Google's Pixel 6 series can't roll back from Android 13 to Android 12

Android 13 on a Google Pixel 6 Pro
(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Pixel 6 owners who have upgraded to stable Android 13 won't be able to roll back to Android 12.
  • This is due to a new bootloader update that “increments the anti-roll back version.”
  • It only applies to Google's most recent flagship phones, as well as the Pixel 6a.

Google has warned Pixel 6 owners that if they upgrade to Android 13, they will no longer be able to downgrade to Android 12.

The company posted the warning on the Android 13 factory images page, saying that the "Android 13 update for Pixel 6, Pixel 6 Pro, and the Pixel 6a contains a bootloader update that increments the anti-roll back version." Android 13 rolled out to Google’s Pixel phones yesterday.

This means that upgrading to the stable version of Android 13 is permanent. It should be noted that this only affects Google's latest and best Android phones, though the company did not mention the reason behind it.

XDA Developers notes that this limitation might be tied to the Pixel 6 series' Tensor chipset, which is unique to all three devices. Older Pixel models can still be downgraded to Android 12 after upgrading to Android 13. 

You can typically revert to a previous Android version after an upgrade by manually sideloading the older iteration. Google, on the other hand, uses Verified Boot to prevent bad actors from installing an older version of Android and injecting exploits into a device. According to the AOSP page for this feature, Verified Boot "helps to prevent a possible exploit from becoming persistent by ensuring devices only update to newer versions of Android."

While this may not be a major issue for most users, those who frequently switch between different versions should take heed of this warning.

The stable version of Android 13 has finally made its way to Pixel phones with a ton of improvements and minor tweaks, such as the expansion of Material You's app color theming to non-Google apps, app-level language settings, improved privacy controls, and new multitasking features. It is expected to hit other Android devices from Samsung, Asus, HMD Global, iQOO, Motorola, OnePlus, Oppo, Realme, Sharp, Sony, Tecno, Vivo, Xiaomi and more later this year.

Jay Bonggolto
News Writer & Reviewer

Jay Bonggolto always keeps a nose for news. He has been writing about consumer tech and apps for as long as he can remember, and he has used a variety of Android phones since falling in love with Jelly Bean. Send him a direct message via Twitter or LinkedIn.