Google Pixel 6 Pro: Problems in Paradise?

Posted on November 8, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Android with 61 Comments

With my Pixel 6 Pro review still at least a week away, I wanted to check in and describe one major win and two major problems. And let’s be clear here: anyone familiar with Google’s troubled Pixel lineup won’t be surprised to discover that there are issues.

But let me quickly describe the major win first: After ceding the overall camera crown to Samsung, Huawei, and Apple—yes, in that order—in recent years, the Pixel 6 Pro marks a major comeback for Google. I’d been calling on Google to use a three-lens camera system in Pixel since before it released the lackluster Pixel 4 XL in 2019. And when the firm went back-to-back-to-back with low-end and midmarket Pixels in 2020—the Pixel 4a, Pixel 4a 5G, and Pixel 5—I was worried that Google was scaling back its Pixel ambitions and, worse, its computational photography leadership.

Well, those worries are over. It’s clear that Pixel 6 Pro offers the very best overall camera experience of any smartphone today, and while Apple still retains its many advantages with video, Google has—perhaps for the first time ever—made major strides in that department as well.

There’s a discussion to be had about value here, I guess—the Pixel 5a and Pixel 6 are both a lot less expensive than the Pixel 6 Pro and both offer terrific two-lens camera systems that provide most of what the Pixel 6 Pro offers—but come on: with its Apple and Samsung competitors costing an incredible $200 and $300 more, respectively, the Pixel 6 Pro is in a league of its own.

What’s interesting to me is that the performance of the main (wide) and ultrawide lenses remains nearly identical to that of their predecessors, despite major improvements to the underlying hardware. That is, both provide crisp, clear, and true-to-life shots with absolutely no effort on your part, with terrific night mode capabilities, and not-quite-ultrawide but also not distorted ultrawide shots. This is the same, solid, Pixel experience that fans have come to expect and rely on.

What puts the Pixel 6 Pro over the top, however, is its telephoto capabilities. I was initially unimpressed that Google wasn’t able to achieve more than 4x optical zoom using its periscope-style telephoto lens, but more experience with this lens has proven its worth. At a recent concert, I was able to obtain clear and realistic up-close shots of the band using both 4x optical and a range of hybrid zoom modes with no lag or motion blur. I’ve also started getting some decent deer shots in the morning that would have been impossible with my Pixel 5a. Yes, I tried.

Here are three shots from the (Cheap Trick) concert, the first of which indicates how far we were from the stage…

As for the negatives, I have two issues with the Pixel 6 Pro worth describing here.

The first is the in-display optical fingerprint reader, which I described on Windows Weekly last week as a “crime against humanity.” It is one of the slowest and least reliable fingerprint readers I’ve used in years, and an affront to any Pixel fan who appreciates how well the rear-mounted fingerprint readers always worked. (Every single Pixel to date, aside from the Pixel 4/4 XL, has had a rear-mounted fingerprint reader.) This is a technology that OnePlus, especially, and Samsung have long ago figured out, so we know it can work. But it works very poorly here.

The second issue is charging speed. To date, every single Pixel that Google has released has supported 18-watts of charging over a wire, which started out as “fast charging” and got less and less fast as the competition caught up and then surpassed that speed. With Pixel 6, however, Google is for the first time not providing a power brick in the box, like the competition, and it instead sells a 30-watt power brick for $25. Naturally, I bought one.

The thing is, it’s not fast. It does charge up to the 50 percent mark in about 30 minutes, which is great, but after that, charging speeds fall through the floor, and it doesn’t achieve a full charge for almost 2 hours. 2 hours! Researching this, I discovered that Android Authority uncovered that the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro can only charge to a maximum of 22 watts, which isn’t that much faster than 18 watts. (According to their figures, the Pixel 6 charges to 100 percent in 111 minutes with the 30-watt charger vs. 120 minutes with the old 18-watt charger. Hmph.) And the average charging power is just 13 watts.

This isn’t as serious as the fingerprint issue, in part because that first (and fast) 50 percent boost is what will help people stay up and running. (And this phone has had no trouble lasting a full day so far.) But Google never mentioned the actually charging capabilities of the Pixel 6, and so it’s natural that anyone would assume it was 30-watts, since that’s the power offered by the new charger it released alongside the phone. This is a Microsoft-level miscommunication.

There are many other pros and cons of the Pixel 6 Pro, of course, but I’ll cover them all in my full review. For now, I’ll just say that I’m quite happy with the phone overall. I just wish that Google would deliver an unqualified win for once. This isn’t it.

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Comments (61)

61 responses to “Google Pixel 6 Pro: Problems in Paradise?”

  1. remc86007

    I don't understand why these things charge dramatically slower than my old Samsung Note 10. Perhaps Google really cheaped out on the battery to keep the price low.


    I couldn't find a reason to upgrade my now two year old Note 10, so I just bought a new battery and screen (fixing minor scratches and cracking), and for $250 it felt like I had a new phone. The only thing that seems to me to have noticeably improved over the past two years is the camera, but for me the Note 10's camera is perfectly fine for what I use it for, and when I want actually good photos, I take my Sony Mirrorless which is on a different planet of image quality vs even the new Pixels.

    • MikeCerm

      My guess is that, like Apple, Google has decided that moderate charging speeds of just over 20W are the optimal compromise between speed and preserving the health of the battery. Other manufacturers stop supporting their phones after like 2 years, a lot of people upgrade pretty regularly, so who cares if the battery is trashed. Apple users expect their phones to last 5 years, and that would not be possible if they were charging at 60W all the time.

  2. yoshi

    I ended up with the regular Pixel 6 instead of the Pro. I lasted 2 days with it. Here's the negatives I experienced:


    -The phone was consistently warm, even doing the most basic of tasks.

    -Battery life for me was poor and I was not pushing the device at all. Around 20% left in the tank when leaving work at 4PM.

    -Fingerprint reader actually seemed just fine at first, but kept getting worse each time.

    -Camera of course was great, but I struggled to see much difference in quality compared to previous pixels. It was like all the software was still doing the work with no adjustment for the new hardware. Night sight shots were painfully slow.


    Even with all these complaints, part of me wishes I gave it more time. I don't know what it is, but I always love Pixel. It's like being in a bad relationship that you don't want to give up on.

  3. evictedkoala

    I may be in the minority, but I had a Galaxy S21+ for a couple of weeks and first time fingerprint reader success was literally between 10-20%. It usually took eat least two or three frustrating attempts.


    The Pixel 6 Pro is pretty slow, but accuracy has been pretty great for me (although of course not nearly as good as a dedicated rear sensor). The random sluggishness of the reader doesn't bother me nearly as much as an inaccurate reader would. So I'm glad they didn't go with an ultrasonic like Samsung.


    I think the key to accuracy is to register your most used fingers twice each, first with light pressure and the second with heavier pressure. Because of this I wish Google would've allowed 8 to 10 fingerprint registrations instead of 5, because 4 out of 5 of mine are both of my thumbs and the other just a single index finger which inhibits flexibility.

    • wright_is

      My wife had the S10 and I have the S20+. Hers was dreadful, it would recognise her fingerprint about 30% - she works in a commercial kitchen and through the constant cleaning and sanitising of her hands, the are very dry.


      The S20+ is a lot better, but still hit and miss. I probably have to enter the PIN at least twice a day.

    • MikeCerm

      The fact that you CAN register the same fingerprint twice is a bad thing. When you register a finger the first time, it should be good enough. The phone should be smart enough to know that this finger has already been registered, and it should continue to improve every time you use that finger to log in. If you can enroll a single finger multiple times it means the phone needs to compare multiple data sets for a match, which should take longer than just a single data set that is complete.

  4. red.radar

    I have been using iOS devices for the last 5+ years. However, I always thought one of the platform advantages was the pattern unlock. I thought the finger print sensor that apple branded as touch-id was a solution to Androids relatively simple but patented pattern unlock.


    Do you experience severe functionality loss if you reverted to a pattern unlock and abandoned the fingerprint sensor?

  5. nobody9

    All such fingerprint readers (fprs) suffer these problems, but only the Pixel 6 gets the flack for taking your fingerprint more seriously than the competition. Come on, people!


    As per any phone with such a primitive security feature, it always helps to register the same finger twice, which aids in both accuracy and reliability. This usually fixes both the "ghost" effect that some always report with fprs, and the reliability of being recognized.


    Hopefully the more secure face unlock feature will be available with a future feature drop.

  6. nobody9

    The 30-watt charging brick will surely get better once the new pixel stand appears.

  7. wpcoe

    What ever happened to putting the fingerprint sensor on the on/off button?


    I waited for the iPhone 13 mini to see if it would have it, since Apple has fingerprint sensor on some of its hardware, but nope. I'm now waiting for the iPhone SE3. (I want a small phone and the Pixel 6's are just too big.)

    • geemy

      based on previous versions, probably gonna wait another 3 years and see 3 would be based on the iphone 10-11-XR design, or maybe on 12-13 if apple has moved to a different design for the flagship models. they obviously don't want the SE to look like an iPhone or iphone pro. could be sized anywhere between an iphone mini(5.4) to XR (6.1) or even like the X (5.8).

      but given how quickly phones keep getting bigger, I wouldn't put my bet on 5.4 in 3 years, they will probably go for a more common(maybe cheaper) size around 6 inches.

      I'd say a pixel 5 wouldn't be a bad option, but you're not going to get the same performance for the price, and number of updates, and long time support, as an iphone SE, which is pretty remarkable. my mother just had her 2012 Mac mini base model( around $600 new at the time) troubleshooted and fixed and for free at genius bar. she had not applied any update since 2015 and was stuck in an older Mac os version.

  8. JH_Radio

    A few things.

    First, I have a Samsung Galaxy S10 who's finger print reader actually got much better with the android 12 update.

    I hate and refuse to use BT on my phonak aids with the ComPilot for a couple of reasons.

    First of all, the mick in the pilot is absolute shit and I refuse to make anyone indoor that.

    Second, wired = better quality sound and I do notice and can tell.

    John


  9. brettscoast

    Thanks for the post Paul. As I am close to purchasing this phone your article is both timely and a bit disconcerting. That this fingerprint problem exists at all on a new premium grade phone (especially pixel) is unacceptable to be honest, to the point now having second thoughts about purchasing this phone (sigh!!!!!) I have been looking at the Oneplus 9 Pro (256GB) as my second choice should I not proceed with the Pixel 6 Pro which i can purchase outright in Australia for less than the Pixel 6 Pro. Having to stump up extra for a power connector that charges at the rate described in your article also sticks in my craw but I could live with it. The shots in your post are excellent\high quality no argument there.

  10. sentinel6671

    I don't care how good the camera is, a garbage finger print reader is return worthy, period. I would never give Google money again, ever, for hardware. This is 2021, I'm sorry, but crap like this is simply unacceptable.


    I had a Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ for awhile, it's finger print reader was trash. I deeply regret hanging on to it and wish I'd returned it outright.

  11. peterc

    The fingerprint scanner issue might be worse than many realise as it seems unregistered fingers can unlock devices too…… anecdotally it seems people are getting friends and family to see if they can unlock their device and they can…


    id delete finger prints and just set a decent PIN people as this one’s looking troublesome for Google. If you can return and refund I’d take it, although maybe a firmware update will fix this…. you gotta hope so otherwise they’ve yet again snatched defeat from the jaws of victory!

  12. mike2thel73

    I had originally planned to purchase an iPhone 13 max pro right after it was announced.


    Apple then released the phone W/O side touch ID. I thought that was stupid considering masks are still a thing in 2021.


    So then I waited for the pixel 6. The last thing that I ever thought would be an issue is a finger print sensor.


    I was disappointed that Google went with a curved screen for the pro.


    Disappointed that they were only giving 3 years of OS updates. (I thought one of the benefits of their own S.o.C. was longer updates...not just security)


    Disappointed with T-Mobile & Google not offering a mmwave version of the 6 (non pro).


    At home I wouldn't be able to take advantage of mmwave but If I'm going to a sporting event ( I live in So. Flo.) it would be nice to have that option in my back pocket.


    After all this I was still considering the 6 non-pro.


    Then the reviews dropped.


    A c-net reviewer, MKBHD, Mr. Mobile, and one other reviewer I watched all mentioned the fingerprint issue. While it was one of the few negatives about the phone, A SLOW INACCURATE FINGER PRINT READER IS A NON-STARTER FOR ME. Especially being a Google user from the Nexus 5X/6P days up until now.


    You would think with Samsung & OnePlus solving the on-screen reader issues that Google would lean on them (especially Samsung) a little when implementing that feature.


    It makes me wonder if apple is being honest when saying "it's not ready" in regards to in-screen fingerprint feature.


    Google should have kept what works but as usual they are chasing trends that don't work as well and chasing apple.


    Google is Wile E. Coyote.


    Paul Thurrot's review re-emphasized to me I made the right call in buying the 256gb iPhone 13 pro max.


    I know iOS's limitations but for me in 2021/2022 apple is the way to go.


    For the most part Apps for Android are 2nd class compared to their cousins on iOS.


    Android long term support is 2nd class.


    Unless you're bringing an unlocked android phone to T-Mobile or any of the MVNO's that use their network, you are 2nd class on Verizon & AT&T and their MVNO'S. iPhones no matter what network for the most part don't run into carrier issues.


    I've had my pro max for a few days now. I love it.


    I will miss Google assistant, wait to hold, and other googly assistant features but in regards to Android itself Google has failed.


    In 2021 there is still no chemistry between Google and Samsung.


    Yes they work together but it's an arranged/forced marriage that neither is happy with.


    Their devices show & prove it.


    Apple their daddy is forcing it and wants it to stay that way.

  13. lightbody

    Google says the fingerprint delay/reliability is down to them making it more secure.


    So the Oneplus fingerpring reader is really fast (I know, I have a 7T) but is it secure? Has someone done tests with other fingers to see how many false positives there are? Maybe the sluggish Pixel fingerprint reader is actually the only one that works properly (securely) ?

    • peterc

      Yup, my old OP7T finger scanner was really fast, My OP9Pro underscreen scanner had problems when using any tempered glass screen protectors but less so with PVC type screen covers but still the odd problem, without a screen cover it was fine.


      I do wonder if the 120 hz screen refersh coupled with screen protectors was causing a problem with the 9 pro? maybe. My 7T was by far the best under the screen finger scanner ive ever owned.

      • peterc

        >>>>> My 7T was by far the best under the screen finger scanner ive ever owned.


        I should add, with or without a screen protector it was super fast and always accurate.

    • jauhari

      I think this not for make it more SECURE, but this sensor is SLOW and Google give another reason to didn't said about it :))))

  14. abdulla77

    ..So I've had the Pixel 6 Pro for about a week and I do agree on the following:


    1. The in-display fingerprint reader is slow as hell.. I can't remember the last phone I had that was this slow with fingerprint reading. Perhaps 5 years old or more.. Coming from a Oneplus 8T , it's honestly night and day. It's practically ridiculous.
    2. The more serious problem I would think is the charging of the battery. Sure, I never had the situation when my battery got completely depleted within the day (I reach around 30-40% by the end of the day ie. 6am off the charger and then charge back around 10pm), but the fact that if it's this slow if I need to charge it mid-day, this is a really scary feeling to have.


    Other than that, the phone is just amazing in everything else. Android 12 on a pixel is simply way better than the other iterations you will get with Samsung, Oneplus or others. In fact, I see Android 12 on Pixel is the default Android OS.


    Anyway, let's see if Google can somehow fix the above 2 points at some point this year.. I really am hoping to keeping this phone for the next couple of years.

  15. Sihaz

    Was slightly tempted by the 6 but hearing this i’m going to do my bit for the planet and carry on with my absolutely useable pixel 3a. 😍

  16. jlmerrill

    I've heard there is battery life problems. I'm sticking with my 4A.

  17. richfrantz

    Perhaps someone can help me. I am setting up my 6 pro and would like to have the "contacts" sync'd (both directions) from both my hotmail and gmail account. I can't seem to find the right instructions to make this happen.

  18. jbinaz

    Cheap Trick puts on a great show. Saw them in California maybe six-ish years ago.


    Those are some great photos being as zoomed as they are.

    • Paul Thurrott

      Agreed on both counts. I've seen them at least four times, including once right before the pandemic. And I was surprised by the quality of the zoom shots. Better than expected.

  19. Danny Riley

    For the fingerprint reader issue, I read a tip about turning on the "increase touch sensitivity" setting to improve it. It has seemed to work better for me since I turned it on. It's much faster now but it still doesn't recognize my fingerprint a smaller but still frustrating amount of the time. I miss the rear fingerprint reader. This is as much because it worked so well and because I prefer the location.

    • Jeremy Turnley

      The fingerprint reader is optical (that is, there's a camera behind the screen that takes a picture of your fingerprint, which is illuminated by the pixels of the screen layer), so increasing touch sensitivity shouldn't have any impact on the reader - the touch layer plays little or no part in the process. At best, it's lighting up the pixels a few milliseconds faster.

  20. bhatech

    I do agree the overall sentiment with fingerprint scanner being crap. But you have to keep the finger on the scanner a little longer as compared to say S21 Ultra and after that it works fine.


    It's more of a slow fingerprint sensor and once you learn to keep the finger on the scanner a little longer it's been reliable to me at least on terms of unlocking everytime I use it.


    But yeah they should have done a better job since this is the only biometric option on the phone (no face unlock).

  21. maddycom

    My Pixel 6 Pro will ship in a couple weeks, fingerprint issue has me concerned I use it all the time on my older pixel.

  22. JacobTheDev

    Google's explanation about the fingerprint unlock issues sounds like it *might* be fixable with software updates, but I guess we'll just have to wait and see.


    How slow/unreliable is it really? I've heard these types of complaints for past phones too, and in my experience the difference between a "fast" reader and a "slow" reader is so negligible that I just don't care. Reliability seems like a much bigger issue to me, is it failing like every other time, once every 10 times, etc.?

    • Paul Thurrott

      It's terrible. Twice now it's failed so many times in a row that it locked it and made me use the PIN.

      • snookerguy935

        It's good to get this feedback - reading this and a few other honest write ups elsewhere caused me to cancel my preorder and stick with my Pixel 2 until there is a decent option with a rear fingerprint scanner.

    • JacobTheDev

      Also, I'll be moving from a Pixel 4 XL, which has face unlock instead of a fingerprint reader, and I *hate* it, I have to hold it at just the right distance, if I'm in a store I have to either enter my PIN or pull down my mask, and my brother's been able to unlock it using his face. If it's *at all* better than this, I'll be satisfied.

      • richfrantz

        I too just upgraded from the 4xl. It is better than the face unlock. Although as others have said, not as good as the reader nubbin on the back of earlier models. Those you could unlock on your way out of your pocket as your finger would just find it unconsciously. The in screen reader is much more deliberate an action.

    • bluesman57

      Fingerprint pads have never worked for me, I guess it's something about my fingers. I really liked the facial recognition on my 4XL because of this problem. The reader on this 6 Pro works better for me than the pads did, I guess because it's optical, but it still doesn't work that well. I have to swipe my pattern about half the time.

  23. zeromus2003

    Paul, my problems with my Pixel 6 Pro comes down to updates. Google advertises that the phone works with ALL carriers, but if you are like me, using a Verizon SIM, you get screwed over. I am stuck on build SD1A.210817.019.C2 (the global Google default) and have no hopes of getting November security patch released back on October 28th. The issue is while on Verizon's network, they ONLY approve of the update for the "A8" carrier/VZW variant. There is no update (OTA path) for "C2" global. My only options are to either use another carrier SIM (which I don't have) or flash the Verizon version of Android 12 for Pixel Pro 6.... all of those options are pure garbage! I can assure you most average folks don't have a clue about sideloading or flashing ROMs. I bought directly from Google to get away from this carrier craziness, but yet, here I am, stuck forever with Google default build. If anyone reading this has an insider at Google, tell them to help us out here!! I've contacted Verizon and they say its Google's problem, then I called Google and they say that Verizon is the issue for not approving update. This is madness!!

    • Airmaxx23

      Just download the November OTA and adb sideload it and you'll be all set. I had to do it myself with a carrier unlocked device on VZW.

      • zeromus2003

        So did you find an update to flash for the "C2" branch or did you have to full wipe and load Verizon's build and then OTA? This is so next level BS!! Apple forced Verizon to allow them to update and Google needs to too! I really hope someone high-up the food chain at Google reads this site and sees this comment! Its a huge issue---- Carriers like Verizon should not be allowed to limit/control updates on a freaking unlocked phone! Its anti-consumer and BS!

    • red.radar

      Terrible to see that Verizon is still up to its old games of preventing vendors from updating their builds of software. I thought Apple proved years ago that handset manufactures can release reliable software updates and not crash the network. I thought that was the whole point of seperating the baseband (communication) firmware from the general system OS.

      • zeromus2003

        Yeah no doubt. I think Apple told Verizon (a long long time ago) that they wouldn't allow iPhones to be sold by them unless they gave full control back to Apple for their updates. Google apparently won't strong-arm Big Red- Verizon, and now I'm in a pickle as to what to do? I really don't want to flash the Verizon image, but as the days tick by its not looking good. So while I am happy I have a 6 Pro, its pretty much stuck until Verizon blesses the update for the global version. I pray someone reads this and brings proper attention to it as general tech support for both Verizon and Google are terrible.....this goes higher-up.

  24. franklyray

    I wear hearing aids. I am a podcast junkie (including FRD of course).


    Bluetooth pairing is a nightmare with my P6Pro. When I change from one source to another, I have to shut off the hearing aids AND P6Pro and restart in order for the hearing aids to pair again.


    Apparently, P6Pro does not have the same hearing aid protocol as the Note 8 I enjoyed for 3 years without any Bluetooth issue.

    • philbypond

      What brand hearing aids do you have? I have no problem with my Phonak aids with a Pixel 3 XL that I am planning on upgrading to the 6. My wife has Oticon aids and they don't work well with her Pixel 4a5G. I checked with Oticon support and they said that they are geared to iPhone Bluetooth protocols only. I can't remember the actual technical details.

      • malc0

        Pixel 6 pro currently is too unreliable to use daily with Oticon Hearing aids. Streaming works but it constantly loses the pairing. I have sent bug report to Google. It is also being discussed on reddit that it affects other manufacturers

      • phfoneman

        I have been using a Pixel 6 for the past week and use Phonak hearing aids. Never had a problem with my old refurbed 3axl but the 6 is a NoGo with constant dropouts and pairing issues. Phone calls will pair in and out making it impossible to use reliably. I just started searching the web and have found several other posts regarding this issue. Right now, I was satisfied with my 3axl and may go back to it and return the 6 until something better comes along. I have become a fan of the Pixels, but this issue removes it from the upper tier for me and my money.

  25. MoopMeep

    What happened to Bun E.?

    I thought they made up..... they still mad at each other (for some reason that I am not sure)

  26. bluvg

    Doesn't charging always at that rate have a negative impact on battery life, though?

  27. jason_e

    Been using my 6 Pro for almost 2 weeks now and really enjoying it. The camera is nice but I was expecting more. Doesn't seem to be that much better than the Pixel 5 I had. I disagree that it leaps Apple and Samsung. I have an iPhone 13 Pro and been comparing the type of shots I normally take. Its 50/50 on which one comes out better. I am impressed with both. In my opinion there is definitely not a clear winner. White balance could be better out of the camera with the P6P especially indoors/lower light. The zoom is nice and Google's digital zoom is impressive. I still think Apple's night shot is better. Google lightens the photo too much and if you dare move just a little you get blurry shots with the Pixel 6. Again this is my opinion based on what I am seeing myself.


    I do not care much about the charging speed because I have been getting a full day so I just charge overnight while I sleep. But that fingerprint scanner is just horrible. I miss the ones on the back of the phone. Hoping Google can tweak some things with regards to the fingerprint scanner. I am also assuming over time Google will tweak their computation photography algorithms to work better with the new hardware. Even with the problems I am completely happy with my purchase of the Pixel 6 and the more I use it the more I like.

    • wolters

      Same...I was expecting more from the camera. I generally love the Pixel for photos but I have to admit the S21 Ultra is darn good and side by side, I am liking the S21 Ultra's photos better right now. I am going on a road trip in a few days and I'll take both with me to see how they compare.

  28. retcable

    From the number of bugs and flaws that have come to light lately, it appears that this new Pixel line of phones may be a bigtime dud. Slow charging and now the fact that if you let the battery run completely down, you cannot log into the phone using the fingerprint sensor, your only option is to totally reset the device. That's a fun prospect if you have irreplaceable photos on the thing when it dies. I would be UPSET if this happened to me and the thing would be tossed in the trash forthwith!

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