As if we didn’t already know they existed, today Google finally unveiled their highly anticipated smartphones called Pixel and Pixel XL. They look exactly like we expected them to and feature practically everything we though they would. Of course, not all of you have been up to speed on everything Pixel, so let’s jump into what these new handsets feature.
First off, let’s start with the design. Both the Pixel and Pixel XL feature aluminum bodies that include a glass pane on the rear where the camera and fingerprint sensor sit. The reason for an additional pane is for radio signals to pass through. Some may think this is super ugly, while others will probably love it. Whichever side you fall onto, this is the way it’s gotta be. Thanks, Google.
(It’s worth noting that the Pixels are being manufactured by HTC but not designed or built. Google’s advertising these handsets as their own and say this situation’s not very different when compared to how Apple has Foxconn build their devices.)
Five key points of the new Pixel smartphones were discussed by Google in order to bring the shining features through. Here’s a list of them.
- Google Assistant
- Google Photos
- Virtual Reality
Starting with the first point of interest, Google says the Pixels will be the first smartphones to ship with the Google Assistant built in. We first saw this AI bot at I/0 2016 where it was shown off inside the recently launched messaging application Allo. Currently, the public only has access to a preview edition of the Assistant, however the Pixel and Pixel XL are expected to come with the full, complete version which can not only be accessed through Allo, but also a dedicated interface much like Siri on iOS. By touching and holding the home button, Assistant will spring to life which will be when you can start asking questions, setting reminders, sending texts, and more. A very clean, white UI was shown off on stage which no doubt resembles Google Now. In fact, you can even say, “OK, Google” to get the Assistant’s attention, something else found in Google’s previous voice-powered interface. Nevertheless, Assistant looks to be one of the shining features of the Pixels, so let’s hope it works like everyone (including Google) thinks it will.
Getting to the Photography category, Google touts the Pixels as having the best camera on any smartphone. DxOMark, a camera grading platform, gave the Pixel an 89. This smashes previous records that were held by Apple’s recent iPhone 7 in overall image quality. In fact, it’s the highest rating DxOMark ever gave a smartphone before. For reference, the Pixel and Pixel XL each include a rear 12.3MP camera with an f/2.0 aperture, large 1.55-micron pixels, advanced optical image stabilization, Smartburst which allows you to take a burst photo and Google will automatically select the best shot out of the bunch, Lens Blur and a shallow depth of field for bokeh-style effects on photos, and all new exposure controls which’ll no doubt be met with satisfaction for serious photographers (or just people who like to take a lots of pics).
Regarding Google Photos, Google says that anyone who buys a Pixel will be given free, unlimited cloud storage for their pictures and videos through Google Photos where your content will remain the same resolution and quality as they feature when stored on your phone. Before, your photos would be downsized in quality and file size with the unlimited storage plan on Photos, so this is a nice perk for Pixel owners I’m sure many will take advantage of.
Communications-wise, Google says that Duo, their video calling app that works on both Android and iOS, will come preinstalled on both the Pixel and Pixel XL (right now, it doesn’t appear Allo will come preinstalled, however). In addition, 24/7 live support is offered for those of you who need help with your new phone that also includes a screen sharing platform for your advisor to show you anything on your smartphone without being physically there.
Speaking in terms of Virtual Reality, Google stated that the Pixels are the official first smartphones to include Daydream support. In case you’re not aware, Daydream is the company’s VR platform that aims to optimize your experience in virtual reality by many software speed increases and overall efficiency. An official Daydream headset called Daydream View was also announced to coincide with any smartphone with Daydream support that includes a very classy design with fabrics and textures to comfortably fit on your head, wireless connectivity with your smartphone, a remote control for interaction with the interface, and more. This headset will cost $79, be available in November, and come in Slate, Snow, and Crimson color options.
All in all, the Pixel and Pixel XL look really sweet, but that’s not even the whole story yet…
Regarding the full specifications, the Pixel includes a 5-inch 1080p AMOLED display covered in Corning Gorilla Glass 4, a quad-core Snapdragon 821 processor paired with an Adreno 530 GPU, 4GB of RAM, 32GB or 128GB of storage, 12MP and 8MP rear and front cameras, a 2770mAh battery with Quick Charge (15 minutes gets you 7 hours of use), Bluetooth 4.2, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and a USB-C port for charging and data transfer. For security, Google has built in their newly-renamed Pixel Imprint fingerprint scanner which features a swipe-down gesture to access your notifications quicker. In addition, a headphone jack is present alongside a thickness of just 8.6mm.
In terms of the Pixel XL’s specs, a vast majority of the internals are the same between this and the standard Pixel. The only differences include a 5.5-inch QHD AMOLED display and a larger 3450mAh battery. So really, if you wanna grab one of the new Pixels, it’s just a matter of whether you’d like a larger or smaller screen size.
Software wise, the Pixels include Android 7.1 Nougat, the next version of Google’s mobile OS with the Pixel Launcher on top alongside rounded icons. This update features the launch of the Google Assistant alongside several under the hood improvements. It’s unclear whether additional user-facing changes are present, however we’ll let you know if this speculation rules out to be true. In addition, there’s also a feature called Automatic Updates. If there’s a software update available for your phone, it’ll automatically download and begin installing the next time you reboot your device. This feature isn’t available on other smartphones, so it’ll be nice to have for those of you looking to pick up the latest Nex– uh, I mean Pixel phone.
Interestingly, a migration tool will come included in every Pixel and Pixel XL box. Called the Quick Switch Adapter, this tool allows you to connect either an Android handset or iPhone with all your data on it to your new Pixel and transfer everything. This includes your contacts, videos, photos, music, texts, iMessages, and calendar events. No word on whether this adapter will be sold separetely or not in case you lose it (because it’s bound to happen), but stay tuned.
The Pixel and Pixel XL come in three colors: Very Silver, Quite Black and the limited edition Really Blue which will remain exclusive to the US. Verizon will be the only carrier getting the phones in stock, so all you AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile customers out there may be a bit disappointed. Fortunately, Google will sell both phones through the Google Store unlocked, so not all hope is lost for those of you not on the big V’s network. It’s worth noting that Project Fi users can also use these handsets on Google’s own network. On the downside, $649 (32GB option) is the starting price for the Pixel. This is quite a large chunk of change for a Google phone as past Nexus handsets haven’t cost nearly that much, but what are you gonna do, right? Hey, you’ve got Google Store Financing which allows you to pay for the phones in monthly installments starting at $27.04/month, so at least you don’t have to fork over almost $700 up front. (For reference, $749 is the cost of the 128GB Pixel, while $769 is the cost of the 32GB Pixel XL and $869 is for the 128GB Pixel XL).
In addition, Best Buy will also carry the phones for use on the Verizon network amongst other outlets across the globe. We’ll let you know if the tech retailer decides to start selling the handsets unlocked.
Preorders for the Pixel and Pixel XL start today in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Germany and Australia. Those of you in India will have to wait until October 13th. October 20th is the currently rumored launch date of the phones, so we’ll make sure to let you know if this results into reality. For customization, new Live Cases featuring Justin Maller’s art work are also available for the new Pixels. $40 is the cost for one, while exact shipping dates remain unknown for now.
What’s your take on Google’s new Pixel phones and Daydream View VR headset?