Google Pixel by Google
Meet Pixel, Phone by Google
The Nexus was Google’s first foray into the smartphone business. However, it was more of a collaboration, with Google releasing the specifications, and phone companies producing it accordingly. This time, the Pixel gives Google a different approach. Billed as Google’s first phone, Google Pixel is a statement, and priced at a premium.
The point that Google is now making a phone while at the same time also freely licensing the OS, is almost as if Microsoft had sold PCs to compete with Windows computers from other manufacturers. The only difference here is that: (1) Android is free and open source; and (2) most phone manufacturers create overlays on top of Android to stamp their mark.
Pixel is an impressive phone, with a relatively hefty price tag. Whether it will be able to create a niche in the premium smartphone market is an open question.
The Pixel is Google’s first real attempt at a smartphone they can call their own. It is at the heels of the Nexus. However, the Nexus was made by other phone manufacturers, and it was in the mid-price range. The Pixel is in the premium category competing with the Apple iPhone 7.
It has a great camera, fast performance, up-to-date OS, and more. All encased in a homely cell phone case. With only a 5-inch screen it is also relatively small for an Android phone. The Pixel XL is slightly larger, with 4 times more pixels.
The camera phone is where a lot of things are happening. The back facing camera is 12MP with optical image stabilization, laser detection auto focus, and phase detection auto focus, a bright flash, and f/2.0 lens. What differentiates the cameras from other phones is not the f/2.0 lens but the large pixel diameter of the sensor. This allows for better light capture, and hence, better low-light and no-light images. It also has an always on HDR+.
This is a big step for Google. They now have the option to make this a flagship for their smartphone business. Alternatively, this could be a showcase, which is just for display of what they can do. They don’t really need to sell a lot of these. Although it would not hurt if the Pixel does take off and capture an audience.
• Great picture quality
• Google Assistant
• Android without any overlay
• 5-inch 1080p screen
• Fingerprint scanner
• Relatively expensive
• No microSD slot
Google Pixel Specification
Google Pixel is built around a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, with 4GB of RAM. This is a fast processor and it shows in every way. The swipes are clear and concise. The videos look great without any lags. Google is putting up a big stake in the smartphone business.
Maybe it is not a coincidence that the phone is named Pixel. Google seemed to have put a lot of emphasis on the development of the camera. It has optical image stabilization, both laser detection (LDAF) and phase detection (PDAF) auto focus. It can capture 4K video at 30fps, and 1080p video at 120fps. It also has HDR+ which also came with the Nexus. The main point about it is that, at least on paper, and according to DXOMark, the Google Pixel is the best camera phone ever. It scored 89, which is 1 point higher than the HTC 10, Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge and Sony Experia X Perf.
It has an f/2.0 lens, and coupled with the sensor has great low-light capability. It should be explained that just because the there are camera phones with faster lenses, like the S7 (f/1.7) and iPhone 7 (f/1.8), it doesn’t mean that they produce brighter low light pictures. The difference is in the sensor. Google Pixel’s sensor has larger pixels. This allows the sensor to capture more light. In terms of cost, this seems to be where Google spent a lot of money.
These new Google phones are built with an ecosystem in mind. They both support Google Daydream VR, Google Assistant, Fingerprint scanning, geotagging, and an option between 32GB and 128GB storage. However, the Pixel does not have any memory expansion microSD slot.
The Daydream VR can be used directly with the Pixel. It would be better if it had more screen pixels for better VR experience, but it would still be a great experience.
From a software viewpoint, the advantage of having an Android phone which has no manufacturer layer is that software updates can be immediate. When Google sends out an update on Android Nougat, Pixel will update almost immediately. Phones from other manufacturers have to wait up to a month for their OS to update. The OS update has to pass through the manufacturer and tested with their presentation overlay, as well as other enhancements before sending it out to the clients.
Considering that the Google Pixel is in the same price point as the iPhone 7, it may be a hard sell. The plastic-like feel, and the overall look does not scream innovation. It is relatively bland and does not appear like the statement phone that it was meant to be.
The main selling points of the Pixel are the OS, apps and the camera. It is hard to show off a phone if the case is bland. However, technically, it is the state of the art, and as long as the software holds, it should be able to compete with the iPhone 7.
The OS presents the full Android Nougat experience. It also includes Google Assistant, which is an improvement over Google Now. The camera, at least on paper, is the best on any smartphone. This should be taken with a grain of salt, as the three next best cameras on a phone are not screaming about the picture quality. Admittedly, this should be a phone first, and a camera second.
On the other hand, smartphones are no longer being used as just phones. Nowadays, the main use of a phone is for the user to look at the time. Users spend more time with social media, chat and selfies rather than phone calls or SMS. In that regard, Google might have a point about the Pixel.