The best reason to buy a Google Pixel 6 isn't what you think

Google Pixel 6 And 6 Pro Together 01 Wide
Google Pixel 6 And 6 Pro Together 01 Wide (Image credit: Nick Sutrich / Android Central)

A few years ago, the world decided that the last thing we wanted to do while using our phones was to use them as phones. Seriously, I'm a dinosaur, and outside of talking to my parents, calling for a Pizza, or learning about my car's extended warranty, even I don't really use the phone part of my smartphone.

But that doesn't mean it's not annoying as heck when I do interact with it, especially when I'm using one of the best Android phones not made by Google. It's not so difficult to explain, though — it's more of Google's insane Artificial Intelligence doing things that seem like sorcery when it comes to controlling who calls you and how you make phone calls. On the Pixel 6 with Android 12 it's about to get even better!

These aren't the headline features that reviewers and forums are going to be gushing over, but the two best things about the Pixel 6 just might be its call screening and how you can place a call to a busy business. Of course, neither idea is new; we already see call screening through the Google dialer, or if you have a Google Fi number, and having Assistant help you "talk" to a business is something that Google has been teasing forever.

Improved spam detection and call screening

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Pixel 6 Call Screening

Source: YouTube (Image credit: Source: YouTube)

If you've never used Google's call screening and spam blocking dialer features, you have no idea how great they are and what you've been missing. Using AI, Google blocks spam calls completely, just like a call was coming from a number you blocked yourself. None of that Suspected Spam warning nonsense you might see while your phone still rings through that other companies offer. This is a feature that just works without you ever knowing it works.

Protip: if it's a call from an unknown number, you probably do not want to answer.

In tandem, a feature called call screening makes sure you really want to talk to any unknown numbers that aren't recognized as spam. A call comes in, you hit the call screen button, and Google Assistant informs the caller that this person is selective and screens their calls like a smart person would want to do. The caller has the option to reply or hang up. If they reply, Google Assistant turns their vocal reply into a message you can read in real-time. Then all you need to do is decide if you want to answer.

Google said these features are getting even better. AI improvements mean that more spam calls will be auto-blocked into the pits of hell where they belong, and the ones that get through will be screened faster than ever before so you can swipe away some person trying to sell you steaks through the mail or offer you that super-duper-extended car warranty you know you don't want or need.

As someone who moved away from a Pixel and into a Galaxy S21, these are the features I miss most of all. I love it when my smartphone is actually smart enough not to bug me over silly things.

Now, calling the DMV will suck a lot less

Google Assistant Business Call Options

Source: YouTube (Image credit: Source: YouTube)

I have to call my county office every month to pay my water bill. Yes, it's 2021, and this should be done via a website, yet here we are, and I have the number to the Water and Sewer District desk stored in my contacts like a caveman. To top it all off, calling every month is a huge PITA because some sort of crazed robot computer answers all incoming calls to "help" my call get routed to the correct person.

Press the pound sign to facepalm.

What that really means is I have to sit through a long list of options and press the #1 on the dialer once the robot is done reading to me, then either wait on hold or go through another set of options to leave a message to someone's "voice mailbox." Finally, If I am lucky and call before lunchtime, I have the person on the phone who will take my debit card number so I can pay the water bill out of my checking account.

Google might finally be here to save me from this pit of ancient technology with the Pixel 6's new Assistant dialer integration that does all the listening and waiting for me. What it does is allow Google Assistant to listen to the opening greeting, present you with a list of options to choose from, then keep listening to more menus or wait on hold for you and ring you up when it's time to talk to an actual human. To make it all even better, the feature also suggests the best time to make that call.

Companies need automation to route incoming calls, so we need tools on our phones to make it less tedious to use them.

I get why companies big and small need to automate the routing of incoming calls, and I understand that hearing something like "marque dos para español" is very important for many of us. I'm not trying to change the system because as much as I hate it (you probably hate it too sometimes), it's a necessary evil. This is why it's so cool to see Google trying to do something to make it better for the caller.

Google's "don't be evil" days may be long gone, but it is refreshing to see an AI-focused company putting super helpful features out there. And to be honest, it's enough to make me want to buy a Pixel phone even if I had never planned to do so. Of course, these features will probably work their way into every other phone one day, but for now, they are the best feature of the Pixel 6.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

  • The best way to write a headline isn't what you think.
  • I'm glad you can definitively say "The Pixel 6 is just better at being a phone than anything else you can buy" on a product that is not even available yet.
  • The Pixel 6 looks so much like my S20 FE other than the cameras on back. Just don't see any reason to switch.
  • Yes, it's a rectangular slab with a screen on the front, just like your Samsung! Hold the presses!
  • Stopped reading at "The Pixel 6 is just better at being a phone than anything else you can buy".
  • I do feel a: lot of people are missing that when he says "phone", he literally means "telephone" and not "smartphone". Perhaps these people are too young to realise that there can even be a distinction...
  • nailed it here
  • I love the way those features are working on my Pixel 4. I've preordered a Pixel 6 and can't wait to see how they've improved on what I've grown to love on the older Pixel.
  • Is that it?
    What a lame reason to buy a phone.
    And not even a universal feature, missing if you happen to be in a location where it's not supported....
  • Absolutely, Google should be publicly shamed for all the 'premium features' that are dangled in front of customers that never see the light of day (if you don't live in the US). I'm still waiting for call screening on my Pixel 5 after a year in the UK. I see a Class action on the horizon, or at least fines for false advertising.
  • I’m in the UK and was thinking that this feature might actually be useful … but to hear that it doesn’t even work sucks !
  • Agree with above commenter. Phone vs. Smartphone is being differentiated here. I'm generally excited about the hardware/smartphone capabilities of the 6, but these PHONE/TELEPHONE features are amazing. I'm running a pixel 3xl, my wife a pixel 3, and we have really appreciated the call screening feature as well as the spam blocker. Also it can be entertaining at times to hear people's reactions to the call screening when they've never experienced it before. The pixel 6 is the first pixel since the 3 that I've felt could truly replace it, and I'm strongly thinking about upgrading this year, and excited to see what features will be added in the TELEPHONE department as well as in the camera and AI areas.
  • Not just the Pixel 6. What you describe are Android 12 features, not exclusive to the Pixel 6. So any Pixel phone running Android 12 (which is the P3 and newer) can do it.
  • For now this feels like a kind of an overly priced "meh" device. That goes for both the regular and Pro models of the Pixel 6 . Some of the features and specs the Pixel 6 boasts are already available from other competitors and not just in flagship devices, but also mid-tier ones as well. The design is alright I guess, in the front it doesn't look any different than most devices these days. I'm not particularly a fan of that hunchback camera arrangement. But the available colour scheme is nice. I know "meh" is not the most coherent indication in terms of the quality of a device like the Pixel 6 (or anything else for that matter). But that is how it feels anyways, for now at least. It's as if parts of this device are somewhat of a "been there done that" type of deal. Also, the lack of a phone jack, no MicroSD card support, no headphones, no charger, no case, not even a pre-installed screen protector, these omissions don't play well in terms of gaining favour for the Pixel 6. Before
    people dismiss all those, the point is that for the asking price at least some of them should be available options included with the damn device, whether features or accessories. It seems as if everytime Google embarks on some journey, in this case product development and launch, they can never get their stuff together for something solid and consistent...they always come up short or missing something, some key ingredient. We'll see what follows...
  • So what high end phone comes with a 3.5mm headphone port, SD card slot, charger, headphones? Sony Xperia 1 (& 5) iii? Obviously I'll leave the case and screen protector out of this - like Google. Those are fine devices but I can't think of anything else. And the only two that make a real difference are the 3.5mm headphone port and SD card slot.
  • It doesn't have to be with all those items/features included. I was saying to have at least some of them. A combination. Let's say a charger, case and pre-installed screen protector. Something like that. The fact that these flagship devices cost soo much and increasingly you get nothing extra (actually all these shouldn't be extras) is the problem. This attitude on the part of the OEM's is quite presumptuous. They are assuming that the phone is enough and you should be grateful for it. Don't you dare expect anything else! I can't help but feel that consumers are getting hoodwinked.