The Pixel 6 Pro is the best smartphone available from Google, see our full review, but that doesn't mean it is the best smartphone for everyone. It also is not the best smartphone available across the market that includes phones from Apple and Samsung. Some things can be fixed with software updates, but other parts are hardware-related so you need to decide if they are important to you or not.
I pre-ordered a Pixel 6 Pro and it arrived a couple of weeks ago. My return deadline is tomorrow and it's all boxed up and ready to head back to Google. Readers know my primary daily driver is the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 and while I wasn't looking for the Pixel 6 Pro to replace it on T-Mobile, I thought it could serve as my Google Fi primary device. At the $1,000 price point, it's too expensive to keep as a second phone given the many areas where the phone let me down.
Camera performance is a major focus for smartphone makers today, but there is much more to a smartphone than just the camera. Given there will be a $50 Black Friday discount on the Pixel 5A 5G , I'm seriously considering picking up that phone for its camera and Google Fi compatibility instead.
Here are the primary reasons I am returning the Google Pixel 6 Pro. A couple of these may be addressed with software updates, but I'm not willing to spend the money to find out at this time.
- Slow charging: Yesterday I used the Pixel 6 Pro for taking photos, making Teams calls, email, text messaging, and more while out on a boat for nine hours so at the end of the workday the battery was down to 24%. I plugged it into the rental car charger and drove 40 minutes to the hotel. The battery only went up to 38% and then in the hotel, it took more than an hour to get up to 85%. I haven't seen a phone charge this slowly in a long time and can't deal with battery anxiety in 2021.
- Average battery life: The Pixel 6 Pro has a 5,000mAh battery so it should easily get you through a full day with at least six hours of screen-on time. I'm seeing four to almost five hours SOT and a battery that is very low at the end of the day. Combined with slow charging, it's not the phone for me.
- RF reception: Connectivity is important to me since I spend a lot of time commuting and traveling for work. Samsung and OnePlus have always excelled in cellular reception performance so I use them as the standard. Using the Pixel 6 Pro side-by-side has revealed that it lags and drops the signal when my Z Fold 3 continues to keep me connected. I even saw the Pixel drop to 3G before losing the connection. I understand that Google is using an older generation Qualcomm X55 modem while my Z Fold 3, and other 2021 devices, have a newer X60 modem inside.
- Unreliable fingerprint sensor: I did not install a screen protector, but the under-display fingerprint sensor has been unreliable with a success rate of about 40%. I love the side sensor on the Z Fold 3 and even the rear sensor on older Pixel phones that work 100% of the time. There isn't even an option for face unlock on the Pixel 6 Pro so it has been frustrating trying to use a secure lock on the device.
- Speaker volume and quality: I typically use headphones when listing to music or watch movies, but I do like having solid speakers for phone calls. Despite having stereo speakers on the Pixel 6 Pro, the top speaker (built into the phone headset speaker) is very weak so the overall speaker experience is just average. Apple and Samsung excel in this area and Google's flagship should be competing at that level for $1,000.
- Random Spotify outbursts: For some reason, Spotify randomly starts playing my last paused music at random times on the Pixel 6 Pro. I have the same version of Spotify on my other phones that do not do this so I don't think it is the application. Having AC/DC blast while sleeping or during a meeting is not an enjoyable experience. This seems like it could be fixed with a software update.
- Scrolling not quite there: Putting my Z Fold 3, both displays, side-by-side with the Pixel 6 Pro, and having both connected to WiFi shows that quickly scrolling up and down the display is a more seamless experience on the Z Fold 3. When I first started using the Pixel 6 Pro I thought the experience was a bit different, but it wasn't until I put them next to each other that I confirmed something is keeping the Pixel from behaving as a 120Hz refresh rate should.
- Big, slippery, and curved edges: The Pixel 6 Pro must be put into a case or it will slide off of just about any surface and out of your hands. It is an extremely slippery phone and there are no matte finish options. It is also a very large phone and even the Pixel 6 is too big for many people. I'm done with curved edges and have been spoiled by my flat screens on the Z Fold 3. Overall, I'm just not a fan of the design of the Pixel 6 Pro.
- Cameras aren't always great: I've shot quite a few photos on multiple phones to see how the Pixel 6 Pro did and while it regularly bests the other phones (fairly subjective depending on what you like in an image) I have also experienced poor shots when I expected better. When I travel I take food shots to share great meals with my family and in most of these some food items are in focus and others are not. It hasn't done very well with close subjects and I haven't been impressed enough to accept the other compromises for the camera alone.
We all have different needs for our smartphones and some of my concerns above may not apply to your situation. There are also a few that are simply the way the phone was built and you also need to decide if it is a trade-off you are willing to make for the camera and long-term updates from Google.
When Google launched its pre-orders I bought a Sorta Seaform Pixel 6 for my wife, thinking she would appreciate the camera and an upgrade to her Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra . After just two days she handed it back to me and told me to return it and give her back the S20 Ultra. Her primary issues were that it was too slow and unresponsive, the cell signal was not as good as Samsung, and it was too slippery. I was pretty surprised by her lack of enthusiasm for the handy Google software elements.
I'm curious if you think my feedback on the Pixel 6 Pro is blinded by my fascination with the Galaxy Z Fold 3 . Have you experienced any of these issues with the Pixel 6 Pro? Are there other aspects of the phone that caused you to skip purchasing one or returning it as well?