Thursday , August 24 2017

Opinion: The Google Pixel phones are more important than people realise

 

pixel-pixel-xl

So the Google phones for 2016 have launched – the 5” Pixel and the 5.5” Pixel XL, so far so good. They’re getting great reviews generally speaking, they’re even impressing some of the hardest-to-please reviewers. I think we’d all be disappointed if a phone retailing for over $1400 turned out to be generally not impressive, but for that price, it had better be able to cook a lamb roast and fetch me a coffee in the morning, right?

The cost aside, what a lot of users and reviewers alike seem to be doing at the moment is focusing on the phones themselves, and not really turning their minds to how important the Pixel phones are to Android and Google more generally.

The evolution of the Nexus phone line was without a doubt the starting point for where we are today. They were a “stock” Android experience and didn’t have the frills and invasive software that many of the manufacturers include on their devices such as Sense on the HTC flagship devices, Touchwiz on Samsung and Emotion UI on Huawei to name only a few.

Unlike iPhone, which has both its software and hardware controlled by just one entity, Android doesn’t quite work that way; Android is a platform which manufacturers can adopt and modify, resulting in many different hardware manufacturers all with phones that run (or are based on) Android. The danger for Google in this, though, is that their name gets lost amongst the others; many average users don’t identify their phone as an Android, they say “I’ve got a Samsung” or somewhat less frequently “I’ve got the Nexus 6P”.

This is fine, in the sense that Android is in the hands of millions of smartphone users around the world. It’s good for Android. It’s less good for Google which has — until now — largely taken a backseat to the branding efforts and rewards reaped by hardware manufacturers. When you look at the fancy launch events for premium Android phones, Android itself rates barely a mention, and Google is often not mentioned at all.

Enter the Pixel phone

The Pixel line of Android phones represent the most important devices that Google have released. Sure, Google have released other products before, and they’ve even (somewhat) co-branded the previous Nexus devices, but it isn’t the same. Excepting Chromecast devices, virtually every product that’s come before the Pixel line has been something else first, and Google second.

With the Pixel line, these are not Android phones. They are Google phones, that run Android.

This time around rather that giving the OEM a guiding hand with design, Google have BEEN the designers and HTC have delivered what Google asked for. While the manufacturing arm isn’t directly a part of Google (yet…) this brings the Pixel phone into the same arena as Apple’s iPhone (recently iPhones) where the phone has been designed with the best user experience for the OS kept at the forefront of thought during design and it shows, to be direct about it.

This is the first time Google have directly taken on Apple with hardware design as well as the operating system. The comparison of the devices is remarkable:

 Google Pixel XLApple iPhone 7 PlusGoogle PixelApple iPhone 7
Release dateOctober 2016September 2016October 2016September 2016
Screen size5.5-inch5.5-inch5.0-inch4.7-inch
Screen technologyAMOLEDLCDAMOLEDLCD
Resolution2,560 x 1,4401,920 x 1,0801,920 x 1,080750 x 1,334
PPI534401441326
Rear camera12.3MP12MP12.3mp12MP
Rear aperturef/2.0f/1.8f/2.0f/1.8
Front camera8MP7MP8MP7MP
Front aperturef/2.4f/2.2f/2.4f/2.2
ChipsetSnapdragon 821A10 Fusion ChipSnapdragon 821A10 Fusion Chip
Core config2.15GHz x 2 + 1.6GHz x 2Quad Core 2.33GHz2.15GHz x 2 + 1.6GHz x 2Quad Core
Ram4GB3GB4GB2GB
Storage
  • 32GB
  • 128GB
  • 32GB
  • 128GB
  • 256GB
  • 32GB
  • 128GB
  • 32GB
  • 128GB
  • 256GB
MicroSDNoNoNoNo
Battery3,450 mAh2,900 mAh2,770 mAh1,960 mAh
Battery removable
ConnectorUSB CLightningUSB CLightning
Headphone PortYesYes
Headphone LocationTopTop
Speaker ConfigurationBottomBottom
WIFI standards802.11 a/b/g/n802.11 a/b/g/n/ac802.11 a/b/g/n802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth standards
  • 4.2
  • LE
  • 4.2
  • A2DP
  • LE
  • 4.2
  • LE
  • 4.2
  • A2DP
  • LE
NFCYesYesYesYes
Location
  • GPS
  • GLONASS
  • a-GPS
  • GLONASS
  • GPS
  • GLONASS
  • a-GPS
  • GLONASS
Android OSAndroid 7.1iOS 10Android 7.1iOS 10
Vendor skin
Dimensions154.72x75.74x 7.31(Bottom) 8.58(Top) mm158.2 x 77.9 x 7.3 mm143.84x69.54x 7.31(Bottom) 8.58(Top) mm138.3 x 67.1 x 7.1 mm
Weight168g188g143g138g
Colours
  • Quite Black
  • Very Silver
  • Really Blue
  • Rose Gold
  • Gold
  • Silver
  • Black
  • Jet Black
  • Quite Black
  • Very Silver
  • Really Blue
  • Rose Gold
  • Gold
  • Silver
  • Black
  • Jet Black

When you look at the Pixel phones in this context, it starts to become clearer why the Pixel phone is getting so much attention even with the $1419 price tag for the XL. The war is on and the battle is hot.

Not only is it the hardware that Google have pushed forward to compete with Apple and the iPhone but they’re now pushing ahead with advertising in a more active way than previously with the Nexus phones. There was the normal, organic hype around the new Google device that is created by those who are faithful to the Android brand and sites like ours. What was new and very pleasing to see with the Pixel launch is the active generation by Google through paid advertising and social media.

The “made by Google” event was the start of what has been the most concentrated advertising campaign drive by Google on their mobile devices. They have released multiple adverts released for TV (available for viewing on YouTube) as well as radio advertising to ensure that the market placement of the Pixel devices is more mainstream and less “that’s for geeks” thank was often recognised as the case with Nexus devices.

Pushing hard into the market within Australia will always require a carrier partnership, a premium phone needs to be partnered with a premium carrier and the leader of the pack in Australia is Telstra. This is clearly a starting point for the Pixel devices but it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see other carriers; namely Vodafone and/or Optus making a play for them next time around if they hold a high level of customer satisfaction and perhaps more importantly (for the carriers at least) put in a strong sales showing.

telstra-pixel

How have they gone so far?

While we’re aware that iPhones usually sell out across the board on the first day of retail availability, it’s a bit much to expect Google’s Pixels to do the same, especially when they don’t have that established history in the market. However, we understand from a number of sources within Telstra’s retail network and within JB Hi-Fi that a number of stores sold out of Pixel handsets on the first day, and re-supplied stock has moved steadily as well. This does vary somewhat by neighbourhood; the significant price of these phones, combined with the lack of established market history, does mean that those with lesser disposable income are holding back from buying … at least, just for now.

At the end of the day, there will always be loyal fans of both operating systems, both sides have their advantages. The Pixel devices are the latest and greatest, running the latest and most user friendly version of Android. It’s the first real market drive from Google to put their vision of an Android phone to market which brings them alongside Apple in the market where they control not only the OS but the hardware as well. In my short time with the Pixel XL to date I honestly believe that despite the price tag that the Pixel phones have the potential to be among, if not THE best smartphones of 2016 which is why I believe that the Pixels are far more important than people have realised yet.

 

Phil Tann   Journalist

Phil is an Android enthusiast who spends most of his time reading up on U.S. Android news so he can get the low down on what could possibly hit Australian shores. Coming from a background in IT & T sales, he’s in the perfect position to give an educated view on hardware and software.

Join the Ausdroid Conversation

24 Comments on "Opinion: The Google Pixel phones are more important than people realise"

avatar
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Taleim
Valued Guest
Taleim

I see the outright price as semi irrelevant..however the fact these are only on telstra is a major downer. I don’t mind a slight premium on price, but telstra is much more expensive, for much less data and international minutes. It doesn’t matter how fast the network is if you don’t have enough data to use your phone! I’m struggling with 7gb of data from Vodafone (which works well for me) but with telstra I’d need to provide my house keys and first born child to get that much. Rant over 🙂

Member
I don’t see Telstra as being expensive for the Pixel. For $54 per month you get 10GB of data, unlimited everything, unlimited calls and texts to New Zealand, USA, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, United Kingdom, Canada, India, China and South Korea. You also get an interest free loan of $1079 to pay for your Pixel, with monthly repayments of $45. All of this on what is without question Australia’s best and fastest network. If you were to buy a Pixel outright and then grab a monthly plan: Vaya is $56 per month for a similar plan (without the overseas calling),… Read more »
Taleim
Valued Guest
Taleim
I suppose when you break it down that way, it doesn’t sound so bad, thanks for the info. Maybe it’s a psychological barrier paying 100 bucks for the phone a month..I’m assuming that is the regular pixel? I’m thinking of the s7 edge, as I can get that around 90 bucks a month on Vodafone… Plus perhaps a discount of 10 percent since it’s the second connection on my account. I think it’s probably that in my mind 80 bucks a month odd is plenty to pay for a phone ( and I would think that the edge is more… Read more »
Member

Hi Taleim!

Yeah, I think that $100 a month is a lot, I was just pointing out that it appears to be the going rate at the moment. Phones are becoming very expensive now 🙁

Member
Luke Vesty

I agree that the Telstra exclusivity is disappointing for many people. But I think Google is just getting started. I’d be betting on the Pixel 2 coming to multiple carriers.

Jackson Grant
Valued Guest
Jackson Grant

I hope they provide 3 years of updates now with that price and the hardware control, I’m sick of my android phones getting neglected after a year or so, I often buy a 1 year old phone to get the reduced price. Apple seem to provide at least 3 years of well performing latest updates these days.

Member
Luke Vesty

It’s a guaranteed 2 years OS updates, 3 years of security updates.

Once Google starts designing its own chips this number will likely grow for future Pixels.

Jackson Grant
Valued Guest
Jackson Grant

It would be nice to see it grow. Especially when you don’t buy the phones day one. $1400 every two years is too much for a phone for me, that’s much higher than what I spend on my gaming PC.

Member
Luke Vesty

I think it’ll be difficult for the first Pixel given Google is dependent on Qualcomm for support. Once Google starts designing its own chips, which is surely on the cards, support for future devices should be longer.

Alan Cramer
Valued Guest

It’s a shame there is no visual voicemail support for Telstra though.

AdamBoltGC
Valued Guest
Had a quick play of the Pixels at Telstra at Runaway Bay Gold Coast and I have to say I LOVED the way you could launch the camera from the On/Off button with a quick double push… and it launched FAST. Shot to shot was incredibly quick. My wife has a Nexus 6P which I was impressed with, however these Pixel’s are a level way above the 6P. Add in unlimited upload of uncompressed photos and videos and this makes it a very compelling device. It may not be waterproof but it has enough water resistance for me, it may… Read more »
craigo
Valued Guest

fyi: Launching the camera from double tap on/off is not new. I’ve had it on my stock Nexus 6 for years. However, yes, it takes about 2 seconds to open on the N6, while the Pixel looks to be almost instant.

Member
Luke Vesty

Up to 7 hours in 15 minutes. Not 70% in 15 minutes.

But coming from someone who now owns a Pixel I can confirm charging is very, very fast.

Fred
Valued Guest
Fred

> The Google Pixel phones are more important than people realise

Google want to hope not, compared to the competition, they don’t really measure up. Most would prefer either the S7 Edge or the LG V20 – and would end up paying less too.

Viet Nguyen
Valued Guest
Viet Nguyen

Google may not win the ‘spec’ users, but my partner and I just upgraded from Note 4 to the pixels and without a doubt are extremely happy with our purchases. Blitzing fast, very good battery, great camera. It is just an incredibly smooth experience with these phones.

Before iPhone 7 was waterproof, why were people paying so much for iPhones that were so expensive compared to Android, without micro SD, low resolution screens, no removable batteries etc? Because of the user experience.

The Pixel (XL for us) have nailed that.

Member
Luke Vesty
See this is what people still don’t seem to understand. The Pixel is a mainstream device. The specs are important but not the selling point. The priority is user experience. Ask the average consumer why RAM is helpful, or what the difference between FHD and UHD is, or what the pros and cons of expandable and cloud storage is and they’ll shrug their shoulders. “Does it take good photos?” “Does Facebook work well?” “Is it cool?” “Can I use WhatsApp to message my daughter while she’s overseas?” These are the sorts of questions average people ask when purchasing a phone.… Read more »
Derek Osborn
Valued Guest
Derek Osborn
Whispy you’ve nailed it, my last Android phone was a HTC (cant recall the model) back in 2011, for me the user experience and lack of support was so bad I haven’t bought one since (I got better support with the Winblows phone I had prior). I’ve had 3 iPhones since and all have been exceptionally well supported and had high resell values as a result, making my next upgrade so much more affordable. The Pixel is the 1st Android phone I’ve considered buying in the years since, not because of the HW specifically but because it’s finally a fully… Read more »
Fred
Valued Guest
Fred
Got to say I disagree (but you expected that didn’t you?) Since you’ve detailed your thoughts, here’s mine on why I think you are wrong. First, I didn’t mention specs. Place a Pixel next to an S7 Edge and put a punter in front of them – which gets bought? It’s the Edge isn’t it, because it looks like a much nicer phone and the shop price is the same. As far as the UI goes, I’d say Samsung have it better, google are terrible for making a coherent system and 7.1 feels like a ‘work in progress’ towards integrating… Read more »
Member
Luke Vesty

I guess we’ll have to respectfully agree to disagree! We’ll see where the Pixel and the Galaxy S line is positioned in a few years time.

Phil Tann
Valued Guest

Chris already said it – but this is awesome
You’ve taken onboard what has been said, responded to some points and clearly have your own well thought through opinion that you’re sharing.

Thank you

Member
Luke Vesty

Thanks Phil. I probably have far too much time on my hands!

Chris
Valued Guest

This is the kind of comment I love to see on Ausdroid.

Member
Luke Vesty

🙂

Well much appreciated!

Jamie S
Valued Guest
Jamie S

Here, here!

wpDiscuz

Check Also

Nokia signs on with Mobile Muster to fight mobile phone waste

As a new/re-current player in the Australian mobile industry, HMD Global, the makers of Nokia …