October 4th, 2016 — Google just announced a slew of new products, and the one that will get the most attention is their brand new Pixel phone. The Verge has a 10-minute summary so you don’t have to watch the hour and a half event for all the other products. The Pixel phone comes in two sizes, 5″ (Pixel) and 5.5″ (Pixel XL), and there’s a lot of hype around this phone because it is a departure from their recent Nexus line. With the Nexus line, Google approached different Android manufacturers to make their phone, so for example, Nexus 4 and 5 were made by LG, Nexus 6 was made by Motorola, and the 5x and 6p was made by LG and Huawei, respectively.
This year, the Nexus partnership idea is gone. The rebrand of Pixel is advertised with #madebygoogle, there’s no longer any branding from the manufacturer and instead, we have a Google logo at the back of the phone. This phone is actually made by HTC, but it seems like Google has had much more say in how the Phone is like, presumably. So this phone isn’t quite made by Google, but it’s designed by them.
The phone was actually leaked before the event, so there weren’t many surprises for those who kept up with the tech news, but the one thing that wasn’t leaked: the price. Pricing for the Pixel is higher than any Nexus phone before it, and it faces against the most expensive phones: Samsung S7 Edge/Note 7 and the iPhone 7. Starting at $649 USD and $899 CAD for the 5″ version with only 1080 resolution (as opposed to the 5.5″ with 1440) is ridiculously overpriced. Google will give out the VR/Daydream headset ($79 USD and $99 CAD) for free…but only to Americans. No other country is getting this deal to make the pricetag slightly more palatable, though Canadians do get three months of Google Play Music (boo-urns).
Major complaints about the Pixel is that 1) it looks like an old iPhone, and 2) the bezels are disgustingly big. You can forgive bigger bezels when a phone has front-facing speakers or when it has a hardware button like the S7/iPhone. Google themselves pushed for software buttons, but the bezels are still bigger than the S7 with hardware buttons, and it no longer has front-facing speakers like the Nexus 6 and 6P. Why Google, why?! I’m still not convinced by the two-toned back either, but it’s unique.
At the top-end price range that the Pixel is in, the iPhone and the Samsung S7/Note 7 is aesthetically more pleasing and have a feature we’ve come to expect from brand new, flagship phones: water-resistance. Water-resistance allows you to use your phone in the rain, in the shower, and it protects you from mishaps like spilling water on it. Even if you don’t care about using it in the rain or in the shower, it protects your phone from what-if situations.
The camera on the Pixel is apparently the best of any smartphone, according to DxO, but the difference of one to two points between the three phones will not be noticeable. At a lower price range, there are phones that can match the Pixel’s specs, like the Oneplus 3 at almost half the price ($399 USD and $519 CAD), though the camera won’t be as nice.
The only real benefit that you get when buying a Google phone, whether that’s in the form of a Nexus or the new Pixel, is that you get updates directly from Google (a minimum of two years is promised by Google). Other Android manufacturers like HTC, Sony, LG, and Samsung are known for either slow updates or they’re prone to abandoning phones even if the phones are capable of handling the latest version of Android, like 7.0 Nougat.
iPhones, though overpriced, are still arguably worth it because Apple offers you great hardware and software updates (double that of the Nexus/Pixel line at four years). The downside with iPhones is that they top out at 1080 resolution and are incompatible with VR/Daydream, oh and the lack of an audio jack.The Samsung S7 Edge and Note 7 have amazing screens and build quality, perhaps the best in the Android ecosystem, but they’re slow to update their software. The Note 7 has an iris scanner, which is pretty damn cool, if less practical than a fingerprint scanner.
One thing has to be said: Google has now followed Apple into the land of advertising bullshit. Apple, as I’ve mentioned before, constantly overuses the word innovation and innovative for the most mundane of features and colour changes. This year, they started using the word “brave” to describe themselves removing the 3.5mm audio jack! Your Google Pixel phone comes in three colours: Quite Black, Very Silver, and Really Blue. Really Blue will be exclusive to the US and is definitely the ugliest, resembling the kiddy-like iPhone 5c.
P.S. I hate how Google announces their new phones at the end of the year when Qualcomm announces new chips at the beginning of the year. Outdated Snapdragon 820/821 in a few months when 830 gets announced. Since my Nexus 5 died, I was really hoping the Pixel would blow me away. Now, I’m stuck between choosing a Oneplus 3 with a 1080 screen or waiting for a Oneplus 4. God damn it.