How to downgrade from Android 13 to 12 on the Google Pixel 6 series

Android 13 has been out for a while. As a major version upgrade, it’s tempting to jump on the bandwagon – especially for Google Pixel users. But what if you just updated to Android 13 but don’t like it very much? The big question is, can you downgrade your Pixel smartphones, including the latest Pixel 6 range, from Android 13 to 12?

Unlike many Android OEMs, Google maintains a dedicated firmware download portal for its smartphones. If you have a non-carrier (aka “unlocked”) variant of any Pixel phone, you should be able to unlock the bootloader and manually flash any older Android 12 software to restore it. However, the situation is slightly different for the Google Tensor-powered Pixel 6 family of devices.

The stable Android 13 update for the Google Pixel 6, Pixel 6 Pro and the Pixel 6a brought new bootloader updates. After the upgrade, you cannot flash an older bootloader because of the anti-rollback protection. Therefore, the regular process of downgrading to Android 12 will not work on these devices. Despite this, it is still possible to boot Android 12 on the updated bootloader. If you want to downgrade your Pixel 6/6 Pro/6a from Android 13 to Android 12, we are here to help you.

  • Google Pixel 6 series has received new bootloader updates with the stable Android 13 OTA.
  • After the upgrade, you can no longer flash an older bootloader.
  • However, you can still boot Android 12 with the new bootloader.

Navigate this article:

Google Pixel 6a in hand with blurred background.

What’s in Android 13 Bootloader Update for Google Pixel 6/6 Pro/6a?

The bootloader of an Android device is a very complex piece of software. It is responsible for kickstarting the boot chain after every reboot from the powered off state. There are many low-level components in a bootloader image that are tightly integrated with the target device’s SoC. In short, tinkering with the bootloader on a modern consumer device is an extremely difficult task.

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In case you are interested, here is the Google Pixel 6a bootloader image:

Google Pixel 6 series bootloader content

Although you manage to crack the code and patch the anti-rollback protection routines in the new bootloader update for the Google Pixel 6, 6 Pro or 6a, there is no known way to flash it without bricking your phone. This is because we do not have access to the OEM signed programmers and cryptographic keys needed to perform such operations.

How to downgrade from Android 13 to Android 12 on Google Pixel 6/6 Pro/6a?

We have to stress that you shouldn’t do this unless you really don’t like Android 13 or it doesn’t work well with some specific apps. Android 13 has some great new features – particularly when it comes to privacy and security – that put it ahead of previous Android versions in many ways. It will also be the most current when it comes to security patches.

If you know all that and still want to get back to Android 12, the steps are relatively easy. But first you need to back up your apps, photos, videos, etc. because Downgrading will completely erase your phone. Also, make sure you have the latest ADB and Fastboot binaries installed on your PC.

By skipping bootloader flashing

  1. Once you sorted your backup, you need to check Google Pixel 6/6 Pro/6a bootloader version. To avoid a hard-brick scenario, make sure both slots of the target device have the same Android 13 bootloader version. If you need help, check out our tutorial to find the bootloader version of Google Pixel 6 series devices for anti-rollback protection.
  2. On your PC/Mac/Chromebook, download the factory image corresponding to the Android 12 version of your choice for the target device.
  3. Extract the contents of the factory image zip file and locate the bootloader image in the extracted files. It should appear as “Bootloader[device codename]-[platform codename]-[major version]-[minor version].img.”
    • For Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, the platform codename is “slider” while for Pixel 6a it’s “bluejay”.
      Google Pixel 6 series factory firmware bootloader image
  4. Delete the bootloader image from the extracted folder.
  5. Change the blinking script as follows:
  6. After we’ve modified the script, we can continue the Flash job. In particular, you need an unlocked bootloader to flash via Fastboot. Therefore, perform the bootloader unlock if it has not already been done.
  7. Restart Pixel 6/6 Pro/6a in bootloader mode and connect it to PC/Mac/Chromebook via USB cable.
  8. Open a terminal window on your computer, navigate to the location where you extracted the Android 12 factory image, and run the flash script.
    • For Windows:
    • For macOS and Linux:
  9. Wait for the flash to occur, the device to reboot and Android 12 to start. The first start can take a long time, so be patient.
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Google Pixel 6a running Android 12 on Android 13 bootloader

Google Pixel 6a running Android 12 on Android 13 bootloader

Keep in mind that this is not a true downgrade as we cannot overwrite the new bootloader with an old one. However, we can boot Android 12 on Google Pixel 6/6 Pro/6a via the updated bootloader because there is no Android version limitation. Simply put, the new bootloader is compatible with both Android 13 and Android 12, making it possible to run an older Android 12 version on these devices even after the rollback index count has increased.

By using official developer support images

For developers, Google offers modified Android 12 system images for the Pixel 6 family based on public and stable builds of Android 12 and Android 12L. These “Developer Support Images” contain an updated version of the bootloader that includes new security fixes and an increased anti-rollback count.

Download Android 12/12L Developer Support Images for Google Pixel 6 series

During installation, the developer support images must be flashed via fastboot. To learn more, take a look at our guide.

For reference, the developer support images come with the following bootloader builds:

Note that these developer-centric builds are not suitable for general use. They don’t get OTA security updates like their consumer counterparts. Also, the builds are not Compatibility Test Suite (CTS) approved, so developers who require CTS-approved builds or who use SafetyNet APIs may encounter problems.

Is there a downside to sticking with Android 12?

Whichever method you choose, the end result will essentially be a hybrid bootloader/firmware combo for the sixth-gen Google Pixel. It might work for now, but there’s no official support for this amalgamation – except for the developer support images, but they’re not exactly intended for regular users. Android 12 no longer has monthly security updates, which means you’ll have to upgrade to Android 13 anyway to keep getting the fixes.

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In addition, the bootloader includes a number of low-level firmware images for various hardware components. Sticking with Android 12 introduces several under-the-hood incompatibility issues that can hamper the real-world performance of your Pixel 6, 6 Pro, or 6a. Consider this a proof of concept, but you’ll do more harm than good by going back to Android 12. If you choose to downgrade from one Android version to another, you do so at your own risk.

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