Packing a Snapdragon 821 chipset, 4GB of RAM, 32 or 128 gigs of native storage, and finally, a camera that is allegedly among the best ones in the class, the Google Pixel and Pixel XL are here to wage war on the very best the Android market has to offer.
But there is nothing out of the ordinary when it comes to specs comparison with the competition. How does Google justify the hefty price tags?
It’s all in the software. Yes, the Pixels will keep current with the latest version of Android and monthly security updates; those are important things! But this is no longer the bare “stock” Android that Nexus devices were always known for. Google has layered on new features exclusive to the Pixel and Pixel XL overtop Android 7.1 Nougat. A lot of the changes are cosmetic, but there’s also some genuinely useful stuff that’s reserved for Pixel owners.
Pixel is the first phone with the new Google Assistant built in. When you touch and hold the home button or say the “hot word,” the Assistant “jumps into action.” In Google’s event demo, the Assistant is used to bring up photos from a particular time or place from the past, and also plays whatever music you ask it to play, choosing your favorite music app by default. Similarly, it integrates the Google Now on Tap functionality, allowing the user to swipe up with information on the screen, such as a restaurant name, and provides further information, such as reviews and the restaurant’s address. Also, like a bot, the Google Assistant will take your reservation for that same restaurant using only voice prompts.
Both Pixel phones are the first to support Google’s virtual reality platform, Daydream. You’ll need the new Daydream View for a fully immersive experience. You’ll be able to play VR games and watch video apps like YouTube, Netflix, and HBO directly inside the virtual reality experience. The Daydream View comes bundled with a tiny motion controller that is so precise, claims Google, that you can even draw with it. When you’re done using it, the controller tucks inside the Daydream View itself for safe storage.
Google finally made a good camera app! To go along with the Pixel’s 12-megapixel camera — touted as the best camera in any smartphone, ever — Google has unveiled Pixel Camera. With features like white balance control and exposure compensation, it’s a lot more capable than the old Nexus camera app. A new “smart burst” mode captures a stream of shots, and Google uses artificial intelligence to choose the clearest, best shot. The camera also uses HDR+ by default with “zero shutter lag” to achieve the maximum dynamic range for each shot. It is the highest rated smartphone camera according to DxOMark, at 89, its 3 points higher than the iPhone. However, the lack of OIS is puzzling.
Endless cloud storage
Google will allow free unlimited storage for full-resolution images and videos shot with the Pixel. That’s much like the standard Google Photos backup ability, but takes off the size limit and compression, even on 4K video shot with the new phone.
24/7 voice and chat support
If you’ve got a problem with either Pixel phone, you can head to the settings menu and immediately launch a voice call or chat session with Google’s customer support team. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. From there, you can also choose to allow screen sharing so that the Google employee can control your device and show you firsthand how to fix whatever’s not working right.
This sort of consumer-focused inclusion is another major departure from the Nexus line, which still retained a developer focus even when Google tried (and failed) to give them more mass market appeal.
Easy switching from other phones
A bundled USB-C adapter will let users easily transfer contacts, messages, photos, and other content from their existing Android device or iPhone over to the Pixel. Google’s intentions really couldn’t be any clearer. It’s also worth noting that “Switch” and “Support” tabs are front and center on the Pixel area of the Made By Google website, given equal prominence with Tech Specs.
So, do the Google Pixel and the Pixel XL justify the price tag of $649 and $769 for the base models? In my opinion, definitely. You’re getting premium hardware and an unrivalled software experience. Google is pushing into hardware but it knows what it essentially is, and its a software company. Software is why you will want the Google Pixel phones.
Unlimited cloud storage, the best camera (at least theoretically for now), 24/7 Google support, and all those other Pixel exclusive features like the Google Assistant and seamless updates make the Google Pixel or the larger sibling a must buy if you’re looking for a phone in the premium segment.