Once upon a time there was a little smartphone company that couldn't settle.
Well, hold it. It actually started two years earlier with a much bigger company who couldn't succeed making its own premium smartphones. The first three generations of Nexus were a showcase of specs and power with a price to match, so when 2012 brought us the Nexus 4, let's just say we got to meet the true first Flagship killer. It was by no means the best Nexus Google ever produced, but at a $299 launch price which later dipped an extra Benjamin, it was hard to resist the specs for the price.
Oh, right, back to 2014 when genius viral marketing led an unknown company to actually succeed in launching a flagship contender for the price that even made mid-rangers look exaggerated. For a better part of a decade OnePlus took the world by storm, and while the Nexus project is now all but forgotten.
Fast forward to 2022 and it seems that both companies realized that over time, becoming the villain became inevitable. On one corner we have the OnePlus 10 Pro, a phone I'd easily call the best the company has ever made, even if with a strategy that blends both old and new. On the other we have the Pixel 6 Pro, what I'd consider the best Google phone ever made, even if that still means lots of experimentation. If you're wondering why this comparison makes any sense, have a look at the price tags to understand where I'm going.
I know, off the bat this is a weird comparison because it seems both companies have been so impacted by the chip shortage, that the availability of either of these phones is pretty selective. That said, given their close similarities and how the US finally gets both, let's just say this is as fair as it gets.
Visually both of these devices could not be more different. While the OnePlus 10 Pro looks like a blend of S21 Ultra and 13 Pro Max, the Pixel 6 Pro is like an S22 Ultra with the visor of the Nexus 6P. Curved borders vs a boxier approach. Matte glass vs a subtle gloss that does just as well at deterring fingerprints. Both come in a shiny aluminum trim, with the pixel offering a more advanced Gorilla Glass Victus on both sides, while on the 10 Pro you only get it at the front, while the back has the older Gorilla Glass 5. If ergonomics matter to you I'd go OnePlus as essentials like the power button are at easier reach, and then Pixel is a hair taller and thicker, 2 mm wider, and even 9 grams heavier. I can even tell OnePlus does a better job at weight distribution when using either for extended periods of time.
And don't worry, the meager difference in footprint doesn't mean you'll miss out on anything. They both have nearly the same display size, with the 10 Pro having a slight edge in screen-to-body ratio and pixel density. Yes, the 10 Pro is providing 1 billion colors vs 16 million, but given so much resolution on these panels, you'll struggle to notice it being that much superior. The 10 Pro is also LTPO2 vs LTPO, but this is another element where you might not feel one display does variable 120hz smoother than the other. If anything an element that does matter is that the 10 Pro is brighter and handles extremes better, but in everything else these are two gorgeous displays. They also both sport optical fingerprint scanners that are plenty fast, even if only OnePlus is doing facial recognition as an alternative. (speaker test) I do wish the bottom firing speaker on both wasn't dramatically louder than the earpiece, but it's not like if combined they aren't a great combo.
Now internally things get pretty interesting because this is the first time we compare a Pixel that's not powered by Qualcomm, or a OnePlus that doesn’t win in all the numbers. So yes, Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 on the 10 Pro, Google Tensor on the Pixel, but then this is also a weird case where the OnePlus starts at less RAM, though starting storage is the same. Both sport the most advanced Wi-Fi and Bluetooth along with all flavors of 5G. Battery size is the same but where OnePlus beats the pants off the pixel is not just in speed of charging, but also in the fact that the charger is included in the box, while that is something you have to buy from Google.
By now you'd think fine, Hardware is mostly OnePlus but since Google owns Android, the Pixel should own the software, right? Well, not so fast. OxygenOS has always been not just more stock than stock, but also more thoughtful about its flexibility when compared to Google. The lack of ergonomics in the Pixel's design only becomes more evident with Material You. Aside from a play of colors and larger text, reaching a ton of UI elements is a two-handed commitment, and then the 5x5 grid doesn't really allow you to maximize your canvas with more widgets. Now in Google's defense, OxygenOS does suffer from this a bit, I mean 5x6 on the grid is not that much better, but it's there. And then you can enable or disable whatever it is you don't want, from the shelf, to what gestures do, where Google doesn't even let you use the At-A-Glance space for anything else if you disable it. I won't deny that Material You is more visually pleasing, but my points go to OnePlus. To even keep the three-way mute slider here is proof that what wasn't broken didn't get fixed.
The user experience is a mixed bag though. Surely the Pixel gets software updates first, but boy have those been buggy, while OnePlus trails quickly behind with more stability. Also, if battery life is important to you, I'd go OnePlus as it does a better job at sipping on power efficiently, while the Pixel can be hit or miss depending on updates. Phone calls are comparable, and even if both phones didn't start off too well in data reliability, I'd say that's been fixed over updates as well.
But you know I like to leave the best for last. Once you talk cameras, this is where things completely flip around. If Google has historically beaten OnePlus in every single comparison while rocking dated sensors, it's so weird to finally make a comparison where Google is coming out on-top in the horse power, all while OnePlus only has some partnership color tuning to show.
Thing is, can I just say I wasn't expecting this competition to be so close that it's more a matter of taste. Once you pair photos side by side, wow this OnePlus 10 Pro is putting up a fair fight in almost everything. You're simply gonna have to pick if you prefer the warmer photos of the 10 Pro vs the 6 Pro. There are even cases where I prefer the OnePlus as it has an added kick for colors, and this is against the king of contrast. Even in ultra-wide shots, I tend to drift more to the 10 Pro, but once you zoom in, it's no debate this is Pixel territory.
Switch to night photos and again, the 10 Pro is really holding its own. I will say I notice slightly more detail from the Pixel, but OnePlus is handling lens flares far better than Google, where the Pixel is notoriously terrible. Even zooming in, the 10 Pro is able to get a decent enough shot, though again, this is where things tip towards the Pixel.
Selfies is an interesting battle because I tend to prefer wider shots and Google provides these. OnePlus is not bad, but I do wish it offered this option. I also feel the Pixel handles portraits better, almost giving you this feeling that you're using an entirely different camera, while the 10 Pro is ok, but not as great.
Obviously once we switch to video, it's game over for OnePlus, which is sad because it was so close to winning. With the Pixel you won't have to deal with REC2020 color which makes the results from the 10 Pro look crazy un-natural, while Google sticks to the conventional REC 709 most of us humans use. Stabilization is comparable, but then I prefer Google's UI for zooming in and out through steps. Sure OnePlus tries to do it better with a zoom slider, but then trying to use it is unpredictable.
And then selfie video is again Google territory. You get 4K resolution plus a wider crop and great stabilization, while the OnePlus 10 Pro is locked to 1080p and crops pretty close to the face if you want any stabilization on it. Seriously OnePlus, it's pointless to give me all that 8K or 4K/120 from the primary, if the selfie camera is this bad.
To conclude, boy is this a tough one. In the past OnePlus would always win simply because their price differences were so dramatic, but what happens when that goes toe to toe? What happens when for the first time ever, it's Google bringing more hardware for that same money?
On my book OnePlus wins hardware, it wins software, and it even nails a ton of the user experience checks better than Google. Heck you even get a fast charger in the box, and photography is pretty close, so technically it does seem like the better value proposition, right? Well, it's not so simple. In 2022, I feel social media video has superseded photography in importance, so much so that you've got Instagram paying bonuses for reels only to compete with TikTok. It's a phenomenon that can't be ignored, and sadly you can't do any of that if your phone does trashy video. I find it unforgivable that OnePlus is selling its 10 Pro with a mixed bag of problems, from the color space, to a selfie camera that's no better than what shipped on the OnePlus 3T seven years ago. (Like what's with you man from Space Balls).
Sadly, if I'm to pay 2022 flagship money, I don't want a phone with anything that's dated, and especially something every flagship and their mother have been doing for at least four years. So, if I had to pick one, the Pixel 6 Pro would be it. I'm seriously scratching my head because the OnePlus 10 Pro is such a good phone. It checked nearly all the boxes, (you were the chosen one) but at its price, you need a phone that can do everything without excuses, and between these two, the Pixel 6 Pro wins in my book.
OnePlus 10 Pro
OnePlus 10 Pro ships with a 6.7-inch QHD+ display that uses a 2nd generation LTPO panel. It also features the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 and aims to deliver a unique camera experience with a 150-degree Ultrawide camera and implementations from the second year of the Hasselblad partnership. For $899, it offers capable hardware that can hold its own in the sea of flagship smartphones.
Google Pixel 6 Pro
The Google Pixel 6 Pro is the first flagship-level offering from Google after it spent a year away with mid-ranged devices. It features a 120Hz 1440p display and a triple camera system with all-new optics.