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Google Pixel 7 vs. Pixel 6: Which generation should you buy?

Google's Pixel 7 aims to be the company's new, affordable flagship. But do the new features really outweigh the discounts you can score on last year's model? Let's find out.
Written by Michael Gariffo, Staff Writer on
Pixel 7 and Pixel 6 compared

The new Pixel 7 in the Obsidian color (left) skips the dual-color back featured on the Pixel 6 (right) in favor of a sleeker look.

Image: Google

It's that time of year again. Google's new crop of Pixel 7 smartphones have debuted, meaning it's time for all the smartphone shoppers out there to decide whether they should plonk down their cash for the latest and greatest, or take advantage of the deals and promotions that inevitably come along to clear the shelves of last year's model. Given how little can change from one smartphone generation to the next these days, it's a harder decision than ever to make. Thankfully, we're here to help with spec comparisons and advice on which phone is best for which buyers!

Also: Pixel 7 Pro vs Pixel 6 Pro: Which is the best flagship for you?

Specifications

Google Pixel 7

Google Pixel 6

Display

6.3-inch 1,080x2,400 AMOLED with 90Hz refresh rate   

6.4-inch, 1,080x2,400 AMOLED with 90Hz refresh rate 

Weight

197 g  

207 g

Processor

Google Tensor G2

Google Tensor

RAM/Storage8GB RAM with 128GB/256GB storage8GB RAM with 128GB/256GB storage
Battery4,355 mAh with 30W charging 4,614 mAh with 30W charging
Camera50MP f/1.85 wide, 12MP f/1.25 ultrawide, 10.8MP f/2.2 front

50MP f/1.9 wide, 12MP f/2.2 ultrawide, 8MP f/2.0 front   

Connectivity5G (sub-6GHz and mmWave)5G (sub-6GHz and mmWave)

Colors

Obsidian, Snow, Lemongrass   

Sorta Seafoam, Kinda Coral, Stormy Black

IP rating

IP68 water and dust

IP68 water and dust

PriceStarting at $599

Starting at $535

You should buy the Google Pixel 7 if...

Google Pixel 7 in hand
Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

1. Photo and video quality are important to you

This year's new Pixel includes updates to its photo and video modes to improve both the general quality and the artistic characteristics of your pics and videos. On the photo side of things, the Pixel 7's new Real Tone improvements are designed to provide color-accurate representations of all skin tones in all lighting conditions. Meanwhile, the new Cinematic Blur feature does what it says on the tin, applying a background blur to your videos to make them look like something straight out of Hollywood. The new Tensor G2 chip also supports improvements to features like Super Res Zoom and Night Sight as well.

2. You want the most secure Pixel available

Google is calling the Pixel 7 its "most secure and private Pixel yet." This is thanks to both improvements made to the second-gen Tensor G2 chip, and the Titan M2 security chip. The device also supports improved versions of both Face Unlock and Fingerprint Unlock for multiple access methods, and comes with a VPN from Google One built right in. Pixel 7 owners are also guaranteed at least five years of security updates. 

3. You want a one-payment entry point into Google's ecosystem

Google is offering the Pixel 7 via its new Pixel Pass subscription. Buyers who acquire their Pixel 7 this way will receive a single monthly bill for the device itself as access to cloud-based services like Google One storage and other online offerings like YouTube premium. You'll also be eligible to upgrade to a new Pixel with an upgrade after two years on the plan, and will receive access to "hassle-free repairs and replacements" in the meantime. 

Also: Pixel 7 vs Pixel 7 Pro: How to buy the right one for you

You should buy the Google Pixel 6 if...

Pixel 6 in three colors
Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

1. You want an inexpensive way to immediately have the latest Android updates

One of the big selling points through every Pixel generation has been the fact that Google's newest and best features always come to its first-party smartphones first. While many, although not all, of these same features will eventually make their way to smartphones from Samsung and other manufacturers, the multiple manufacturer and carrier approval processes required before their release can delay them many months. Notably, Google continues offering these updates to older Pixel devices for multiple years, meaning you can buy a discounted Pixel 6 with the confidence that it will still receive the newest feature drops for a long time to come. 

2. You prefer a more whimsical-looking smartphone

The Sorta Seafoam, Kinda Coral, and Stormy Black official colorways for the Pixel 6 were an immediate tip-off that Google meant for its generation to be playful and colorful. While those tones were still on the pastel side of things, they did provide that fashion-centric flair that Samsung, for example, continues chasing with its customizable Galaxy Flip shells. Some buyers might not consider this a legitimate reason to buy a phone -- but for others, looks matter. 

3. You want what is still one of the best Android phones around for $500 or less

The Pixel 6 has received heaps of praise from multiple ZDNET experts since its launch. Our Ed Bott told the story of how a Pixel 6 replaced his iPhone and Jack Wallen praised its enhanced capabilities after the Android 13 update. Given the relatively iterative update to the Pixel 7 (mostly its CPU and camera capabilities), saving several hundred dollars by opting for the Pixel 6 is still probably the best route for most casual smartphone users. This gets you a phone that could still stand toe-to-toe with almost any flagship today, while costing about half of what most of the big boys do.

More: Google Pixel 6 is the new workhorse to the Pixel 6 Pro thoroughbred

Alternatives to consider

Open to other smartphone prospects? Consider these ZDNET-recommended devices:

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