Google Pixel 6 vs. iPhone 13: Which should you buy?

Google Pixel 6 Hold Back
Google Pixel 6 Hold Back (Image credit: Nick Sutrich / Android Central)

Google Pixel 6

Google Pixel 6 Kinda Coral Render

The Pixel 6 is a more traditional flagship than past Google phones. Its 6.4-inch, 90Hz display looks great, its 8GB of RAM and Google Tensor contribute to a performance that rivals the best Android phones, and the new Android 12 software looks fantastic.

Google Pixel 6

Superior display, better cams, AI-backed

Larger display with 90Hz refresh rate
More affordable
Twice the RAM
AI tools like Magic Eraser and Instant Translation
Amazing photography quality
Android 12 software
Slower performance
Extra cost for mmWave 5G
Can struggle in direct sunlight
Camera bar will be polarizing

iPhone 13

iPhone 13 Render

Thanks to the Bionic A15 chipset, Apple has only increased its performance lead over Android phones. The iPhone 13 treads water a bit with its design and cameras, but revamped battery life and a brighter display help make this a solid upgrade. And fans of smaller phones will prefer it.

iPhone 13

Faster performance, longer battery life

Outperforms the Pixel 6 in benchmarks
More pixels per inch
Cinematic Mode produces great video
Battery life improvements over 12
Bright display handles direct sunlight
More color options
60Hz refresh rate
A smaller notch is still a notch
Fewer MP than Pixel 6 cameras
No fingerprint scanner
More expensive
Slower charging

In previous years, Pixels appealed to a very specific class of Android superfans but never broke into the mainstream. This year, the Google Pixel 6 has blown away expectations with its colorful design, in-house chipset, and revamped cameras. But will it appeal to Apple fans ready to buy the new iPhone 13? Both phones received glowing reviews from Android Central and iMore, respectively, but they bring different tools and perks to the table. So let's weigh the Pixel 6 vs. iPhone 13: the battle of the middleweights.

Pixel 6 vs. iPhone 13: Different spec strengths

Neither the Pixel 6 and iPhone 13 offer "flagship" specs, which you'll find on the iPhone 13 Pro or Pixel 6 Pro. These phones make some spec compromises in exchange for a more palatable price for thrifty shoppers, such as 1080p displays and no telephoto camera. But how do they compare to one another?

In many ways, comparing an iPhone to an Android phone is like weighing apples against oranges. Both have specific perks the other lacks because Apple and Google are building different kinds of phones. Still, weighing these two phones' specs helps give a clearer view of how they match up outside of all the marketing.

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Header Cell - Column 0 Google Pixel 6iPhone 13
Operating SystemAndroid 12iOS 15
Display6.4 inches (20:9)1080x2400 (411 PPI) OLED90HzGorilla Glass Victus6.1 inches (19.5:9)2532x1170 (460 PPI) Super Retina XDR OLED display90HzCeramic Shield
ProcessorGoogle Tensor2 ARM Cortex-X1 cores (2.8 GHz), 2 A76 (2.25GHz), 4 A55; 20-core GPU; Titan M2 securityA15 Bionic6‑core CPU with 2 performance and 4 efficiency cores; 4‑core GPU; 16‑core Neural Engine
RAM8GB4GB (not official)
Storage128/256GBNo microSD slot128/256/512GBNo microSD slot
Rear camera50MP, ƒ/1.85, 1.2μm (wide-angle)12MP, ƒ/1.8, 1.7μm (wide)
Rear camera 212MP, ƒ/2.2, 1.25μm (ultra-wide)12MP, ƒ/2.4, 1.0μm (ultra-wide)
Front camera8.0MP, ƒ/2.0, 1.12μm12MP, ƒ/2.2
Battery4614mAh3,227 mAh
Charging30W Fast Charging12-23W Wireless Charging5W Reverse Wireless Charging20W wired charging over LightningMagSafe wireless charging up to 15WQi wireless charging up to 7.5W
Water resistanceIP68IP68
5GSub-6; Verizon/mmWave model costs $100 extraSub-6; mmWave
Dimensions6.2 x 2.9 x 0.4 inches207g/7.3oz5.78 x 2.82 x 0.3 inches174g/6.1oz
ColorsStormy BlackKinda CoralSorta SeafoamStarlightMidnightBluePink(PRODUCT)Red

With the Pixel 6, you get a 0.3-inch larger display with a faster refresh rate, which gives you supremely smooth scrolling combined with 8GB of RAM. iPhone users will be used to 60Hz and won't notice its absence, but it is a bit frustrating that Apple only put 120Hz ProMotion on the Pro. Even cheap and mid-range Android phones routinely hit 90Hz these days.

Google Pixel 6

Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central)

Refresh rates aside, either phone gives you a display worth staring at for hours. The Pixel 6 got "vibrant and vivid" in our tests, especially when watching HDR content. As for the iPhone 13, its display is noticeably smaller but packs in more pixels. iMore's reviewer praised it for similar strengths as the Pixel 6, with "beautiful" colors and HDR content that "displays wonderfully," overall showing a marked improvement on the 12's display. However, it also appears to have better nit performance for viewing in direct sunlight, something we found the Pixel 6 struggles with somewhat.

The Pixel 6 wins the RAM battle, with 8GB compared to just 4GB with the iPhone 13. But Apple optimizes its performance so well that this doesn't give Google the advantage you'd expect. We'll discuss benchmarks more in the next section.

Both the Pixel 6 and iPhone 13 have all-day battery life, beautiful color fidelity, and delightful HDR quality.

Similarly, even though the Pixel 6 has much more battery capacity, the iPhone 13 uses its capacity more efficiently. Compared to the iPhone 12, the iPhone 13 added 2.5 hours of battery life, which our reviewer said held up in his tests; it would typically have a 50% charge remaining by 11 p.m. after a day of typical use. Meanwhile, our Pixel 6 reviewer found it would drop to "30-25% battery with 5.5 hours of screen on time," more than enough for typical use but not precisely long-lived. Also noteworthy is that the Pixel 6 lacks the overheating issue found on previous Pixel flagships.

iPhone 13 Design Hero

Source: Joseph Keller / iMore (Image credit: Source: Joseph Keller / iMore)

While the Pixel 6 battery is solid but not superb, it does clearly win the charging battle. Its 30W charging speed, faster wireless charging with the 23W Pixel Stand, and reverse charging to power accessories all beat the iPhone 13's metrics. If you're running low on the road, a portable charger should get it topped off in no time flat.

Only the iPhone 13 offers 512GB of storage — which matters since neither phone has expandable storage — in exchange for an extra $200. The Pixel 6 is already $200 cheaper, so that additional storage will only accentuate the iPhone 13's higher price by comparison.

Pixel 6 vs. iPhone 13: Performance and software

Benchmarks are an unreliable way to judge a phone, but they give a ballpark estimate for what to expect. And based on Pixel 6 Geekbench scores posted in recent days, the Pixel 6 and its Google Tensor chipset produce solid benchmarks that compete with the Samsung Galaxy S21 and other Snapdragon 888-backed phones.

The Pixel 6 holds its own against flagship Android phones, but the iPhone 13 smashes all Android phones in benchmarks.

While the Pixel 6 holds its own against the best Android phones, the issue is that Apple's Bionic chips run laps around Android phones in performance. The iPhone 12's A14 chipset smashed the S21 in performance, and the A15 only increased that lead by about 20%.

In fact, while Apple claimed its chipset was 50% faster than other leading Android competitors, the A15 actually outperformed Apple's estimates in tests, further leaving behind rivals like the Pixel 6.

But how much does this really matter? In our Pixel 6 review, we found the performance to be "butter smooth" when multitasking, with no lag when juggling two memory-intensive tasks like shooting video and listening to music. Equally important, Tensor adds new AI features like near-instant voice-to-text, accurate translation of words to other languages, and faster image processing.

Even if the iPhone 13 runs faster in tests, the Pixel 6 runs fast enough for any daily task. The iPhone 13's superior GPU performance will matter for serious mobile gamers, but they'll want to upgrade to the Pixel 6 Pro anyways for its larger screen and 12GB of RAM. The flagship Pixel costs $899 — just $100 more than the base iPhone 13.

Google Pixel 6 Widgets Material You Red

Source: Alex Dobie / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Alex Dobie / Android Central)

Pixel 6's five years of support comes the closest of any Android phone in competing with the iPhone's longevity.

We'll also point out that the Pixel 6 significantly closes the gap on Apple and its software dominance. Both iPhones and Pixels get first access to new operating systems every year, but Apple has always supported its phones for longer. Now that the Pixel 6 is receiving four years of OS updates and five years of security updates, it nearly matches the planned longevity of the iPhone 13. Both phones should still be running smoothly by the time you're ready to upgrade to a new phone.

As for the software itself, that takes you back into the apples vs. oranges sphere. Android 12 made some incredible advancements with its new dynamic theme colors, redesigned widgets, privacy upgrades, notification tweaks, and more. Meanwhile, iOS 15, like the iPhone 13, was more of an iterative release that tweaked and optimized its software formula — though it did add some useful new tools like Focus Mode.

The Pixel 6's Material You UI, which changes color based on your current wallpaper colors, is a bombshell feature that Apple should copy for iOS. But frankly, if you've used one OS or the other most of your life, neither of these releases gives enough of a justification for you to switch teams.

Pixel 6 vs. iPhone 13: Photography and video

iPhone 13 Camera Hero

Source: Joseph Keller / iMore (Image credit: Source: Joseph Keller / iMore)

In terms of pure specs, the Pixel 6 has a superior rear camera with more MP and a wider angle. The iPhone 13 sports a better selfie camera, and both ultrawide sensors are comparable. But how do their photos and videos compare in real life?

Pixels have always handled photography well, but mainly through computational excellence while relying on old sensors. Now that the Pixel 6 has an upgraded primary sensor, its photo quality is truly stellar. Regular photos look amazing, assisted by Google's AI algorithms and the new Real Tone tool for better capturing darker skin tones accurately.

Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central

It also handles Portrait and Night Sight shots better because Tensor sped up the shots, so you're less likely to get blur as you wait for a photo to process. And the new Magic Eraser tool works disturbingly well at removing any unsightly objects (or people) from photos without their absence being obvious.

As for the iPhone 13, its cameras capture more light than last year's, but most of its photo improvements stem from software updates. Its new optical image stabilization tool helps reduce the impact of handshaking on photo quality, while Photographic Styles causes your iPhone cameras to capture photos differently as you're taking the shot, instead of relying entirely on post-production to make changes.

We'd be remiss not to mention that Cinematic Mode focuses on the central person or object, but automatically shifts the focus and depth of field if you change the main subject to someone else. It proves Google isn't the only one improving its onboard AI.

Then again, Apple wasn't the only one to make video upgrades to its new phone, either. Our Pixel 6 video test (above) proved just as vivid as our photo tests, and Tensor helps keep its videos focused and stable. If we were comparing against the iPhone 13 Pro and its ProRes video, the Pixel 6 would fall short; but the iPhone 13 and Pixel 6 seem well matched for video quality, while the Pixel 6 arguably wins the camera quality battle.

Pixel 6 vs. iPhone 13: Which should you buy?

Google Pixel 6

Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central)

The main reason to consider the Pixel 6 over the iPhone 13 is the price. At $599 for flagship-quality performance on a larger, smoother screen, plus superb camera quality with superior AI tools for realistic post-processing, it will be incredibly compelling for people unwilling to spend too much on a smartphone. It may not be as fast as the iPhone 13, but its performance arguably matches the speeds of other top-quality phones from Samsung and OnePlus that cost hundreds more.

With the iPhone 13, longtime Apple fans know what they're getting: consistently snappy performance, the best app support (devs typically put more effort into iOS) within Apple's walled garden, and solid photography and video. This year's model also solves some of the 12's issues, such as readability in sunlight and longer battery life. Unfortunately, you'll just have to accept a higher price for a smaller phone or spend even more for the iPhone 13 Pro's larger 120Hz display.

Google and Apple have knocked it out of the park with these phones, playing to their respective strengths. As such, you can't really go wrong with either. It'll simply depend on what you're looking for in a smartphone.

Michael L Hicks
Senior Editor, Wearables & AR/VR

Michael is Android Central's resident expert on wearables and fitness. Before joining Android Central, he freelanced for years at Techradar, Wareable, Windows Central, and Digital Trends. Channeling his love of running, he established himself as an expert on fitness watches, testing and reviewing models from Garmin, Fitbit, Samsung, Apple, COROS, Polar, Amazfit, Suunto, and more.