Available in regular and plus sizes, the new Google Pixel is a significant development that goes much further than the previous Nexus brand smartphones. Those promised the best Android experience, but they were co-designed by hardware manufacturers such as HTC, who shared the billing.
This time, Google is aiming for not only the best Android smartphone, but the title of best smartphone available. Period.
Unlike with those Nexus phones, it’s charging a premium price for its all-new flagship.
Does the Google Pixel have what it takes to go toe-to-toe with the likes of Apple Inc.’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone 7? Is this smartphone’s steep price tag justified? Read our Google Pixel review to find out.
Google Pixel Review: Google Takes the Apple Route
Way back, Google and Apple took very different approaches in their respective smartphone strategies.
Apple went with the completely closed approach, developing both the iOS operating system and the iPhone hardware. There was no third-party involvement whatsoever.
Google, however, licensed Android to any third-party smartphone manufacturers that wanted in. It stayed out of the hardware game, until dipping a toe in with the Nexus phones.
While Google’s approach led to smartphone market domination — over 85% of all smartphones run Android — the platform suffers from fragmentation. With users at the mercy of OEMs and often stuck on older versions of Android, Google can only get its latest and greatest features out to a small percentage of users.
With the Pixel, it’s taking the Apple approach.
Unlike Nexus phones, Google didn’t just have say in some of the hardware features, it designed the smartphones. HTC manufactured them, but its name doesn’t appear anywhere on the case. And, like the iPhone, the Google Pixel was designed hand-in-hand with the latest version of Android to ensure the ideal experience.
Google Assistant — one of its key features — isn’t even available on third-party smartphones, assuming they were updated to the latest Android version.
Buy a Google Pixel and you get a flagship smartphone, optimized to take full advantage of Android, with exclusive features and quick access to future Android upgrades (and security updates), just like Apple’s iPhone and iOS.
Google Pixel Review: Solid Hardware With a Killer Camera
The similarity to Apple’s smartphone approach continues.
Like the iPhone, the Pixel is a thin, rounded slab of machined aluminum and glass. There are differences, though, especially on the back of the Pixel, which has a section with a mirror polish and fingerprint scanner. But from the front? From a distance they bear a striking resemblance.
The hardware inside the Pixel is more than capable of providing snappy performance, with the latest Qualcomm, Inc. (NASDAQ:QCOM) Snapdragon CPU providing the power.
Apple realized early on that the camera is very important for many smartphone buyers. The dual-camera system is the feature for the new iPhone 7 Plus. Google clearly saw the same data and the Pixel phone’s camera is excellent. In fact, Google claims independent testing rates it as the best smartphone camera ever.
And, the company tops that off with free unlimited photo and video storage for Google Pixel owners.
What Google ended up releasing is a premium flagship smartphone with a class-leading camera, high performance and the best Android experience.
Not bad for a first attempt.
Google Pixel Review: Specs
- 5.0 inch Full HD AMOLED display (5.5-inch Quad HD on Pixel XL)
- Snapdragon 821 quad-core processor with 4GB RAM
- 32 or 128GB storage
- 12.3MP primary camera with 1.55μm pixels, f/2.0 Aperture, 4K video
- Aerospace-grade aluminum unibody in Quite Black or Very Silver
- 802.11ac 2×2 MIMO, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC
- Rear fingerprint scanner
- USB-C charging
- 2,770 mAh battery with up to 13 hours Wi-Fi (3,450 mAh and 14 hours for Google Pixel Plus)
- Android 7.1 Nougat with Google Assistant exclusive
- MSRP starting at $649 (Pixel) and $769 (Pixel Plus)
Google Pixel Review: Conclusion
Google has done a very good job with the Pixel, especially when you consider the fact that this is the company’s first run as a smartphone hardware designer.
Getting iPhone fans to convert is a tough goal. You’re not just trying to convince them to invest in new hardware, but they have to move to an entirely different platform. New apps, new ways of doing things. There may be some switchers, but don’t expect a mass exodus of disgruntled iPhone owners to jump to the Pixel.
However, Android OEMs should be worried. Especially those who sell premium smartphones, like Samsung Electronic (OTCMKTS:SSNLF). The Google Pixel has the hardware chops to take on the best, and with Google’s Android integration advantage, the only way to compete is to try to out-design Google, or cut prices.
Is the Google Pixel the best smartphone on the market? The Pixel and Pixel XL are definitely among the best, but the design isn’t quite on par with the iPhone or Galaxy S7 and the lack of water resistance hurts. Even the iPhone is water resistant now…
However, Apple and Samsung are on notice. The next Pixel smartphone is likely to address these shortcomings and then things will get interesting.
As of this writing, Robert Martin did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.
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