When you use your smartphone, do you find yourself loving it or hating it? Maybe your job is precarious and that expensive and fragile flagship is just an accident waiting to happen (and another bill you’re not ready to pay). Or maybe you find yourself on a long trip to town and your phone’s meager battery life just doesn’t cut it anymore. Or maybe, maybe, you’ve already picked the perfect smartphone this time around and can’t wait to sing the praises.
Whatever situation you’re in, Reader’s Choice explores the decisions you’ve made along the way that brought you to your current smartphone. Whether it’s one of the best Android phones or one of the worst phones you’ve ever had, we talk to our readers and find out exactly why they chose their current smartphone, whether they love it or hate it, and what could be better or worse.
Interested in expressing your opinion? Readers Choice is a regular column and we’d love to hear from you. Have you found the secret sauce that makes your phone better for your lifestyle, or do you want to warn others not to make the same buying mistakes? Tweet us Please let us know! This is all about you.
The best of Saul on demand
I start this regular column with my good friend Saul, a data consultant who lives in Chicago with his family. Saul makes regular trips to and from the office several days a week, but, he tells me, he hasn’t chosen his latest upgrades to better suit his work life or his commute. After all, Saul previously used the Note 20 Ultra and certainly didn’t need a device with better battery life or more productivity features.
Instead, Saul told me he chose the Pixel 6 Pro specifically for its camera. “I’ve owned Nokia, Apple, and Samsung phones in the past and the camera was the most important thing to me. With all the hype previous Pixel phones have seen, plus the promise of a new sensor, it was the obvious choice for someone like me to prioritize the camera.”
Back in November, I wrote about how the Pixel 6 is the best smartphone camera for parents for a reason. No other Android phone can capture motion the way the Pixel 6. Google has built in so many new automatic features that work to ensure that your photos are as clear as possible, and even when there’s a lot of movement, the faces of the people you take should be Clearer than any other phone.
Saul also agrees, saying, “I take tons of family photos, and that’s one area where the phone hooks up. No other phone I’ve used is better for capturing faces and freezing action. It’s the perfect camera for shooting active kids in play.”
But I know from personal conversations over the past few months with Saul that he will also love a phone like the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra due to its ability to zoom in further than the Pixel 6 Pro. For someone commuting to a big city for work, having the ability to zoom in even further to see the finer details of historic buildings is a lot of fun. While the Pixel 6 Pro can zoom in up to 20x very cleanly, it’s hard to argue with the S22 Ultra’s 100x zoom – if that’s a priority, of course.
It’s the little things that matter
Saul also told me that the stylus would be nice — another thing the Galaxy S22 Ultra would provide — but that kind of productivity simply isn’t a priority for him on his daily commute.
Instead, Saul told me that a particular feature was a happy surprise for him and quickly became his favorite part of the Pixel 6 Pro experience. “I would say my favorite thing about the phone is… the phone app. It screens calls for me, efficiently deals with spam, waits for me, and otherwise demonstrates how Google can use its smarts to improve the user experience when focused.”
Samsung offers decent spam detection on its phones but nothing really comes close to Pixel Call Screening. Not only does it automatically reject callers identified as spam, but it can harness the power of Google Assistant to actually answer calls for you, much like an actual personal assistant in the office would. As someone who switches phones regularly to review, I can tell you that I’ve noticed the massive increase in spam calls all The time I’m away from my Pixel phone.
But there’s no arguing the fact that the Pixel 6 has the most challenging software of any Pixel phone to date, which suggests very little, considering the Pixel line’s woes over the years. When I asked Saul his least favorite thing about the Pixel 6 Pro, he was quick to answer.
“Bugs. There are a lot of them. They are frequent enough to cause daily frustration.”
I’ve come across my fair share of bugs on my Pixel 6 Pro too, but it seems Saul regularly finds bugs that I’ve never had before. “I consider myself a power user, so I’m used to bugs, both on iPhone and Android, but the amount of software quirks on the Pixel is still surprising.”
We’ve been running the Pixel 6 bug tracker since the phone was launched in an effort to track down all the oddities that happen, but some of these bugs were also present in previous generation Pixel phones as well.
He recently told me about a time he was taking a picture during a Zoom meeting while on the train. He clicked the button and watched the shutter recording, but no photo was saved in his gallery. At that point, the moment was over and the seconds were gone for a great photo shoot. This is a bug that I haven’t encountered on Pixel phones since the Pixel 3 and it proves that there are still gremlins in Google’s software.
I can remember a lot of times when Bluetooth wasn’t working properly on my Pixel 4 XL – in fact, I couldn’t even set up the August Smart Lock because the Pixel’s Bluetooth stack somehow wasn’t compatible with it – and Saul seemed to have issues Similar to Pixel 6 Pro. “Some bugs I’ve had about switching Bluetooth audio makes it tricky when I have to move zoom calls between Bluetooth headphones and car audio.”
I only use bluetooth on speakers I rack books at home – or when I travel and use a pair of earphones – so I haven’t seen these same issues, but I’ve run into a lot of annoying little bugs all the time on my phone. On the other hand, Saul’s Pixel 6 Pro seems to have frequent bugs that could throw anyone off the phone if it wasn’t for the quality of the camera.
Saul told me that “Using the camera from the lock screen is completely unreliable and I lost photo opportunities because of that. The home screen is also unstable.”
While switching to a third-party driver might be a remedy for at least one of these issues, one specific bug in Android 12 found in all phones running the operating system makes this experience less than excellent when using gestures. In short, you’ll need to wait a moment after swiping up to go home before clicking any icons, or else you’ll accidentally launch some recent random apps.
Was the switch worth it?
It seems that switching from the incredibly feature-rich Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra to the Pixel 6 Pro could be a tough choice. While Google certainly has its share of unique features — including the very popular call screening — it’s hard to do without Samsung’s features once you’re used to using them on a daily basis.
Surprisingly enough, despite the bugs and the loss of some features, Saul says he doesn’t regret the switch at all. “In terms of regrets about my purchase, I would say my overall experience with the phone has been positive. I enjoyed using it and taking pictures with it. I was expecting more in terms of software stability given the price point, but I don’t regret buying this phone, in part because I do Upgrading annually anyway, so I’m moving fairly quickly from phones.”
Perhaps this last part is the tell-tale sign to others. While I certainly expect Google to get rid of most (or all) of these bugs before the end of the year, folks who have less patience for bugs may want to steer clear of the Pixel 6 for now.
Saul told me he’s looking to the next generation of foldable phones for his next upgrade. We’re hoping to make some big changes in the Galaxy Z Fold 4, but none of these improvements are more important to Saul – or someone like me, really – than getting better camera hardware over the latest phones available. The best camera might be the one you carry with you, but why not have the best hardware too? here hopes.
Google Pixel 6 Pro
The Google Pixel 6 Pro is among the best camera smartphones you can buy, and the absolute best if you have pets or kids.