Google Pixel 6 owners: read this before installing Android 13 update

Android 13
(Image credit: Google)

Google is warning the owners of recent Pixel smartphones that upgrading to Android 13 will be permanent – there will be no way for them to return to Android 12 or an earlier OS.

Specifically, if you own a Google Pixel 6, Google Pixel 6 Pro, or the new Google Pixel 6a and upgrade to the latest operating system, you won’t be able to revert to an earlier version. So while Android 13 may now be available to install, you might want to think twice if you want to be able to downgrade to earlier Android operating systems.

The warning appeared on Google’s Factory Images page – a source that enables older Android builds to be quickly installed on Google smartphones. In the warning, Google says that “the Android 13 update for Pixel 6, Pixel 6 Pro, and the Pixel 6a contains a bootloader update that increments the anti-roll back version. After flashing an Android 13 build on these devices you will not be able to flash older Android 12 builds.”

Flashing here is effectively another wording for updating, so you can read that last part as saying that after updating your smartphone to Android 13, you can’t go back.

The Google Pixel 6 facing away from the camera, stood up on a table.

Currently, only Google's Pixel 6, Pixel 6 Pro, and Pixel 6a phones are affected. (Image credit: Future)

Unless you have a specific reason to downgrade there often isn’t a need to return to an older operating system on any device – especially if you’re concerned about your digital safety and want your apps to work. But with Google’s new change to how its updates work, Pixel owners might want to take a bit of care before upgrading their OS.

While this Android 13 launch should be stable – with the kinks having been ironed out thanks to months of beta testing – problems with operating systems aren’t uncommon. Just look at Microsoft’s Windows 11 – that operating system has faced no end of problems that frequently sees users opting to downgrade to older versions of Windows.

That said, if you have already upgraded to Android 13 there’s no need to panic. Going forwards you just might want to wait a few days before downloading a new Android operating system, to make sure there aren’t any major bugs that you’ll be stuck with until Google fixes them.

It’s unclear why the Pixel 6, Pixel 6 Pro, and Pixel 6a are unique among Google’s phones in not allowing you to downgrade from Android 13, and it’s unclear if this limitation will affect other Android 13-compatible devices. We’ve reached out to Google to learn more, and we’ll update this piece if we hear back.

If you have Android 13 installed, check out this fun easter egg that will fill your screen with cats.

Hamish Hector
Senior Staff Writer, News

Hamish is a Senior Staff Writer for TechRadar and you’ll see his name appearing on articles across nearly every topic on the site from smart home deals to speaker reviews to graphics card news and everything in between. He uses his broad range of knowledge to help explain the latest gadgets and if they’re a must-buy or a fad fueled by hype. Though his specialty is writing about everything going on in the world of virtual reality and augmented reality.