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The $599 Pixel 6 is the Android phone to buy right now

Published Oct 20th, 2021 9:19PM EDT
$599 Pixel 6
Image: Christian de Looper for BGR

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Google finally unveiled the Pixel 6 on Tuesday, confirming all of the recent leaks in the process. The cheapest Pixel 6 starts at $599, which is over $200 less than the iPhone 13, its direct rival. That’s a fantastic price for an Android flagship in 2021, and one that other Android vendors can’t match. Similarly, the $899 Pixel 6 Pro is cheaper than its direct competitor, the $999 iPhone 13 Pro. While it features a better camera setup than the Pixel 6, the Pro costs $300 more. In other words, the $599 Pixel 6 is the Android phone to buy right now. And we’ll explain why you should be looking for this particular model rather than the slightly more expensive option.

This isn’t another Pixel 5 repeat

You might remember last year that I kept telling you how the Pixel 5 was such a disappointment. Rather than delivering a flagship Pixel experience, the Pixel 5 was just a mid-range device disguised as a high-end handset that also had a higher price tag than the Pixel 6. That’s because Google went for the mid-range Snapdragon 765 5G chip instead of the flagship that powered all the 2020 flagships last year. This meant the Pixel 5 is hardly the device you’d want, especially if you planned on hanging on to the handset for multiple years.

The Pixel 6, on the other hand, is something else. As we’ve already explained in our initial hands-on preview, the two phones feature a high-end design, top hardware, and an upgraded camera experience. If I’d have told you to wait for the Pixel 5 price to inevitably drop last year, I’d say you should get a Pixel 6 right away. The $599 Pixel 6 is the best possible new Android flagship phone you can buy right now. That means you should also ignore the $449 Pixel 5a while you’re at it. Investing the extra $150 in the Pixel 6 will pay off down the road. And if you hurry to preorder, you’ll score free Pixel Buds A earphones that cost $99 otherwise.

Google Pixel 6 and 6 Pro
Google Pixel 6 and 6 Pro Image source: Christian de Looper for BGR

What you win and what you lose

Unlike Samsung with its Galaxy S21 phones, the compromises aren’t as big, especially when it comes to build quality. The Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro feature glass rear panels, while the cheaper Galaxy S21 handsets come in plastic.

Shifting gears back to the Pixel 5 comparison, the Pixel 6 is the phone to last you a few years. Both the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro feature the same Tensor SoC. They’ll both offer the same performance. That includes the adaptive battery-saving tech and the machine learning abilities that power Google apps and computational photography features. They both ship with fast LPDDR5 RAM and UFS 3.1 storage. The Pixel 6 Pro does have a 120Hz display and a larger battery.

Add to that three years of Android OS updates and five years of security updates, and the Pixel 6 has no real rival in the industry. Samsung and others might match the number of Android OS releases. But it’s still Google’s phone that gets the next-gen software upgrade first.

Then there’s the camera experience, where the Pixel 6 Pro has the better rear-camera module. But both handsets pack the same main cameras. That’s a 50-megapixel primary camera and the 12-megapixel ultra-wide camera. And both phones get all the new cool camera features that Google demoed during the event on Tuesday. What you lose by going for the $599 Pixel 6 is the 4x optical zoom from the 48-megapixel camera.

Google Pixel 6 Pro Camera
Google Pixel 6 Pro Camera Image source: Christian de Looper for BGR

Make sure you get the right $599 Pixel 6

With all that in mind, you might have noticed that not all carriers sell the cheapest Pixel 6 for the same $599 as Google does. For example, AT&T has it priced at $739.99, which is $140 more than Google. Verizon also charges $699.99 for its Pixel 6. And while carriers offer plenty of ways to cut that entry price significantly, some buyers might want to purchase the Pixel 6 outright.

The difference between these offers is that the Pixel 6 versions that carriers sell include mmWave 5G support. However, that’s one compromise you can make, considering the still early stages of 5G connectivity. The $599 Pixel 6 offers support for the slower sub-6GHz 5G speeds. That’s the kind of 5G connection you’ll probably use the most.

Finally, by preordering a Pixel 6 unlocked from Google, you also score free Pixel Buds A-Series, which are priced at $99. Another good alternative is getting the $45 Pixel Pass subscription instead.

With all that in mind, the $599 Pixel 6 is easily the phone that any Android user looking to upgrade to a 2021 device right now should consider. And if you were wondering, yes, the $599 Pixel 6 is even cheaper than the OnePlus 9. That handset retails for $729 before any deals.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.