Google’s new Pixel phone is the next generation of smartphones and is replacing the now defunct Nexus range. The company has launched a full-scale advertising campaign which is bigger than anything they have done before for a hardware product. This is a clear signal of Google’s intention to become a major player in the smartphone market. With the Nexus range, Google provided the software but was not fully in control of the manufacturing of the device. The company claims however the Pixel’s software and hardware have been fully developed in-house and comprises of Android tablets, phones, and chromebooks. It will compete with Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy who have been dominating the market in recent years. The reviews of the Pixel phones have generally been positive and resulted in the company’s shares, owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet, appreciating to a record $828 per share. WSJ referred to the Pixel as “the best Android smartphone,” and The Verge gave it a glowing review and said it was as good as the iPhone 7. The overall consensus appears to be that the Pixel is a considerable improvement on the earlier Nexus models.
In fact, the Pixel’s entry into the market has been made easier by the debacle suffered by Samsung’s Note 7. Samsung so far has been the market leader with nearly 23% market share in the smartphone segment, thanks largely to its Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge devices. Apple is second with about 12%. Samsung’s brand name has taken a battering with the Note 7 failure which has led to Google’s advantage with the timely arrival of its Pixel. The Pixel also has possibly better software than the Galaxy S7 and a faster processor (Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 821).
The Pixel 5.0 inch Pixel and the 5.5 inch Pixel XL are currently the two models on offer. There are minor differences in screen resolution and battery capacity but otherwise the internal hardware is the same. They both possess a 12.3 megapixel rear camera, 4 GB of RAM, and 32 or 128 GB of storage. The camera is possibly the best on offer among all smartphones with camera authority DxoMark giving it a higher rating than all others. The 8-megapixel selfie camera is also first-class and produces images of good depth and colour.
The phones are more expensive than their Nexus counterparts and are priced at $649 (Pixel) and $769 (Pixel XL) respectively and are the first phones to run on the latest version of Android (7.1 Nougat)). This version of Android includes a built-in night mode which reduces blue tones from the display when it is dark. It is meant to help prevent users from waking up by stopping blue wavelengths of light from stimulating the receptor cells in the eyes. Apple were the first to add a similar function to their iOS 9.3 but this is the first time Android are offering the same feature.
The phones have a sleek metallic (aluminium) look with a glass panel which covers part of the back of the phone which assists in gripping it by the index finger. Unique software offerings include Google Assistant which has been very favourably received by reviewers. This used to be known as Google Now but the new version of the Assistant is much more conversationally interactive than its predecessors. It will talk back when asked a question and listen for follow up commands and questions. It is activated by pressing and holding the home button or by saying “OK, Google” and can perform a variety of tasks like setting timers, playing music, sending messages, etc. It also learns from preferences through searches and commands given to it. Technologically, it is probably better than Apple’s Siri, can access much more data and therefore provide factual information easily when asked, and has excellent voice recognition.
Other novel features include a fingerprint scanner and the ability to block visual alerts like the flashing LED notification light if required. The Pixel XL comes with a USB 3.0 Type-C for charging and data transfers and a 3.5 mm audio jack and both can function concurrently. The USB-C enables the phone to charge fast and it can charge a totally flat battery to 100% in a little under two hours which is faster than Apple’s iPhone 7. Headphones are not supplied as part of the package. Neither model is water resistant unlike the Galaxy S7 and iPhone 7 but that is not a very important distinction unless underwater photos are required.