Google Pixel 6 vs Apple iPhone 12: Which affordable flagship should you buy?
Google’s Pixel line of phones has been quite underwhelming in the past few years. The Pixel 5 had a mid-range chip, the Pixel 4 had poor battery life, and the Pixel 3XL had a bathtub notch. While they had their own positives, they weren’t really THE phone to recommend for most people. Google is trying to change that with the Pixel 6 series. The new Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro make a strong case for a flagship phone that can compete against rival brands. It also starts at a pretty affordable price of $699 for the standard Pixel 6. For that same price, we also have the Apple iPhone 12 from last year. Although it is not the most recent phone from Apple, the incremental nature of iPhone refreshes means that you still get a phone that can keep its flagship status. So you might be confused as to which one you should get between the two — the Pixel 6 or the iPhone 12?
Well, here’s a comparison of the Google Pixel 6 vs Apple iPhone 12 to help you decide which one’s better for you!
Google Pixel 6 vs Apple iPhone 12: Specifications
|Google Pixel 6||Apple iPhone 12|
|CPU||Google Tensor||Apple A14 Bionic|
|Sensors||Fingerprint sensor (under-display), Accelerometer, Barometer, Gyro sensor, Proximity sensor, Light sensor||Face ID, Accelerometer, Barometer, Gyro sensor, Proximity sensor, Light sensor|
|OS||Android 12||iOS 15|
|Colors||Sorta Seaform, Kinda Coral, Stormy Black||Black, White, Red, Blue, Green|
|Price||Starts at $699||Starts at $699|
Build and Design
There’s not a lot separating the Pixel 6 from the iPhone 12 in terms of build quality and the materials used in the construction of the two phones. Both phones have an aluminum rail sandwiched between layers of glass. The Pixel 6 has Gorilla Glass Victus on the front while the iPhone 12 has Ceramic Shield. The iPhone 12 is thinner, lighter, and more compact which means it’s going to be easier to use as well as carry around in your pocket or purse. They have a premium exterior since both Apple and Google have not compromised on the materials used. Both phones are also IP68 dust and water-resistant. You shouldn’t be worried about picking up either device since they’re both solid.
While the way both phones are built is similar, they look quite different from one another. The iPhone 12 goes for a more conventional look and is similar to the iPhone 11 barring the flat sides and a boxy look similar to the iPhone 4. It’s quite basic and is similar to what we’ve been seeing on modern-day phones. A plain glass back with a camera module house on the upper left corner. The Pixel 6 takes a different approach here. Google has given the phone a two-tone finish with a large camera bar separating the two colors.
The colors are nice and playful and the camera bar really adds character to the phone. It spans across the entire width of the phone similar to what we saw on the Nexus 6P from a few years back. This sort of look is quite unique which makes the Pixel 6 score high in terms of design. Looks and design are extremely subjective so the winner in this department should ideally be chosen by you. Some may like the clean and proven design of the iPhone 12 while some may prefer the bolder look of the Pixel 6. The flat sides appeal to some while some may find the curved sides on the Pixel 6 easier on the palms.
Before we get into the particulars of the display, the first thing you would notice while looking at both phones is that iPhone 12 has a notch but has slimmer bezels, while the Pixel 6 has a hole-punch but with thicker borders. Again, this comes down to personal preference. A lot of people seem to hate the notch since it’s an eyesore while you’re viewing content on the screen. Others don’t mind it since it’s just there and you get used to it in a couple of days. Well, I belong to the second category. Apple has reduced the size of the notch on this year’s iPhone 13 by about 20%, but the iPhone 12 still has a slightly bigger cutout.
The Pixel 6 does have a more immersive display since there’s no big notch, but the bezels are quite thick and uneven. This shouldn’t be an issue for most people, but it’s something worth mentioning. The Pixel 6 also offers a larger canvas in the form of a 6.4-inch AMOLED display versus the 6.1-inch panel on the iPhone 12. A larger display means you can view more content and it’s a better experience while watching movies and shows.
On the other hand, a smaller display with slim bezels on the iPhone 12 means the phone is compact and relatively easier to use one-handed. If you don’t watch a lot of content on your phone, the iPhone 12’s 6.1-inch OLED display should serve you well. Even if you do watch a lot of content, it’s going to look better on the iPhone 12’s display thanks to the support for Dolby Vision. However, the Pixel 6 hits right back with its 90Hz refresh rate display which makes scrolling and gaming a lot smoother. A faster refresh rate is something you will appreciate since things like scrolling through lists and social media feeds will appear smoother.
Both phones offer good displays that have their own pros and cons. Pick the Pixel 6 if you want a larger display that’s also smoother while scrolling and gaming, and doesn’t have a notch that might be interrupting. Pick the iPhone 12 if you want a more compact display with corners that you can reach with the thumb of your hand, provided you’re okay with the notch.
Since both the iPhone 12 and the Pixel 6 are flagship phones, they have top-of-the-line internals to power them. It’s important to note, though, that the iPhone 12 is last year’s flagship whereas the Pixel 6 is more recent. The iPhone 12 gets Apple’s A14 Bionic while the Pixel 6 has Google’s new in-house Tensor SoC. Over the past few years, Apple’s chipsets have been ahead of the competition in terms of raw performance. Google is trying to catch up with the Tensor, especially in terms of processing computational algorithms.
The iPhone 12, despite being a year old, will still perform better in intensive tasks like video editing, rendering, and gaming. However, day-to-day tasks like running social media and messaging apps, casual gaming, watching videos/movies, etc. should ideally feel similar on both phones. With the higher refresh rate, it may even be faster on the Pixel 6. The Tensor isn’t too good with graphics performance so if high-end gaming is your priority, the iPhone 12 is the one to pick. Apple’s hardware and software integration has gotten stronger over the years which has resulted in apps being better optimized for the iPhone. This is only Google’s first attempt at making their own hardware and software, so we can hope that it gets better with time.
You shouldn’t be worried about performance on either phone. It’s seldom that last year’s phone performs as well as this year’s flagship but that’s just how good Apple’s chipsets have been lately. One important thing to note here is that the Pixel 6 comes with a base storage of 128GB for the $699 price while the iPhone 12 for that same price only gives you 64GB. You will have to spend an additional $50 on extra storage on the iPhone 12. If you take a lot of photos and videos or install a bucketload of apps and games, we recommend picking up the 128GB variant or higher.
Needless to say, the software on both phones is very different. The Pixel 6 runs Android 12 and will receive three years of major Android version updates and five years of security patches. The iPhone 12, on the other hand, runs iOS 15 and should ideally get four to five years of software support going by Apple’s track record. Note that it’s already a year old at this point, though. It again comes down to personal preference as to whether you want an OS that’s customizable to a large extent or one that gets the basics right and is better optimized.
This is an area where the Pixel 6 absolutely shines. While the iPhone 12 does click some great pictures, the Pixel 6 just does better. Both phones have two lenses — a standard wide accompanied by an ultra-wide. The Pixel 6 has a higher resolution sensor which captures more details. It’s also better at low-light photography compared to the iPhone 12. Google’s Night Sight mode is quite magical and captures more light than the night mode on the iPhone 12. The still images clicked by the Pixel 6 in almost all scenarios are better than those clicked by the iPhone 12.
That’s not saying the iPhone 12 is bad by any means. It’s still got a solid set of cameras that are arguably more consistent than most phones out there. The colors look natural on the images shot by the iPhone 12 and the dynamic range looks great. The Pixel 6 outputs images with slightly boosted colors and contrast. Selfies are good on both phones with no clear winner. In terms of still images, the Pixel 6 captures photos that are pleasing to look at which probably makes it a better pick for the average consumer.
One area where the iPhone 12 does slightly better is videography. The Pixel 6 has improved considerably from previous generations in terms of capturing videos. However, it still loses to the iPhone 12 in this department. The iPhone 12’s video looks more crisp, stable, and better in terms of colors and dynamic range. The iPhone 12 can also shoot in 4K 60fps via all three cameras onboard, something that the Pixel 6 can’t do.
Overall, you’ll be happy picking up either phone in terms of camera performance. The iPhone 12 is consistent, but if still images are all you care about and you want photos that can be readily posted to social media, the Pixel 6 is a great pick.
Battery Life and Charging
The iPhone 12 has got a pretty small battery so it’s surely not winning any endurance awards. You can expect about 6 hours of Screen-on time from the iPhone 12 before having to plug it into the charger. This should be good for most people but if you’re a heavy user, you might have to start looking for a charger late in the evening. The Pixel 6, on the other hand, has a much larger battery that can last a full day with moderate to heavy use. It’s not the best in terms of battery life, but it is slightly better than the iPhone 12.
The Tensor chip isn’t really an endurance champion and the 90Hz display can also drain more battery especially in apps that make use of that high refresh rate. Both phones will not disappoint you though as Apple’s optimization is pretty good. However, you’ll have to charge the Pixel 6 less frequently. Speaking of charging, the iPhone 12 supports fast charging up to 20W while the Pixel 6 can go up to 30W. Both phones have wireless charging too with the iPhone 12 capping out at 15W via MagSafe and the Pixel 6 going till 21W. A huge advantage that the Pixel 6 has over the iPhone 12 is that it charges via USB-C instead of the proprietary lightning connector on the iPhone.
Pixel 6 vs iPhone 12: Which one should you buy?
Both the Pixel 6 and the iPhone 12 start at $699 in the US, but you get double the storage with the former. Both of them have great cameras, good battery life, a nice display, and a flagship processor. It all boils down to the age-old Android vs iOS debate, doesn’t it? Well, kinda. The iPhone 12 is better at gaming, taking videos, and has a compact form factor. It’s also got additional features like AirDrop, Continuity, Hand-off, etc. that you’ll appreciate if you’re into the Apple ecosystem.
The Pixel 6 has a bigger display with no notch, an equally good set of cameras, a unique design, slightly better battery life, and it runs on Android 12 with the new Material You overhaul. It’s one of the best Pixel phones made to date. Unless you really want a phone with iOS that syncs with other Apple products, the Pixel 6 actually makes more sense since it’s also more recent and gets most of the basics right. You can even check out our Pixel 6 review or iPhone 12 review to know more about the device. If you’re already into the Apple ecosystem and like iOS, you can also consider paying an extra $100 and pick up the iPhone 13, though we do find the iPhone 12 to be a better value purchase than the iPhone 13.
Which one are you going to buy — the Pixel 6 or the iPhone 12? Let us know in the comments below! You can check out the best Pixel 6 deals if you plan to buy the phone and also the best Pixel 6 cases or the best iPhone 12 case to protect either of the two devices.