At their launch last week Google announced that Telstra was the official carrier partner here in Australia for the launch of the Google Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones. There’s been some controversy over the launch of the phones on carriers due to US carrier Verizon apparently exerting way too much control over the phones, software and more.
According to 9to5Google, Verizon will be delivering updates to the Pixel phones rather than Google, the phones will also have pre-loaded Verizon apps and they’ve reportedly also locked bootloader meaning it will be difficult for enthusiasts to tinker with phones. There’s a lot of FUD out there, so we spoke to Telstra’s Director of Devices Andrew Volard about the launch of the phone and what users can expect.
To start with, the phones are now up for pre-order and they should be available in-store on October 20th. Telstra is the exclusive launch partner for the Pixel and Pixel XL in Australia, this means you won’t see them being offered on contract at Vodafone or Optus.
Telstra believes that their network will pair perfectly with the Google Pixel phones, which will be the first to offer the Google Assistant, a prospect that Andrew finds an exciting prospect, saying:
We’re particularly excited that the Pixel will be the first smartphone to feature Google Assistant – intelligent software that will allow our customers to have a natural conversation with their phones to get advice on everything from the fastest route to the theatre to suggestions for the best place to enjoy a meal after the show. We think it’s going to make the smartphone an even more central part of Australians’ lives.
Unfortunately while this seems like a great marriage between handset and network, the Pixel phones, just like Apples latest handset doesn’t qualify for the Telstra Blue Tick. The Blue Tick certification on Telstra simply means you can be sure that you’re experiencing the best possible coverage in regional and rural locations – for most people who live in metro areas this isn’t going to be a problem though.
The Telstra network offers some advantages for both Google, and users with access to Telstra’s 4GX network which includes Cat 11 4G LTE. Cat 11 LTE allows for download speeds ranging from 5Mbps to 200Mbps in 4GX areas, that’s seriously fast, in fact the Pixel phones are a third faster than any other phone on the market in Australia.
The combination of fast network speed and Google Assistant opens all kinds of doors for Telstra and Google, with Mr Volard saying
Thanks to the latest 4G LTE technology and Telstra’s ultra-fast mobile network, we can offer our customers the fastest mobile data speeds in Australia when using these phones on the Telstra network, helping to make the Google Assistant an even more powerful, real-time companion.
As well as fast speeds, the Telstra network offers another sought after feature: Voice over LTE (VoLTE). Both the Pixel and Pixel XL will support VoLTE out of the box on the Telstra network.
When it comes to VoLTE though, you won’t need any special firmware version for it to work. The Pixel phones from Telstra and the Pixel phones from the Google store are running the exact same firmware. If you buy a Pixel from the Google Store then VoLTE will work on the Telstra network.
That clean software experience that you get on a Pixel phone from the Google store will also be the same as the ones from Telstra. Mr Vollard advised
There are no Telstra apps pre-loaded on Pixel, phone by Google, however customers have the option of downloading the Telstra 24×7 App along with other core Google services like Duo and Allo during the device setup process.
Google has advised that the Pixel phones on Telstra will be getting updates at the same time as the phones purchased from the Google Store, however Mr Vollard advised that they will be testing updates, saying:
Yes, We test software updates as soon as they become available to ensure they meet our performance standards. Once this is complete our partners release software updates to devices.
Whether this means that Telstra will get early access to updates in order to facilitate having Google deliver the updates in a timely manner to all Pixel phones in the market is about the only conclusion we can draw here.
While Verizon have chosen to lock the bootloader on their Pixel phones, the Telstra version won’t be locked. Telstra has not requested the bootloader be locked and like the firmware it will be the same as the version available from the Google Store.
Through speaking with Telstra online chat, it also seems that people who pre-ordered the Pixel XL from Telstra will also be getting their phones, on or very close to the launch date of October 20th. Telstra may have jumped the gun with one customer already, so it’s possible but unlikely that Telstra Pixel customers may get an early surprise.
Telstra will be offering the Pixel and Pixel XL in either Very Silver and Quite Black with a choice of 32GB or 128GB storage on a variety of plans. For example customers wanting the Pixel in 32GB on a 24 month contract will be able to get the phone on the $95 Go Mobile Plus or My Business Mobile plans with 10GB (8GB + 2GB bonus) of data to use in Australia and $4/mth handset repayments.
We’ve gone into a little detail on how to hack the Telstra plans to get more for less, so that’s very much worth a read.
Interestingly for a Google Phone launch, Telstra is advertising that phones purchased on selected plans include either a 6 or 12 month Apple Music streaming membership as well as 200GB of Microsoft One Drive cloud storage. Still, it’s not bad to get a freebie or two. You also get Free and unlimited access to Telstra Air data around Australia.
There’s a range of plans available for both phone depending on the storage size you choose. You can check all the details out on the Telstra pre-order page: telstra.com/pixelphone.