The Pixel 6 Pro is the latest flagship from Google and I’ve had mine for about a week so I thought I’d get some words down to the experience I’ve had with it.

The Bugs and the Update.

So let’s start with the “controversy” a word I put in quotes because as with most things online when the bubble is popped and the reality investigated, it’s not usually any different from any other phone.

The big issues for this phone and its sibling seem to be

The fingerprint reader takes a few seconds to register, something coming from a OnePlus8 Pro I have not noted as being any faster or slower on the Pixel6 Pro. If you’re really having an issue with it, try registering the same finger(s) and thumb(s) multiple times

Then there are the network speeds and connectivity issues. Other than day two with the phone where I needed to reboot it. I’ve not had any issues with Wifi, 4G or Bluetooth connectivity to my Headphones or Ticwatch.

Finally, there is the non-appearing “December update” for these people whining that it’s not turned up, I have this to say.. Try being promised Android 11 on the Surface Pro in December and not getting that, or having the update and it caused bugs and problems all over your Christmas break… you’d be oh so happy on your chosen social media bell-chamber bleating about that.

From personal observation, having used Huawei, Oneplus, Samsung Note and Surface pro this year, the Pixel 6 experience is amazing in comparison to any of these other flagship phones. Sure there are niggles, all phones have them. Get over it.

6 Cool Things

So moans over, what are the cool things which are NOT the camera to be found on this phone?

Android 12

Being the 2021 Google flagship phone the OS is the latest Android 12 and the look and feel is a nice lick of paint with a design thinking, however, this isn’t perfect yet. There are some pedants moaning about fonts and images on the web, I’d ignore them with this being the first iteration of this design change it will take a couple of years for vendors to catch up just like it did when Material Design was released.

This looks pretty and is a welcome visual upgrade that adjusts some of that muscle memory and takes a few seconds to say “oh, I do that now” however it works and it’s welcomed.

Call Screening

If you’re not on my contact list I’m sorry, I’m not picking up your call. This is made so so much easier now with Call screening.

Instead of answering that unknown number calling you let the Google Assistant do it. You’ll see a live transcribe of the conversation, and if it looks real you can take over and talk yourself. If you get put on hold, let the Assistant take over, which again will transcribe anything it hears. When a real person gets on the line and you’re ready to go, just carry on talking. The Assistant even lets the person know, so you don’t get hung up on and have to call back and start over. It’s a time and life-saver.

Automation with Rules

This was new to me and needs some fleshing out, however, this is the start of automation IFTTT/Tasker style on your phone. At the moment this is limited to setting your ring type depending on the location you are at and it’s a feature that shows a lot of promise. I think will be a feature that keeps getting updated over the years and suddenly it will become highly useful.

To manually set up your own Rules:

  1. Go to Settings > System > Advanced > Rules (You’ll need to grant Rules permission to run in the background and make changes to your settings the first time you’ve opened the Rules page.)
  2. Tap “Add rule.”
  3. Tap “Add Wifi network of location” to select where the setting change will trigger. You’ll be able to select between a list of saved networks or find a location via Google Maps search. You’re also able to modify the area of effect radius around the location as well.
  4. Finally, there’s also an option at the bottom of the page that lets you enable push notifications for when a rule change has toggled.
  5. Once you’ve set everything up, tap “Add” at the bottom of the menu to complete the rule setup.
  6. Rules you’ve made will be listed under Settings > System > Advanced > Rules. You can delete a rule by tapping the trash can icon next to it.

Music that’s playing

To activate it head to Settings > Display > Lock Screen and ‘Now Playing’ and toggle on the switch if it’s not already.

To view the songs that have been tagged recently, scroll down to ‘Now Playing History’ and you’ll see a list of songs, plus the time they were tagged. What’s more, if you want to add a shortcut to this list, you can. In fact, once you’re on the list a pop-up appears asking if you want to. Just tap ‘yes’.

If it’s not there, go to your home screen, long-press the wallpaper and tap ‘widgets’ in the pop-up menu. Now choose ‘Android System Intelligence’ and tap and hold the ‘now playing history’ shortcut and drag it to a space on your home screen.

Live Translate

The Live Translate feature lets you message people in different languages, including English, French, German, Italian, and Japanese. It detects if a message in your chat apps, like WhatsApp or Snapchat, is different from your language, and if so, automatically offers you a translation.

Turn on Live Translate

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Tap System
  3. Turn on Use Live Translate. By default, Live Translate will be on.
  4. Optional: To set a new default target language:
  5. Tap Translate to.
  6. Select a language.
  7. Tap Select Language.
  8. Optional: Add more source languages:
  9. Tap Add a language.
  10. Select a language.
  11. Tap Select Language.

Transcripts on Recordings

This has a bit of a wow factor if you’ve ever used something like Dragon Naturally speaking or tried this on AppleOS or Windows. The Recording app has a translate feature. We’ve seen this in many apps since lockdown started, what’s impressive with this however is watching the transcripts show up in real-time while you and anyone else is speaking.

I tested this with 2 English second language speakers and myself having a conversation. It picked up EVERYTHING in the transcript.

The Camera

Bugs and Cool Android 12 features aside this phone is all about the camera

The Camera bump, there’s a lot going on here, and you’re either a fan or you’re not.

On the Pixel 6 Pro, there are 3 cameras, a periscope and x20 zoom

No matter how you add that up that’s a lot of hardware. On top of that, there is the Google Tensor Chip (More on that later) which is, in real-time, enhancing the photos you take.

Camera App

While undoubtedly the camera is great, over the last week the Camera App has really stood out for me. Usually, I’ll take photos and then post-process in Snapseed or Fotor. I’ve not had to do that as much on the Pixel Camera App.

I’m not sure if this is new or not, I’ve not been able to do this in other phones I’ve used this year.

Single Hand use

A personal peeve on most stock camera apps is flipping between functional like camera, video, portrait or panorama. On the Pixel 6 pro stock camera app, this is done by flipping left or right between these options. A lot easier to manage when trying to take a photo and walking the dog.

Editing

I’ve been using Snapseed since it was released on Android and it’s my default post-processing app on any phone I’m using. It was bought by Google many moons ago and had very few updates.

The editing features within the camera app over the last week have allowed me to stay in the camera app and do what I need in there. I’d suggest this is because Google has pulled the best features out of Snapseed and added them to this app.

There’s a selection of presets to change colours and the usual grouping of editing tools for cropping, saturation, brightness and HDR.

The photo was taken at x7 zoom

A little post-processing using the default image filters.

Magic Eraser

A Pixel specific editing thing I believe, the Magic Eraser is a more advanced version of Healing in Snapseed where objects can be drawn round on a photo and the software will remove them from the photo

How to use Magic Eraser

1. Select an image in Google Photos that you want to edit, then tap the Edit button.

2. Select the Tools heading from the bottom bar, then Magic eraser

3. The tool will suggest elements of the photo that you may want to remove. Tap them and they’ll be removed.

4. If you want to remove something manually, draw a circle around it

As an example, I took the following shot over the last week

and used the Magic Eraser to get rid of this bloke’s chums

There was no other editing done on the photo.

Motion Mode

Motion Mode has two options to provide that blur you can see on photos there is a Motion Pan and a Long exposure mode

The Motion pan mode is used for tracking moving objects like people walking, cars, bikes etc. The phone will track the object and keep it perfectly in focus and the background will provide a level of motion blur.

Source: Nick Sutrich / Android Central

The Long exposure mode does the opposite, and keeping the phone steady, will provide a level of blur around moving objects and keep the stationary ones focussed.

I’ve tried to capture this with the sea on this shot

What I like about both these modes is no need for a Tripod.

Night Mode

Night modes are nothing new, they have been around for years. I’m highlighting this one however because it seems to work.

As an explanation, it was pitch back on the clifftop in Bournemouth when I took this, this photo has x5 zoom on it and I’m holding the camera above my head to avoid a fence.

This was at the end of twilight, very low light.

This photo was able to catch what the Sky scanner app told me was Venus in the night sky.

What’s impressive (to me at least) with all these night shots is I’ve made them in the dark, with no tripod.

Thoughts on photos

I buy phones for one single reason, to take photos. the apps are a pleasant second and the ability to make calls, well, only my mum still makes phone calls. Prior to this, I’ve been a huge Huawei fan over Samsung, my personal belief is that Huawei makes the best Camera smartphones.

The last week taking photos down in Bournemouth has been a pleasure and the photos have come out stunning, I also get the feeling as Google is all about the software this will only improve with time.

That chip

So just as Apple makes its own processors for phones and computers, Google has also taken a step into the game with its Tensor chip. this is a custom silicon created by Google to improve the things it cares about like AI.

To quote the team at Android Authority

Google has highlighted that the chip is quicker at handling tasks like real-time language translation for captions, text-to-speech without an internet connection, image processing, and other machine learning-based capabilities, like live translation and captions. It also allowed the Pixel 6 to apply Google’s HDRNet algorithm to video for the first time, even at qualities as high as 4K 60fps. Bottom line, the TPU allows Google’s coveted machine learning techniques to run more efficiently on the device, shaking the need for a cloud connection. That’s good news for the battery and security conscious.

In reality, what this means is that the tensor chip won’t make the phone itself faster, what it does is locally manage the processing for a lot of the tasks which Google push such as the photo processing or the live captions. Because Google makes the chip (with help from Samsung), they control what it can do.

I have a gut feeling that the reason the Pixel 5 got a December Update but the Pixel 6 didn’t get it rolled out (you can sideload it, don’t if you’re in the UK, it killed my 4G connection to 1980 Psion modem speeds.) has something to do with this new chip. Hence the lack of transparency from Google.

Battery Life

When I read the reviews I thought this was going to suck. It doesn’t, and yet again leads me to wonder just what the people who write these reviews do for a living. I can get 2 days out of the phone if I use it as a smartphone. I got 1.5 days out of it using it as a camera.

A few people have reached out to me on Reddit and asked what settings I changed to get this. None, I’ve left all the settings as default.

Thoughts

So if I head to the internet and read the reviews a few months on, this phone is a dud, or almost. People whining about a fingerprint reader which is just as usable s the one on the Oneplus8 Pro, they are whining about a lack of an update, personally having sysadmined Microsoft products for 30 years, I welcome updates that are pulled for instability or WHATEVER reason if they might break my phone just before Xmas and I’m using this device as my solve connection to the wider world.

I also wonder if the phone I have is the same unit as is sold in the US for example, and could the regulations in the US for phones be different from the UK and it’s enough to make the phone slightly different, feels like a thing, but couldn’t say for sure.

For someone who started the year on a Samsung Note, Moved to a Oneplus 8 pro then to a Surface Duo there is nothing wrong with this phone that won’t be sorted out in the same way ALL flagships are, with updates over the next few months. The battery lasts, the camera is amazing and the phone is fast with some nice features. If I had a single criticism it would be the Pixel Launcher itself, however, I’ve always installed Action Launcher and that works perfectly.

By davidfield

Tech Entusiast