Pixel 6 with Pixel Pass: How Google's bundle works and if it saves money
Is Pixel Pass the best way to buy Google's new Pixel 6 or Pixel 6 Pro phones? We do the math.
Mike SorrentinoSenior Editor
Mike Sorrentino is a Senior Editor for Mobile, covering phones, texting apps and smartwatches -- obsessing about how we can make the most of them. Mike also keeps an eye out on the movie and toy industry, and outside of work enjoys biking and pizza making.
ExpertisePhones, texting apps, iOS, Android, smartwatches, fitness trackers, mobile accessories, gaming phones, budget phones, toys, Star Wars, Marvel, Power Rangers, DC, mobile accessibility, iMessage, WhatsApp, Signal, RCS
Google's new Pixel Pass is a combined purchasing plan and subscription service bundle, which the company frames as a way to save money on the new Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro phones while providing access to a variety of Google services. Both phones include the new Tensor chip along with new camera features like Magic Eraser for removing unwanted people or objects. The subscription spreads out the cost of the Pixel 6 or the Pixel 6 Pro over two years while also paying for device protection, a 200GB Google One subscription with automatic photo backup, YouTube Premium, YouTube Music Premium and Google Play Pass.
Google also says that after two years, Pixel Pass customers will own the phone and can then sign up for a new Pixel Pass plan to purchase a new phone. Pixel Pass starts at $45 a month for two years when using it to buy a Pixel 6 or $55 a month for the same term for the Pixel 6 Pro. There's an additional $5-per-month discount if you also happen to use Google Fi as your phone carrier. Note that Pixel Pass is not currently available in the UK or Australia.
This bundling strategy is similar to what Microsoft offers with its Xbox game consoles: The Xbox All Access subscription covers the cost of either the Xbox Series X or Series S while including Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, with prices starting at $25 a month over two years. If you already planned to subscribe to Game Pass Ultimate, that subscription does save a little cash over going a la carte.
Watch this: First impressions of the new Pixel 6 and 6 Pro
Google touts Pixel Pass as a way to save up to $176 over two years if you get the Pixel 6, and $294 if you get the Pixel 6 Pro, but that depends on whether the services provided are ones you would want to use anyway. For instance, if you prefer to use Spotify for your music and can tolerate advertisements on YouTube, a good chunk of the Pixel Pass' value might not mean much for you.
Let's dig into each of the Pixel Pass' services to see what you get, what you need to note about each benefit -- and if it's worth it in the end.
Yes, Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro are part of Pixel Pass
Stand-alone cost: $599 (£599, AU$999) for the Pixel 6, $899 (£849, AU$1,299) for the Pixel 6 Pro.
What you get: The cost of the phone is baked into the cost of Pixel Pass. Without Pixel Pass, the Pixel 6 costs $599 and the Pixel 6 Pro costs $899 (you can also finance them starting at $24.96 per month for 24 months for the Pixel 6 and $37.46 per month on the same term for the Pixel 6 Pro).
Once you subtract the cost of the phone, that shows Pixel Pass adds on about $20 per month in services for Pixel 6 owners or about $18 per month for Pixel 6 Pro owners.
A perk of Pixel Pass is that after paying $45 per month for the Pixel 6 or $55 per month for the Pixel 6 Pro, you fully own the phone and won't be required to trade it in if you want to renew your Pixel Pass toward a future device.
Important to note: Other, comparable services like the iPhone Upgrade Program or certain phone carrier programs treat the phone more like a lease in which you gain the right to trade in the phone but never actually own it. But those lease plans could be beneficial to phone enthusiasts who want to upgrade every year without actually paying for the full price of their device.
With Pixel Pass, you buy the phone outright and you can keep it (or sell it) after two years whether you want to continue with Pixel Pass or not.
YouTube Premium cuts the ads and boosts features
Stand-alone cost: $12 per month.
What you get: YouTube Premium and YouTube Music Premium fall under the same membership plan, normally $12 per month or $288 over two years, making up the largest portion of the Pixel Pass' included services. The YouTube Premium side of the service removes advertisements that stream before and during YouTube videos (midroll ads especially are fantastic to zap away) and allows you to download YouTube videos to your phone or tablet and listen to the audio of a YouTube video on a mobile device while your screen is locked (useful for long interview videos that you don't necessarily need to watch).
The YouTube Music Premium side of the service is Google's answer to Spotify and other music services, providing ad-free access to traditional albums, live recordings and music videos that you typically only find on the video side of YouTube.
Important to note: A caveat for existing YouTube Premium subscribers is that you're required to cancel your subscription before signing up for Pixel Pass, and longtime subscribers grandfathered into the original $10-per-month YouTube Red price may want to keep that in mind.
Personally, I've been subscribed to YouTube Premium since it launched as YouTube Red and I find its ad-free experience to be invaluable. Downloading videos for my subway commute or airplane travel has provided me hours of entertainment and I can't stand midroll advertising breaks. However, many people I know scoff at the idea of paying for YouTube and since it makes up such a large portion of the Pixel Pass' value, if this service isn't important to you it might be the deal breaker.
Google's Pixel 6 Pro feels every bit as premium as it looks
What you get: The included 200GB of Google One cloud storage, which separately is $30 for one year or $60 for two years, bumps up the 15GB of free Google storage you normally get and encompasses Gmail, Google Drive, Google Photos and other Google apps like Pixel's Recorder app. Since Google no longer provides unlimited photo storage for Pixel phones, the higher storage tier could come particularly in handy for anyone who wants to upload their photos in full quality as opposed to using Google's Storage Saver quality, which compresses your photos. Pixel Pass customers also can opt to pay slightly more to increase their storage further.
Important to note: While Google lists this plan as "Recommended," you might not need 200GB of space. A lower-priced 100GB plan is available at $20 per year without Pixel Pass. Also, Google's Storage Saver compression is quite good: I've personally been using that photo storage level for years and I find it preserves much of my images' detail while shrinking the file size. While Google only began counting these photos against my Google Drive storage this year, Google's photo management tool estimates that it would take me more than four years to fill up the 100GB of space I currently subscribe to -- and by then perhaps I'll be using some other service or will consider the upgrade.
Google Play Pass for premium apps and games
Stand-alone cost:$30 per year or $5 per month.
What you get: Google Play Pass is an app subscription service that runs $30 per year or $60 for two years. It includes a variety of premium games and apps that normally require a purchase to download or in-app transactions. Unlike Apple Arcade, the games in this subscription are available on other platforms or as a la carte purchases, with particular highlights including Stardew Valley, Sonic the Hedgehog and Monument Valley 2. Play Pass also includes podcast apps, weather apps and other categories.
Important to note: While Play Pass may provide a curated experience, the Google Play Store is filled with free and paid choices. For podcasts, you can use Google's own Podcasts app for free. Or maybe you would rather support a creator directly; for instance, my favorite Android weather app is Appy Weather, which has a free tier with an option to upgrade to a paid tier with more features.
The value of Play Pass is entirely dependent on the way you use your phone, but it's especially nebulous if you aren't big on gaming on your phone. If you primarily just play one or two games on your phone, you might also be better off just buying those a la carte.
Preferred Care support when something goes wrong
Stand-alone cost:$149 for Pixel 6, $199 for Pixel 6 Pro.
What you get:Preferred Care is Google's equivalent to AppleCare, a service from which Pixel customers can get support for mechanical breakdowns and accidental damage to the phone. This includes support at participating walk-in centers, which in the US includes uBreakiFix stores. For the Pixel 6, Google charges $149 for two years of coverage with up to two accidental damage claims, or $7 a month that can renew for up to three years of mechanical breakdown coverage and six accidental damage claims. For the Pixel 6 Pro that starts at $199 for two years of coverage or $9 a month.
Important to note: While the guaranteed device protection is convenient, it's not the only way to get device coverage. Certain credit cards provide phone protection as a perk, and might not have an annual fee. For instance, I use a Capital One QuickSilver to pay for my cell phone bill and since it's a World Elite Mastercard I can receive a reimbursement of repair costs should my phone get damaged or stolen. I haven't personally exercised that benefit yet, so I can't fully endorse it, but it's been enough of an assurance that I have since skewed away from purchasing other device protection plans.
So let's say you absolutely would want the Pixel 6 phone and all of these services. At the full price of $599, without Pixel Pass and before taxes, the Pixel 6 plus the cost of each of these services for two years would come out to $1,156. With Pixel Pass, the cost is $1,080, amounting to a $76 savings. You may be wondering why Google estimates a $176 savings; Google's answer is that the amount is calculated based on the monthly pricing of each of those services as opposed to the annual rates that I'm choosing to use since this is a two-year program.
For the Pixel 6 Pro, the $899 device plus the various services at annual rates without Pixel Pass come to $1,506. With Pixel Pass, it's $1,320 for a savings of $186. Google's estimate of savings based on the monthly rates for all the services is $294 over two years.
With this math, it's clear that there are indeed some savings to be had if you're enthusiastic about all of these services and intend to make use of them regularly. I would say the most important question to ask is whether YouTube Premium or Device Protection as offered by Google is important to you, because if it isn't you will easily be better off buying the device without Pixel Pass. Since Google One and Google Play Pass are a much smaller portion of the overall subscription cost, those two will likely be less of a deciding factor.
Pixel Pass pricing breakdown
Pixel 6, stand-alone
Pixel 6 Pro, stand-alone
YouTube Premium cost, 24 months
200GB Google One subscription, annual rate x 2
Google Play Pass, annual rate x 2
Preferred Care, two-year rate
$149 for Pixel 6, $199 for Pixel 6 Pro
Pixel 6 total without Pixel Pass
Pixel 6 total with Pixel Pass
Pixel 6 Pro total without Pixel Pass
Pixel 6 Pro total with Pixel Pass
What do you think of the Pixel 6 and the Pixel Pass subscription? Let us know in the comments.