It's no secret that I love Samsung phones, and I've written about my transition from Pixel to Galaxy several times. What it's always boiled down to is hardware and software quality. Samsung phones have better specs, build quality, and — in my opinion — better software. That's why I've never been tempted to go back to Google's phones since I made the switch at the beginning of 2019. That's starting to change, however, as the Pixel 6 Pro looks incredible. But is it too good to be true?
There's a lot about the Pixel 6 Pro we don't know yet, even though Google recently semi-announced the device and confirmed some details about it, all of which sounds promising. We finally have a triple camera setup with a 4x periscope zoom, a 120Hz display with a centered hole punch, a fingerprint reader under the screen where it belongs (in my opinion), and Google's own Tensor SoC. Rather than the midrange oddity that was the Pixel 5, the 6 Pro looks to be a true flagship.
Then there's Android 12, a huge visual refresh over what came before. I may have switched to Galaxy phones as my daily driver, but I've always kept an older Pixel around so that I can play with the beta every year. Android 12 looks beautiful, and I'd go as far as to say that Material You is one of Google's greatest Android triumphs. The color matching, animations, and overall fluidity are addicting. It still lacks many features and options that I love about One UI, but I might be willing to forgo those things in exchange for Material You.
Does that mean I'll be lobbing my S21 Ultra into the bin and buying a Pixel 6 Pro in October? No, I most certainly won't, and with good reason. Stock Android improves every year, but so does One UI. A few months ago, there was a minor rumor that One UI 4 is being developed under the codename "Palette." It's impossible to know if that's true, but if it is, it would suggest that Samsung will perhaps adopt Material You. That wouldn't surprise me because the company also quickly integrated the original Material Design back in the day. And if that happens, there'd be no reason for me to leave One UI behind.
Samsung and Google are working closer than ever before, teaming up to revolutionize WearOS and develop Google's Tensor chip. We've already seen evidence of this in Samsung's phones over the years, with the S20 coming with Google Duo as the default video calling app and the S21 switching to Google Messages and adding the Google Feed to the homescreen. With all of that in mind, the likelihood of Samsung using Material You seems strong.
My biggest concern, though, is still with the hardware. Google has a track record of promising the world and not delivering. The original Pixel was boring, the Pixel 2 had display issues, the 3 had a notch that Godzilla could bathe in, the 4 had half-baked facial recognition and poor battery, and the 5 was a budget phone in a semi-fancy dress. Google consistently disappoints in the hardware department, no matter how promising leaks seem to be. I'm not trying to be a downer here, but the evidence is there. If we also consider the numerous hardware failures these phones have seen — I had at least four warranty replacements each for the first three Pixels — then I'm right to be concerned.
Despite those concerns, I'm still largely optimistic. I may have been a little harsh on the Pixel 5 in the previous paragraph, but it's easily the most reliable phone Google has ever made, even if it was a little underwhelming. The cameras on the Pixel 6 Pro sound really promising as well: the 4x periscope might seem small compared to the 10x on my S21 Ultra, but there's another key difference — the 6 Pro is expected to have a 40MP telephoto sensor, while the Ultra makes do with 10MP. It should be possible to digitally zoom to 10X and beyond on that 40MP 4x sensor and still get exceptional images, especially with Google's super res zoom. The only area that might not work so well is video, but we'd have to see.
If the company can bring that optimization to the Pixel 6 Pro with top-notch hardware and the most polished version of Android yet, this could be the phone that turns things around. Personally, I'm unlikely to buy a Pixel 6 Pro this year, no matter how good it is, but I'm still desperate for Google to pull this off. If it does, it will push everyone else, Samsung included, to work harder than before. And then who knows? Maybe I'll be ready to rejoin Team Pixel this time next year.