Google Pixel 6 can now detect your breathing and heart rate — here's how

The Google Pixel 6 Pro (in black) and Google Pixel 6 (in coral) laid next to each other on wooden decking
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Once again, the Google Pixel 6 has quietly received a new feature without any fanfare. And this one will be welcome to all Pixel 6 owners who want to monitor their fitness without any extra gear.

The Google Fit app's heart and breathing rate tracking features have now appeared on the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. It was spotted and reported by 9to5Google, and you may well have the feature on your Pixel right now, as we found on our Pixel 6 Pro.

These Pixel-exclusive health-tracking features, announced in March, use the phone's rear camera to take readings. For breathing, the camera tracks the movement of your chest, whereas for your heart rate it detects subtle color changes in your finger, which you place over the camera lens.

A screenshot of Google Fit's heart rate and breathing rate options

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

This feature doesn't seem to have fully rolled out yet though. It's reportedly labeled as "Early access" for some users, while on our Pixel phones the features seem fully-activated. If you do have it, it will be located at the bottom of the home page or under Vitals in the Browse section.

A screenshot of Google Fit's heart rate reader taking a reading via the rear camera

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Users will be happy to know that the readings are seemingly accurate, according to 9to5Google's comparisons with a Fitbit, and also a Pixel 5 running the same feature. In our own testing, we found it worked rather well but you need to keep your finger still on the camera and sit still when using the respiratory tracking. The only exception was if the readings were taken in dark environments, where the heart rate measurement was notably off.

A screenshot of Google Fit's heart rate reading results

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Previously users were able to turn on the flash while reading the heart rate in order to account for this. However that's not an option on the Pixel 6. This could be due to the flash being nowhere near the main camera this time, so having this option wouldn't benefit the reading's accuracy.

Google keeps slipping in small updates to the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro without announcing them formally, making two great phones even better. Recently that's been the addition of Adaptive Sound for the speakers, with facial recognition unlocking also rumored to be on the way.

However there's been a fair number of Google Pixel 6 problems too. The under-display fingerprint scanner has been a focal point for these, but we've also heard of display defects and ghost dialling too, to name just two frequently reported issues.

Richard Priday
Assistant Phones Editor

Richard is based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.