almost all are ready for some degree of interaction without going into the right app. When you clear your notifications, you can choose a massive clock to show on the sleeping screen, which is then overlaid on your wallpaper when you wake it up. Plus, everything is shown in colors that complement that wallpaper.

It’s lovely, but crucially, it’s fast too. Attractive animations and designs aren’t unusual on Android phones, but speed and reliability can be more hit-or-miss. The Pixel 6 Pro has performed without a problem for me, with none of the bugs some others have highlighted showing up at all. Meanwhile, I continue to have an annoying bug on the iPhone 13 Pro, where the Settings menu freezes upon opening, requiring not one but two forced closures before it works again.

Pixel 6 Pro lock screen and wallpaper.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

For me, Android was always functional but never very pretty, and to make it attractive, you had to spend time customizing it. I’m not a designer, so even when doing this, the results were mostly mediocre. Android 12, on the other hand, is pretty right out of the box, and by adding your own wallpaper, the operating system comes alive, all without any messing around.

Waiting for an update

Has life in Pixel-land been all sunshine? No, the fingerprint sensor’s “enhanced security” makes it slow and annoying, and the update which Google had mentioned was incoming to perhaps speed it up has not arrived on my phone yet. I’ve lessened the pain of the sensor’s slowness by relying on Smart Lock unlocking the phone based on location and proximity, but it is far from the perfect solution. I’m still using my PIN to unlock this phone far more than on any other in recent memory. I’m very much looking forward to finding out how Google tweaks the fingerprint sensor when the update arrives, as it’s the worst part of ownership so far.

The battery has continued to impress, though, with general use over the past week or so, resulting in two days’ use before I need to recharge the phone. This is a good thing as there’s no fast charging. The way I live my life at the moment means this isn’t a problem for me, personally, but I do miss how transformative I found the OnePlus 9 Pro’s ultra-fast charging. Plug that phone in for 30 minutes, and the battery is full, while I’m back to plugging the Pixel 6 Pro in overnight. It’s wasteful and — as the OnePlus proved — unnecessary on a modern smartphone.

A month into using the Pixel 6 Pro and the $899 price is looking like even better value than it already did. The camera and the software continue to shine, and the battery isn’t the drawback here as it was on older Pixel phones. If you’re still thinking about getting a Pixel 6 Pro but aren’t quite convinced, I consider the Pixel 6 Pro to be the best phone Google has made, and for the first time, I want to continue using it, and that’s not something I’ve ever felt about a Pixel phone before.

Editors' Recommendations

I love the Galaxy S23 — here are 5 things the iPhone still does better
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra and Apple iPhone 14 Pro

Samsung’s Galaxy S23 has arrived to the masses, and it’s one of the best Android phones you can get right now, especially the S23 Ultra. However, for those who don’t need all of the fancy bells and whistles, like the S Pen and 200MP main camera, the regular S23 is also plenty powerful for the average person, especially if you prefer smaller devices.

I’ve been using the Galaxy S23 for the past few weeks, and so far, my experience has been delightful. I know that it’s still early on in the year, but for me, the S23’s small size is perfect and comfortable. Android also does a lot of things better than iOS, like individual volume controls and notifications, for example. But I am still primarily using my iPhone 14 Pro — despite Apple having some big flaws, such as overprocessing images after you capture them.

Read more
The one thing the iPhone 14, Galaxy S23, and Pixel 7 all get wrong
Apple iPhone SE (2020) being plugged in to charge.

At Mobile World Congress (MWC) this year, new smartphones broke cover as one would expect. I won't bore you with all the details; Digital Trends' Joe Maring and Jacob Roach wrote an excellent roundup of all the best MWC 2023 announcements already.

One key quality-of-life-improving feature we picked up on as a theme was charging speed. Apple, Samsung, and Google, the mainstream phone brands by coverage (even if not all by sales), stick to a fast-charging average speed of just over an hour — even with the latest iPhone 14, Galaxy S23, and Pixel 7. By comparison, a phone from Xiaomi, Oppo, or OnePlus can get you moving in 30 minutes or even less. It's time to demand more from our phones.
Fast charging exists — just not for you

Read more
I created the perfect iPhone home screen — and you can too
iPhone 14 Pro with custom home screen icons and widgets

With iOS 14, Apple began to open the floodgates for software customization on the iPhone. For the first time, you could add widgets to the home screen and even change app icons to custom ones without the need for a jailbreak. And iOS 16 gave us some more customization options in the form of the lock screen, although the interface for that is su-par, to say the least.

While I see a lot of people still use a stock grid layout on their home screen, I took some time when iOS 14 first came out to customize my iOS experience. I enjoy that it’s not just a boring grid of stock icons — having custom icons and widgets really mix things up a bit and gives me a more informative home screen.

Read more