Pixel 6 Pro: (Very) First Impressions
My Pixel 6 Pro arrived yesterday, and I switched everything over last night and have been playing with it since. I haven’t had enough time with it to do everything that it’s capable of, but in the time I have had it, I have formed some definite opinions and first thoughts. Let me tell you about them, with the caveat that they are first impressions, not final thoughts, and therefore may change over time. Got it? Let’s dive in.
1. Holy shit is this phone big. I went with the Pixel 6 Pro because I do a lot of photography with my phone and of the two new Pixel phones, the Pro is the one with the most complete camera package (a 50MP standard camera, a 12MP ultrawide and a 48MP telephoto with 4x optical/20x digital zoom), and I really wanted that upgrade. I got it knowing it would be large, but I wasn’t quite prepared for how large it would be, particularly in comparison to the Pixel 5 that I came to it from. You can see the difference visually between the two of them in the above picture, but what you can’t see is the weight difference (substantial!) and also the difference in how one has to navigate the world with these phones. The P5 is pocketable and designed so that you don’t really have to worry if you drop the thing. The P6P, on the other hand, is glass on both sides and feels like it’s trying to escape one’s grip. It’s the first phone that I immediately put a case on and paid for the repair and replacement warranty, because I think it’s a question of when, not if, I drop and crack the thing.
I don’t love that! I don’t regret getting the P6P, but it’s definitely the largest phone I have ever had. That’s going to take some getting used to. The standard Pixel 6 is not that much smaller, so even going “down” to that would still have the same problems, size-wise. I’m kind of hoping that when the Pixel 7 rolls around, they might have a more modestly-sized phone back on the menu. In the meantime, it’ll be a while until I’m completely comfortable with a phone this huge.
2. Is what I’m getting out of the new camera set-up worth the size/mass increase in the phone? Early indications point to yes — particularly with that new 4x optical telephoto, which makes the phone a far more capable shooter than it was before, when one had to rely on Google’s software to make a digital zoom work. Google’s digital zoom tech is pretty good, but it’s not as good as an optical zoom. Here’s an example of the zoom at 4x, with the picture otherwise unedited:
It’s pretty nice! Good sharpness, not a lot of “watercolor effect,” and nice color and clarity. I’ll have to take a bunch more pictures with it in a number of different circumstances before I come to any final decision — I haven’t even looked at the new “motion blur” options the camera offers yet — but I can say that so far I like the look of every picture I have taken with the Pixel 6 Pro. The camera, so far anyway, is living up to the billing.
(And since people will ask, I’m fine with the beefy camera bar on the back. One, it means the phone doesn’t wobble when you put it down, which is a plus, and two, I have a case on the camera which means it’s rather less prominent than it might otherwise be.)
3. The Pixel 2 and 3 had a fingerprint scanner on the back of the phone, which I loved. The Pixel 4 did not and replaced it with facial recognition, which I did not love, because it was finicky and also didn’t work with masks. The Pixel 5 returned the back fingerprint scanner and I once again loved it. Now the Pixel 6 (and Pro) have moved the fingerprint scanner onto the screen in the front and… I don’t love it. It’s more finicky and slower than the back scanner and also is light-operated, which means if you use it in bed in the middle of the night, you get zapped in the face with a bright light. Yes, very briefly, but still. I also don’t find the placement of the on-screen fingerprint scanner very convenient, although others have said they like it. The phone does feature the ability to “double-tap” the back in order to do various things, which I do like; I have it set to bring up notifications.
4. The Pixel 6 Pro’s screen is a) huge and pixel-dense, b) pretty bright, c) able to refresh at up to 120Hz. Lots of people find the latter pretty impressive, although so far, honestly, I can’t tell that much difference between it and the Pixel 5’s 90Hz refresh rate. Maybe my eyes just aren’t that sharp. Also, it really matters which apps you’re using; the Twitter Android app, for example, seems to catch and snag when I scroll through it, no matter what the screen refresh rate is. So: Meh? It’s a nice screen! It’s fine! But apparently after a certain point I just can’t tell how “fast” the screen is.
5. Battery life on the P6P so far is… fine. Not as impressive as the Pixel 5, which for how I used it really seemed to sip power, but on the other hand I charged the P6P last night and have been using it reasonably heavily in the 16 hours since then and it’s at 34%, which is… fine! Not great. But fine. Pixel battery life does tend to improve after a bit because the phone learns how you use it and tweaks power commensurately, so I expect it to improve moderately from here. But I don’t expect to be amazed with it like I was with the previous Pixel phone.
6. And that’s about it for now — there are lots of new capabilities of the P6P that I haven’t tried out yet (no one to try out the new on-the-fly Google Translate function with, for example, and I have yet to call a service number so as to employ the new “transcribe and hold for you” capability, and so on). Again, these are early impressions. After I live with the phone a bit longer, I’ll have more to say.
Should you upgrade to the Pixel 6 Pro, or its slightly smaller sibling, the Pixel 6? Well, if you’re already used to really large phones, and it’s been a couple of upgrade cycles since your last phone, and you want a very excellent new camera set-up, then either is worth your look. If you like smaller phones and/or are happy with your current phone, I’d say you’re probably fine not. Make no mistake, I’m looking forward to what my new phone can do, with its cameras and everything else. I just wish it were smaller.