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Android 13 on the Pixel 6 Pro is a brilliant upgrade -- with one exception

After using Android 13 on his Pixel 6 Pro for a few days, Jack Wallen shares the good and the bad of Google's upgraded mobile OS.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
Android 13 logo on a phone on a table with small Android robot in the background.
Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

My Pixel 6 Pro finally received Android 13 the other day and I've been putting it through the paces. I already knew what to expect from the upgrade (as I've been following it and reporting on it for various sources), so none of the new additions came as a surprise. 

And although Android 13 isn't nearly the game-changer that Android 12 was, it's still an impressive upgrade to the operating system.

But what are my first impressions of the Android 13/Pixel 6 Pro combination? I thought I'd share them with you, so you can get a good idea of what's coming when your device receives the update (or maybe sway your opinion -- one way or the other -- on purchasing a Pixel 6 Pro). 

Also: One year later, the Google Pixel 6 Pro is still Google's best smartphone

With that said, let's just jump right into my impressions. This isn't going to be about new features and Android 13 itself, but how it performs on the Pixel 6 Pro (my daily driver). We'll start with the good and finish up with the bad.

The Good

It's so smooth

What Android 12 did for the look of the platform, Android 13 did for the feel. Every animation in Android is buttery-smooth in the latest upgrade. We're talking iOS-level silkiness. This is the first time I would say the animations in Android are on par with those in iOS. That's saying something because iOS animations have always bested Android by a long shot. You might think this is nothing more than an aesthetic change, but it goes beyond that. With the smoother animations, there's less lag and pause when moving between apps or other actions, which makes the OS much more efficient to use. So not only does Android 13 make your device look better, it makes it behave better. 

The fingerprint sensor

Thank goodness Google fixed the dreadful responsiveness of the Pixel 6 Pro fingerprint sensor. Before Android 13 the biometric unlock almost always failed on the first try. Now, it's spot-on just about every time. But more than the improvements to the accuracy, it's just faster. Fingerprint unlocking on the Pixel 6 Pro is now as fast as it was on the Pixel 5 (which was practically immediate). That issue was probably one of the most glaring problems with Android 12 on the Pixel 6 Pro, so Google resolving the problem will cause every user to release a sigh of relief.

Overall performance

The Pixel 6 Pro was already a high-performing device. I've been using Pixel phones since the first iteration and of every version I've used, the Pixel 6 Pro is the fastest, most responsive phone in the lineup. With Android 13 on the device, it gets the slightest bump in performance. Apps open just marginally faster and respond with a bit more pep. Given how well the device performed with Android 12, I didn't expect a massive improvement in the area of performance. But even the slightest bump is impressive.

No more dropped sound in calls

One issue that has been pretty common with Pixel devices is that during a phone conversation it was almost inevitable that, at some point, the person on the other end would no longer be able to hear me. This problem has occurred with every Pixel phone I've received and was always fixed when the device received a major upgrade. The same thing holds true with the Pixel 6 Pro and Version 13 of Android. I no longer have to worry about hearing those I call, out of the blue, saying, "Are you there? I can't hear you."

Much-improved sharing

The feature I want to mention probably won't be important to most users. Nevertheless, I take a lot of screenshots and share them to a folder named SCREENSHOTS in Google Drive. With Android 13, that process is made considerably easier as the AI learns that's where I tend to do most of my sharing of screenshots. So now, when I go to share a screenshot, it automatically gives me the option of sharing directly to that directory. Given how often I repeat this action, it makes my workflow considerably easier.

Thank you, Google. Now, let's see if you can drop that pattern with the release of the Pixel 7.

Also: Pixel 7 Pro vs Pixel 6 Pro: Should you upgrade?

The Bad

Fortunately, there isn't a whole lot of bad to be had here. Even so, I must say there's one glaringly bad change that concerns me…

Battery life

Prior to the upgrade to Android 13, my Pixel 6 Pro would go from me waking to going to bed with the battery rarely dipping below 60%. I've already seen a couple of days where, by the time I put the phone on the charger at the end of the day, my battery was around 25%. That's a significant change.

I'm hoping this is all about the AI having to relearn my behaviors. The reason why I think that is because after those first few days I've noticed the battery life starting to edge back to what it previously was. Even still, by end of the day, I'm looking at 40% to 50% battery life. That's still pretty good, to be able to go from 7 AM to 10 PM and still have nearly half of my battery life left, but it's still a noticeable degradation in the battery life. Here's hoping the built-in AI can resolve that issue.

Missing bits

Before the full release, it was rumored that we might finally see facial recognition come to the Pixel 6 Pro. Nope. Also missing are the back gestures that promised to be a bit more interactive.

Where's the transparency?

One thing I cannot believe Google hasn't bothered with is bringing back the transparency option that was once available to the Notification Shade and App Drawer. In my opinion, it just looks more modern (as opposed to the solid white background we get now). I'd really like to see that feature come back…but that's just my opinion and really has nothing to do with Android 13. The reason why I bring it up is to make it seem like this take on Android 13 wasn't so biased in favor. 

Why? Because there's very little bad to find in the Android 13/Pixel 6 Pro combination. Other than the battery life (which will probably improve), I've found Android 13 to be a brilliant upgrade on the Pixel line of devices. With that in mind, I highly recommend everyone with a Pixel 6 Pro go ahead with the upgrade to Android 13. Even if you do experience the same battery issue as I have, that should go away as the AI learns your habits.

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