The “Google phone” has been a long time coming.
The rumors of such a device — a true Google smartphone to directly take on the iPhone — predate Android as we know it today. In the years it took for the OS to rise to dominance, we’ve seen the T-Mobile G1, Moto X and various Nexus phones attempt to match up to that original promise — with mixed success. Only last year’s Huawei-built Nexus 6P came close to living up to the hype.
It’s time for a change of strategy. So here are the Google Pixel and Pixel XL, marketed quite forcefully as phones “by Google.” No co-branding, no compromises. Two size options for what amounts to a single high-end Android experience, presented with new and unique software features from Google that won’t come to other phones anytime soon.
The Pixels go hand-in-hand with Google’s evolution into something more than just a search engine. In Sundar Pichai’s October 4 presentation, it was very clear what the move to an “AI-first” computing environment meant for the future of the company. The new Google Assistant is a big part of that, and a major pillar of Google’s hardware push, building upon the past several years of predictive search and voice interactions. At the same time, Google has made some bold software design changes, painting a clearer picture of its vision of Android.
The Pixel phones are a bold product, one that competes with not just Apple, but Google’s own Android partners. The price tag is a far cry from the wallet-friendly Nexus products of yore. And the exclusive software experience is sure to grind the gears of fans and Android manufacturers alike.
So has Google at least made a good phone this time? Read on to find out.
- 5-inch Full HD / 5.5-inch Quad HD
- Gorilla Glass 4
- 12.3MP rear camera
- ƒ/2.0 lens, PDAF, Laser, 1.55µm pixels
- 8MP front camera, ƒ/2.4 lens, 1.4µm pixels
- 2770 mAh / 3450 mAh
- Fast charging
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor
- Quad-core 2.2GHz
- 4GB RAM
- 32-128GB internal storage
About this review
We’re publishing this review after six days of using Google’s Pixel phones. I (Alex Dobie) have been using a rest-of-world spec Google Pixel XL (5.5-inch, 32 GB, “Quite Black” color) in Manchester, UK, and while traveling in Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Shanghai, China. In the UK, we used the EE network. In China, we roamed on the China Mobile LTE network through Vodafone UK. Our review device was running Android 7.1 Nougat, build NAE63P, with the October 5, 2016 security patch.
Daniel Bader has been using a North America spec Pixel (5-inch, 32GB, “Very Silver” color) in Canada on the Rogers network. His review unit was running Android 7.1 Nougat, also with build NAE63P and October 5, 2016 security patch. Portions of this review, where specified, were written by him.
Since much of the experience of using these phones is the same, we’re presenting a combined review of both Pixel and Pixel XL here, noting any major differences as we go.