Google released the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro late last year, and most of the Android faithful were delighted by Google’s latest attempt. The Pixels had great initial quality, but as usual, the bugs caused widespread discontent. However, instead of fixing things, Google just broke them more with a botched December update. The January update appears to have smoothed over the rough edges, but what about next month? The Pixel 6 might not look so hot if Google can’t roll out patches with some level of consistency. That’s why the next round is so important.
A rough start
I count myself lucky that I didn’t get the December OTA on my Pixel 6. Those who did get the updated software point to myriad bugs, including serious connectivity issues. The situation was so bad that Google had to pull the update and actually purged it from the developer site so no one would accidentally flash it. Even without that OTA, Google still had to temporarily disable several hallmark features of the Pixel like Call Screen. Then the update to fix everything was late. Yeah, it’s not a good look for one of the best Android phones.
The excellent update support has long been an advantage of Google’s Android phones, but it’s under more pressure from other OEMs these days. Samsung might not be as fast as Google, but it offers even longer support on some of its phones. Theoretically, moving to the custom Tensor chip should give Google more control and make updates easier to produce. So, it was very concerning to see Google scrambling to fix the Pixel 6.
Did the January patch live up to expectations? I will note that I never had serious issues with my phone, and I think most others were in the same boat. For those who did have problems, the January patch seems to have alleviated most of their concerns. Polls from around the internet (including 9to5Google and Android Central) consistently show 70% or more are happy with the state of the phone after the January update. Anecdotally, we’ve also seen a lot of Reddit threads that praise the January update for squashing bugs. And yet, a solid update does not guarantee anything. Pixel owners skew more technical, and that means they’re more picky. If there are bugs in a Pixel phone, we’re going to hear about it.
You should never need to worry about what Android patch level your phone is running, but Pixel owners currently have that worry. It’s going to take a while before we can let down our guard and expect these monthly patches to arrive on time and without breaking things. And you know, it shouldn’t be this way. The Pixel 6 was supposed to be the start of a more unified mobile experience.
The Pixel 6 and 6 Pro are the first phones with the Google Tensor SoC, which should theoretically give Google more control over the way hardware and software interact. That’s long been an advantage for Apple with its A-series ARM chips. Now we’re finding out that might not be the case because of Google’s reliance on Samsung. There’s something poetic about Samsung getting its updates sorted out only to screw up Google’s.
Even if Samsung shares some blame, the buck stops with Google. The Pixel 6’s update track record isn’t good after a few months, and it absolutely must turn around. So far, we’ve got a late update so buggy that Google had to remove it from the internet, and then a second update that was weeks late. Thankfully, the January update didn’t worsen things, but one data point does not equal a trend. It’s all about next month. If the February patch goes smoothly, and Google can move into spring with a solid base for new features, then maybe I’ll start to trust the update notification.
Can Google deliver an update for the Pixel 6 on time and without breaking things? We’re about to find out.
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