How Does the Pixel 6 Stack Up Against the iPhone 13?

How Does the Pixel 6 Stack Up Against the iPhone 13?
Image: Lifehacker (Screenshots: Marques Brownlee), Fair Use

Google’s latest phones, the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, are finally here. You can even head to their online store right now to preorder your model! But do you really know what phone you want? Have you made a decision between the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro — and, if so, are you sure you wouldn’t be better served by picking up the equivalent iPhone 13 device? Let’s take a look at what sets all these phones apart, so you can make an informed choice.

Because Google won’t allow reviewers to review the new Pixels yet, we’re basing this comparison on the specs we know about. In some areas we won’t know exactly how Apple and Google’s phones match up until we’re able to test them both, head-to-head. This information lockdown has rubbed some reviewers the wrong way; creators like Marques Brownlee call it “a bit of a red flag,” while others have refused to cover the new Google devices altogether. We’re doing what we can with what we have.

Price

Let’s start with the price, since this is the area where Google is most competitive. The Pixel 6 launches for only AU$999, undercutting the iPhone 13 by $350, and the 13 mini by $200. The 6 Pro is a bit more expensive, launching at AU$1,299 — still $400 cheaper than the iPhone 13 Pro, and $550 cheaper than the 13 Pro Max.

If you’re looking to spend the least amount of money on a great phone, your choice is obvious; the Pixel 6 packs a lot of features into a $999 phone. While the 6 Pro is certainly enticing, and we will enumerate its unique features below, you’ll need to ask yourself if those benefits are worth the extra $300. The same could be said for the iPhone. Are the iOS ecosystem and all the other plusses that come with the 13 worth an extra $350 (or more) over a Pixel 6? Let’s explore.

Performance

One of the year’s biggest announcements from Pixel-world is Google’s Tensor chip; the processor was developed from the ones Google uses for its search engine machine learning, promising a big improvement from Pixel processors of years past.

Unfortunately, it’s too early to say how Tensor will stack up against Apple’s A15 chip. The entire iPhone 13 series packs the same powerful chip into their varying form factors, so you can’t go wrong in that regard whichever you choose. We’ll need to wait until we can test the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro to determine whether it matches, exceeds, or falls behind the iPhones here. If processing power is your most important feature, definitely wait to buy.

We also know how much RAM each of these devices has, although that’s less of an important comparison between Android and iPhone devices. The two OSs handle RAM management differently, so it’s not a fair or informed argument to say more RAM in an Android device equals more performance over an iPhone.

Still, it’s worth noting: the Pixel 6 comes with 8 GB of RAM, while the 6 Pro features 12 GB. The iPhone 13 and 13 mini, on the other hand, sport 4 GB of RAM each, while the 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max come with 6 GB.

Camera: Photography

Pixel and iPhone have long fought fiercely in the camera department. For years, the Pixel was the undeniable photography champ, but in recently, the the fight has looked more like a draw.

The Pixel 6 and 6 Pro pack a 50 MP main shooter and a 12 MP ultra wide camera. If you spring for the Pro, you also get a 48 MP telephoto camera with 4x optical zoom. For selfies, the Pixel 6 features an 8 MP camera, while the 6 Pro upgrades to an 11.1 MP option.

Both the wide and ultra wide cameras on the iPhone 13 and 13 mini are 12 MP; the 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max have the same, plus one 12 MP telephoto camera capable of 3x optical zoom, meaning you won’t be able to get as close to your subject as with the Pixel 6 Pro without digital cropping. The front cameras are the same 12 MP shooter on all four new iPhones.

The Pixels also come with the new “Magic Eraser” feature, which can intelligently delete people or objects in your photos you don’t want there. You also get Face Unblur, which uses machine learning to sharpen up a blurry face in a photo. How well these features work is yet to be determined, but there’s no contest here; you simply won’t see options like those on an iPhone 13.

Camera: Video

As competitive as the photography wars have been, video is one area Pixel has always lagged behind. While the iPhone still hasn’t added some video features other Android devices have, like 8K, it shoots some of, if not the best, video on any smartphone.

Dieter Bohn of The Verge claims that during his hands-on experience with the Pixel 6, the video he recorded was excellent. He wasn’t allowed to elaborate much, but he alluded to the fact that the Pixel 6 might be the smartphone shooter to beat this year. We’ll have to see if that’s true once reviewers are allowed to reveal more about their video tests.

Display

The OLED displays in these smartphones are certainly competitive. The Pixel 6 features a 6.4-inch 1080 x 2340 HDR display at 411 ppi (pixels per inch) with a maximum 90 Hz refresh rate. The 6 Pro’s HDR display is bigger and sharper, coming in at 6.7 inches, with a resolution of 1440 x 3120 at 512 ppi and a maximum refresh rate of 120 Hz. Google hasn’t revealed brightness stats for its new Pixels yet.

The iPhone 13 mini has the same exact resolution HDR display as the Pixel 6, coming in with 1080 x 2340 at a higher 476 ppi. The 13 and 13 Pro, on the other hand, have a 1170 x 2532 resolution at 460 ppi, while the 13 Pro Max has a 1284 x 2778 resolution at 458 ppi. The 13 and 13 mini can reach 800 nits of typical brightness, while the 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max reach 1,000 nits typical. All models reach 1,200 nits for HDR.

One area you’ll notice a difference is the refresh rate. The Pixel 6’s 90 Hz will look smoother than the iPhone 13 or 13 mini’s 60 Hz. The 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max, on the other hand, have the same 120 Hz refresh rate as the Pixel 6 Pro, so there’s no winner there.

Software

Well, the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro run Android, of course — Android 12 to be specific. The latest update to Google’s OS promises to add some fun new features and changes, like the beautiful Material You UI design, privacy and security updates, and options like scrolling screenshots.

The iPhone 13 series, on the other hand, runs iOS 15, Apple’s latest version of iOS. This update brings a host of new features, such as Focus modes, Shared With You, and FaceTime links for Android and Windows users, among others.

Look, there’s no getting around the issue here; if you need iOS, you have to buy an iPhone. If you need Android, you have to buy an Android device like the Pixel. However, if you are flexible on your choice of OS (which not many people these days seem to be) you free yourself up greatly.

Battery

Battery life is a major factor for many smartphone users. Until the new Pixels can be tested, we won’t know what kind of strain Android 12 and the Tensor chip will put on the batteries. But we do know the stats: The Pixel 6 comes with a 4,614 mAh battery, while the Pro comes with a 5,003 mAh battery.

Apple never advertises its battery sizes, but thanks to teardowns, we know the numbers; the 13 comes with a 3,240 mAh battery; the 13 mini ships with 2,438 mAh battery; the 13 Pro has a 3,095 mAh battery; and the 13 Pro Max has a 4,352 mAh battery. While the numbers are certainly lower on paper, reviewers have lauded the entire 13 lineup this year for their exceptional battery life. We’ll have to see if the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro can match or exceed their performance.

Colours

I’m not sure how many people would make a decision between iPhone and Pixel based on the colours alone, but it’s worth pointing out. The Pixel 6 comes in Sorta Seafoam, Kinda Coral, and Stormy Black. The 6 Pro comes in Cloudy White, Sorta Sunny, and Stormy Black.

The iPhones come in a variety of colours of their own. The 13 and 13 mini ship in (PRODUCT) RED, Starlight, Midnight, Blue, and Pink, while the 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max come in Graphite, Gold, Silver, and Sierra Blue.

Updates

Google announced the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro would receive up to three years of software updates, as well as five years of security updates. While three years is certainly better than some Android devices get, it’s nothing compared to Apple’s commitment to its phones: The oldest iPhone iOS 15 supports is the 6S, which Apple released way back in 2015 (for context, that phone launched with iOS 9, meaning Apple has supported those phones with seven new versions of its software). If that trend holds for the iPhone 13, you can expect the devices to run up to iOS 21, and perhaps beyond.

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