Google Pixel 6 vs. iPhone 13: Which flagship phone wins?

google pixel 6 vs. iphone 13
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The big fall phone releases have arrived in the form of the iPhone 13 and the Pixel 6. And now that we've had the opportunity to thoroughly test both phones — including head-to-head photography face-offs — it's time to figure out who wins the Google Pixel 6 vs. iPhone 13 battle.

It's certainly a tough contest. The iPhone 13 continues to set the standard for smartphones, with a powerful processor, noteworthy camera improvements and a bigger battery that addresses one of the iPhone 12's few flaws. The Pixel 6, on the other hand, looks different from any Google phone that's come before it, but it still offers the outstanding photo experience you've come to expect.

The iPhone 13 and Pixel 6 both offer different takes on design and displays, and Google's new Tensor processor offers an intriguing alternative to Apple's A15 Bionic chip. But ultimately, this is one battle that boils down to how the two best camera phones available compare when it comes to photos.

Here's how our Google Pixel 6 vs. iPhone 13 face-off went down. (For a comparison of the larger, more advanced models, check out our Google Pixel 6 Pro vs. iPhone 13 Pro Max analysis.)

Google Pixel 6 vs. iPhone 13: Specs

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Row 0 - Cell 0 Pixel 6iPhone 13
Starting price$599$799
Screen size6.4 inches (2400 x 1080)6.1 inches (2532 x 1170)
Refresh rate90Hz60Hz
CPUGoogle TensorA15 Bionic
Rear cameras50 MP maink 12MP ultrawide12MP main, 12MP ultrawide
Front cameras8MP12MP
Battery size4,614mAhUnknown
Battery life (Hrs:Mins)8:1210:33
Charging speed30W, wired; 21W, wireless20W, wired; 15W, wireless
Size6.2 x 2.9 x 0.4 inches5.8 x 2.8 x 0.3 inches
Weight7.3 ounces6.1 ounces

Google Pixel 6 vs. iPhone 13: Price and availability

The Google Pixel 6 beats the iPhone 13 on price, even though the cost of Google's phone depends on where you buy it from. In most locations including from Google as well as from carriers like T-Mobile, you'll pay $599 for the Pixel 6. Verizon and AT&T charge more, as their version of the phone works with their respective high-speed 5G networks.

The iPhone 13 costs $799 — a $200 premium over the Pixel 6's starting price. Even the more affordable iPhone 13 mini costs $100 more than Google's phone.

If you buy your iPhone from Apple, you can get up to $700 off by trading in your current device, though the biggest rebates come from newer iPhones. Google doesn't offer any similar discount, though we are keeping an eye on the best Google Pixel 6 deals. Similarly, the best iPhone 13 deals can help you save, too.

Ultimately, the Pixel wins in this regard — in fact, it's of the key areas where the Google Pixels beat the iPhone and Galaxy in 2021.

Winner: Google Pixel 6

Google Pixel 6 vs. iPhone 13: Design

In the case of the Pixel, Google has moved drastically from its previous design language. Up until now, Pixels have been pretty spartan affairs. Other than unique colorways, like blue, orange, and pink, the Pixels have stuck with a muted design. The Pixel 6 bucks that trend completely, opting for a horizontal camera bar that spans the length of the phone, separating two variations of the same color. In the Pixel 6's case, your color options include black, sage and coral.

google pixel 6 vs. iphone 13

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The camera bar on the Pixel 6 is certainly distinctive, though it does jut out from the back of the phone, adding to the Pixel 6's thickness. The iPhone 13 is a tenth of an inch thinner as a result. On the bright side, though, because that bar goes across the length of the phone, the Pixel 6 doesn't wobble when you set it on its back. The iPhone 13, with a camera array in its upper left corner, does have a slight wobble.

As for the iPhone 13's look, it's a match with the iPhone 12, though with a couple of key differences. First, the notch is smaller on this year's iPhones — 20% smaller, according to Apple. The camera array on the rear features diagonally-opposed lenses, instead of stacking the cameras on top of one another.

google pixel 6 vs. iphone 13

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Smaller though the notch may be on the iPhone 13, it's still more prominent than the front camera cut-out in the top center of the Pixel 6's 6.4-inch display. That means more uninterrupted screen real estate on Google's phone.

The Pixel 6 features an under-display fingerprint sensor that's proven to be frustrating for some Pixel owners, as it takes a while to recognize your fingerprint. Still, iPhone 13 owners have no fingerprint sensor whatsoever, relying instead on Apple's Face ID technology to unlock their phones. Face ID is quick, reliable and secure, but not effective when you're wearing a face mask.

Winner: Google Pixel 6

Google Pixel 6 vs. iPhone 13: Display

As you can see from the Google Pixel 6 vs. iPhone 13 specs comparison, Google's phone offers more screen space — 6.4 inches to the iPhone's 6.1 inches. Apple does offer sharper resolution, however.

google pixel 6 vs. iphone 13

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

But Google gives its phone another advantage — the Pixel 6 offers a 90Hz refresh rate. While that's not as fast as other flagship phones, including the Pixel 6 Pro and its 120Hz adaptive refresh rate, it certainly tops the iPhone 13, which remains stuck at 60Hz. Apple only added adaptive refresh rates to the iPhone 13 Pro models, which means that the Pixel 6 offers a more immersive experience with smoother scrolling.

Pixel 6 display showing a video

Pixel 6 (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Besides the faster refresh rate, the Pixel 6 holds another advantage over the iPhone 13 — it's brighter, though only by a little bit. We measure the iPhone 13 at 795 nits of brightness with a light meter, which comes up just shy compared to the Pixel 6's 843 nit rating.

iPhone 13 showing a video

iPhone 13 (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

That said, the iPhone 13's OLED display is still a pleasure to look at. It's also slightly more colorful than the Pixel 6, capturing 110.2% of the sRGB color spectrum to the Pixel 6's 100.9%. The iPhone 13 is slightly more accurate, too, with a 0.26 Delta-E rating to the Pixel 6's 0.28 score. (The closer to zero, the more accurate the colors.)

Really, these two displays aren't separated by much, so the faster refresh rate wins the day for the Pixel 6.

Winner: Google Pixel 6

Google Pixel 6 vs. iPhone 13: Cameras

Both the iPhone 13 and Pixel 6 introduce significant changes to the camera hardware. In the iPhone's case, Apple opted for a bigger main lens that lets in 47% more light than the iPhone 12 did. The ultrawide angle camera also sees some low-light improvements while capturing more of the background than it did before.

google pixel 6 vs. iphone 13

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Google made some changes of its own, going with a 50MP sensor as the Pixel 6's main camera. That's coupled with a 12MP ultrawide angle lens. Both phones rely on software for zooming in on subjects, with Google's Super Res Zoom feature particularly adept at filling in the details while minimizing photographic noise.

You can see how Apple's focus on improving low-light photography paid off in this shot of some Halloween decorations indoors at night. The iPhone 13's white balance is more accurate, and as a result, its camera deals with the harsh lighting with greater aplomb than the Pixel 6 did. The decorations don't pop in the iPhone's photo the way they do in the Google shot, but I dislike the warmer colors that the Pixel uses here, and find the iPhone image much more accurate.

Sticking with low-light photography, the night shots captured by the Pixel 6 and iPhone 13 are evenly matched. I like how the iPhone brightened the tree leaves and highlighted the white in skull perched in one of the branches, though I'd argue the Pixel 6 presented a more accurate picture with better use of shadow. I think I'd give the edge to the iPhone on this photo — the skull seems more in focus to my eye — but the Pixel 6's shot is more than acceptable.

This photo of a persimmon tree in the throes of autumn illustrates a persistent issue I noticed with the Pixel 6's camera. It skews toward cooler color casts which can sometimes dull the overall look of a photo. I think the leaves in the iPhone 13 shot are much more vibrant, and it's easier to spot the raindrops beading on the fruit itself. It's just a much better composed photo than what the Pixel 6 offers.

That approach to colors can serve the Pixel 6 well, though, as I found out when testing ultrawide angle lenses. The cooler colors in the Pixel 6 photo make the stormy sky look much more foreboding. I think the iPhone 13 shot keeps everything looking sharper, but the Pixel 6 photo is cleaner overall.

Should you turn to a digital zoom, you'll prefer what you get from the Pixel 6 and its reliance on Google's Super Res Zoom capabilities. The Oakland skyline is in much sharper focus in the Pixel 6 shot, with the Tribune Tower standing out against the dark sky. The iPhone 13 tries, but it allows too much noise into the picture when I zoomed in at 4x for this photo.

I was repeatedly disappointed by the selfie cam on the Pixel 6, whether I took shots in good light or in bad. (And the lighting is very poor in this self-portrait, believe me.) The Pixel 6's love of cool colors and over-smoothing gives my face a very unnatural look and subdues features like my beard and my baseball cap. The iPhone 13's effort is overly warm — we'll blame the low lighting on my much too ruddy face — but at least it's more accurate than what the Pixel 6 came up with.

While photo comparisons tell most of the story here, we can't ignore the different photo editing features both phones bring to the mix. The iPhone 13 offers a Cinematic mode for shooting video, in which the focus can switch back and forth between objects in the foreground and background — it's a really impressive effect. The Pixel 6, meanwhile, introduces clever capabilities like Magic Eraser for effortlessly removing people who've wandered into your shot and Motion mode for adding stylistic blurs to action shots.

Winner: iPhone 13

Google Pixel 6 vs. iPhone 13: Performance and 5G

Google caused a stir by dropping Qualcomm's Snapdragon system-on-chip in favor of its own Tensor chip for the Pixel 6. Google wanted a greater emphasis on machine learning for the silicon powering its phone, which is why the Tensor chip has its own Tensor Processing Unit that handles a lot of the tasks that might normally go through the CPU. As a result, there's a lot of on-board smarts with the Pixel 6, as we'll see when we get to the software section of this Google Pixel 6 vs. iPhone 13 face-off.

Google Pixel Event Tensor chip screenshot

(Image credit: Google)

As for performance, while the Tensor can hold its own with the Snapdragon 888 as we found in our Pixel 6 benchmarks, it's really no match for the A15 Bionic chip inside the iPhone 13. That's no surprise, as the A15 has proven to be the fastest chip we've tested.

That's reflected in benchmarks like Geekbench 5, where the iPhone 13's multicore score of 4,129 trounces the Pixel 6's 2,696 result. Even in graphics tests, where the Pixel 6 and Tensor fare better, the iPhone 13 blows it away — in 3DMark's Wild Life Unlimited test, Apple's phone racked up a 55.9 frames per second result to a 34-fps score from the Pixel 6.

In our real-world test, where we use Adobe Premiere to transcode a 4K video, the Pixel 6 turned in one of the best scores produced by an Android phone — 49 seconds. As good as that result is, it's nowhere near the iPhone 13's time of just under 26 seconds.

iPhone 13 playing a game

iphone 13 (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The iPhone 13 also holds an edge over the Pixel 6 on the 5G front. Buy an iPhone 13, and it will work with any 5G network. The Pixel 6 can, too, but you'll need to buy your phone specifically from AT&T or Verizon if you want to take advantage of the ultra fast mmWave-based networks those carriers offer. The unlocked version of the Pixel 6 simply works with sub-6 GHz 5G used by carriers to build-out nationwide coverage. The Pixel 6's modem is also older than the modem Apple uses in the iPhone 13, which means that its 5G speeds may not match what you see in other phones. (For an example of this, take a look at Pixel 6 Pro 5G speed tests and how they lag Samsung's Galaxy S21.)

Winner: iPhone 13

Google Pixel 6 vs. iPhone 13: Battery life and charging

The Pixel 6 sports a 4,614 mAh power pack, and while we don't know the official size of the iPhone 13's battery, Apple has confirmed that it's larger than what you got with the iPhone 12.

The move paid off in Apple's case. The iPhone 13 lasted 10 hours and 33 minutes on our battery test, where we have phones surf the web over 5G until they run out of power. That's not only better than the average smartphone, it's a 2-hour improvement over the iPhone 12's time.

The Pixel 6 was not so lucky. We only recorded 8 hours and 13 minutes when testing over T-Mobile's 5G network. That's below average for a phone. Note that when we tested on a LTE network — Verizon's, specifically — the Pixel 6 performed dramatically better, turning in a 10 hour and 52 minute time more in line with the iPhone 13's performance. We suspect that the disparity is caused by Google's use of an older 5G modem in its phone that's impacting power efficiency when you connect to 5G.