Why I might skip the Pixel 6 — and keep my Pixel 5 instead

I can’t remember being so excited about a smartphone release. You see, I’m not an iPhone owner, so those annual September events never get my heart pumping like they do for others. Not that I have any issue with Apple; the company makes great products — I’m just not interested in owning them. So each year I rely on a handful of companies to launch Android phones that can compete against those ever-reliable fruit-flavored releases. And most of the time, they fall short. 

Don’t get me wrong, there are some good options out there (see the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, OnePlus 9 Pro and Pixel 5a), but I’ve had a falling out with Samsung and its 50 shades of Android skins, and too many of my past OnePlus phones suffered hardware issues. So last year I switched from a OnePlus 8 to the Google Pixel 5. That’s not a move most tech journalists would have recommended. The Pixel 5 was a flawed phone at launch. Not only was it not a “true flagship” despite its name, but the phone was a poor value when compared to the cheaper models Google released, like the Pixel 4a 5G. 

I chose the Pixel 5 because of its size. With a 6-inch display, the Pixel 5 is easy to grasp and every feature apart from mobile gaming can be done with one hand. I don’t feel it in my pocket, texting doesn’t cramp my fingers, and yet, the screen is large enough for browsing the web or flipping through an Instagram feed. 

I’m really enjoying the Pixel 5, but I can’t help my instincts as a tech reviewer to want to own a true flagship phone. Here is where the Pixel 6 comes in. It is, in many ways, the phone I’ve desired since it was clear Microsoft was going to let the Lumia team sink on its Windows Phone ship. If the rumors are accurate, when the Pixel 6 launches next week, it’ll flaunt pure Android 12, five years of software support, an update to Google’s always-exceptional cameras, and genuine flagship components (you can read about all the updates in our Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro hub).

(Image credit: Evan Blass/@evleaks)

Tempering my enthusiasm is the size of these phones. The Pixel 6 is large. So big that the “smaller” model is almost the size of the Pixel 4 XL. Looking at the rumored dimensions, the Pixel 6 is said to have a 6.4-inch display and measure 6.2 x 2.9 x 0.35 inches. For comparison, the Pixel 4 XL had a 6.3-inch panel and measured 6.31 x 2.9 x 0.32 inches. Now let’s put that next to the Pixel 5 at 5.7 x 2.77 x 0.3 inches. Yikes.

Let me stop here and point out that these are rumored specs. Some folks have seen these devices in person, hanging on a wall in New York City, but the down-to-the-millimeter measurements haven’t been made official just yet. 

Brought the OnePlus 9 Pro and Pixel 5 to Germany and the size difference between these flagships is ludicrous. Chose the Pixel 5 as my EDC for its, erm, usable size, and used the OP9 only for watching videos/listening to music on the plane. Big=not always better. pic.twitter.com/gYg4DwPp09September 29, 2021

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Going off what we think we know, the Pixel 6 will be a large phone and the Pixel 6 Pro will seemingly be built for a more evolved species. If only evolution worked fast enough for our hands to grow at the same rate as smartphones. Anyway, the Pro model, which will have some advantages over the standard version (contradicting Google’s “they should be the same phone” philosophy it once believed in), will be about the same size as the OnePlus 9 Pro. I took that device on a trip recently and, though it’s more capable than the Pixel 5, used it only for watching movies and TV shows on the plane. I didn’t want to use both of my hands to hold a phone while navigating the narrow streets of Verona, so I stuck with the Pixel.  

Brought the OnePlus 9 Pro and Pixel 5 to Germany and the size difference between these flagships is ludicrous. Chose the Pixel 5 as my EDC for its, erm, usable size, and used the OP9 only for watching videos/listening to music on the plane. Big=not always better. pic.twitter.com/gYg4DwPp09September 29, 2021

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I’m not the only one troubled by the size of Google’s upcoming phones. Kellen at Droid Life called the leaked photos of the Pixel 6 case “bad news” because of its size compared to the Pixel 5. “Google is fully embracing the whale phone once again, only this time they aren’t giving us a choice over small and large, it’s either large or x-large.” he wrote. 

That last bit is key because Apple does give its customers options. Even if you skip the adorable iPhone 13 mini and go with the standard model, you’re getting a reasonable 6.1-inch phone with dimensions of 5.78 x 2.81 x 0.3 inches. Oh yeah, and the iPhone 13 Pro is the same size. Here lies the distinction between the iPhone 13 and Pixel 6 — Apple gives you the choice to buy a large phone if you want one. Google does not. 

Of course, the enormity of these phones won’t be a problem for some folks (I’m looking at you abandoned Galaxy Note fans). But for me, I’ll be waiting for October 19 to see if the updates made to Google’s new flagship are worth the inconvenience of hauling around such a beefy device.

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