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Google Pixel 6 Pro vs Apple iPhone 13 Pro: Which Pro phone should you buy?

The Google Pixel Pro 6 and iPhone 13 Pro are both impressive smartphones with timeless design, performance, and camera features. These are the key reasons to buy one over the other.
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Written by Christina Darby, Associate Editor on
Reviewed by June Wan
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Christina Darby/ZDNET

The battle of the Pro phones is here: The Google Pixel 6 Pro versus the iPhone 13 Pro. Both of these smartphones are equipped with features that can make you enhance your daily activities while empowering your professional endeavors. With the cameras being the focal point of both units' external designs, you can expect some of the best in mobile photography to come from the two. 

While both phones are similar in pricing, with the Pixel 6 Pro only $100 cheaper ($899.99) than the $999.99 iPhone 13 Pro, you're still spending a big buck on either device. To help you make the right buying decision, here are the key reasons why you would want to go with one Pro phone over the other. 

Specifications

Google Pixel 6 Pro 

iPhone 13 Pro

Dimensions 

6.5x3x0.4 inches 

5.78x2.81x0.3 inches 

Display 

6.7-inch OLED, 120Hz; 31200 X 1440 pixels, 512 PPI 

6.1-inch OLED, 120Hz, 2532 X 1170 pixels, 457 PPI

Cameras 

50MP Wide, 48MP Telephoto, 12MP Ultra-wide 

12MP main, 12MP Telephoto, 12MP Ultra-wide 

Procesor 

Google Tensor 

Apple A15 Bionic 

RAM 

12GB

6GB 

Storage

Non-expandable, 128GB, 256GB 

Non-expandable, 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB 

Battery 

5,003mAh 

3.095mAh

Unlock Security

Under-display fingerprint sensor 

FaceID recognition

Durability

IP68

IP68

Software

Android 12 

iOS 15.4 

Colors

Cloudy White, Sorta Sunny, Stormy Black

Alpine Green, Silver, Gold, Graphite, Sierra Blue

Price

Starting at $899

Starting at $999


You should buy the Google Pixel 6 Pro if…

1. You want fun and experimental camera features

The Google Pixel has always been known for its exceptional computational photography, and the 6 Pro's camera is nothing less. Upgrading from the now discontinued Google Pixel 5, the Pixel 6 Pro incorporates three new camera lenses and allows for up to 4X optical zoom. Housing the improved sensors is a unique visor look that now defines the Pixel phone lineup.

One standout camera feature on the Pixel 6 Pro is Motion Mode, which allows users to capture a clear photo of a moving object, something you'd typically need a tripod for. Motion Mode includes an "Action Pan" option to dial up the shutter speed and capture fast-moving subjects like cars and subways. There's also a "Long Exposure" option that, like Action Pan, adds a creative blur to the background for a "Pro" look and feel.

Another new and useful feature is Magic Eraser. Like Photoshop's Content Aware Fill, the software trick allows you to magically erase unwanted objects from a photo. Using the feature is as simple as circling what you'd like to erase from your image, whether that's strangers in the background, stain marks, or signage, and the Pixel 6 Pro does the rest. When done correctly, the image will look like it was perfectly captured in the first place.

2. You want a bigger battery  

While Apple's iPhones have made significant improvements to battery life since the early days, the Google Pixel 6 Pro wins the endurance battle. With a 5,003mAh (versus the iPhone's suggested 3,095), the Pixel 6 Pro can withstand a day's use with more ease than Apple's Pro phone. Google says the 6 Pro can support up to 9 hours of YouTube playback with just a single charge, which is close to our in-house experiences. It also helps that the Pixel supports USB-C fast charging, a more standardized method of charging than Apple's proprietary Lightning port.

Also: Google Pixel 6 Pro review: Yup, still Google's best smartphone

Google Pixel Pro 6
CNET

3. You want a sleek, innovative design 

While the iPhone 13 Pro stuck to its traditional, stainless steel design, only adding a larger camera bump, Google's design broke creative boundaries, especially when compared to previous Pixel generations. Featuring a camera bar that stretches across the back, the Pixel camera doesn't take up half of your phone like that of the iPhone 13 Pro. The bar slightly protrudes from the back glass -- about 3mm from the surface -- which keeps the whole device wobble-free when laid flat.

With a Gorilla Glass Victus rear and a curved aluminum-edged frame, the Pixel 6 Pro is sleek and durably built. There's also no notch to distract you from viewing content and, instead of FaceID, the Pixel has an in-screen fingerprint scanner that has proven to function accurately. 

Lastly, the Pixel 6 Pro runs on the latest Android 12 software, with Android 13 on the horizon. With improved theme capabilities, new adaptive widgets, and a slew of Android perks, the Pixel software is both pleasing to the eye and practical. 

You should buy the iPhone 13 Pro if... 

1. You want cinematic camera features

Every year, the new "Pro" iPhone comes with a suite of camera features to justify the branding. The 13 Pro introduces a new Macro Mode for close-up shots, photographic styles for quick color overlays, and Cinematic Mode video recording. 

By using the ultra-wide lens, Macro Mode lets you capture close-up shots of subjects -- as close as just 2 centimeters away -- while keeping things sharp and in focus. It's a nifty camera trick that offers a different perspective than the standard wide angle.

More: How to disable this super annoying camera feature on the iPhone 13 Pro 

The iPhone 13 Pro also features new photographic styles. Different from your typical Instagram filters, these styles change how the iPhone captures photos by placing a cooler, warmer, or even black and white, digital film over the shots. This feature can save you from editing a photo after the fact. 

Lastly, Cinematic Mode shoots videos with a soft, out-of-focus background so that the subject of interest and the depth map are kept separate. With AI processing, the focus can intelligently shift when the subject turns around and his or her back is then facing the camera. Overall, the special mode gives a more movie-like quality to your iPhone videos

2. You own other Apple products (AirPods, Apple Watch, iPad, MacBook, etc.)

There's a reason for Apple's cult following and customer loyalty. Its products have always followed a "strength in numbers" philosophy, enhancing existing services when more than one device is integrated. This interlocking of hardware and software is best described as Apple's walled garden, making it difficult for users to switch out once they're invested.

While not an actual product, the Apple ecosystem is still very much part of the product you purchase when investing in, say, an iPhone. Your Apple ID credentials serve as the ecosystem's life source, allowing you to manage and protect multiple devices effortlessly. If you already own a pair of AirPods, an Apple Watch, or a MacBook, then buying the iPhone 13 Pro will make more sense usability-wise. 

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Image: Apple

3. You want the best software and hardware support

Along with the ecosystem, the purchase of an Apple device also comes with an extensive software update policy and an abundance of physical storefronts for customer service. Apple is notorious for providing timely (and somewhat controversial) iOS updates for as long as seven years after an iPhone is released. Occurring every few months, Apple's regular updates keep your device secure from bugs, security concerns, and other software flaws, while OS updates bring the latest features to your iPhone.

This support extends to the many physical Apple storefronts, equipped with customer service resources and inventory. With over 272 storefronts in the United States, alone, Apple has a variety of stores you can visit for quality assistance and maintenance. That said, if you prefer in-person troubleshooting, an iPhone may be the better pocket Pro for you. 

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