Welcome to the latest edition in our ‘Device Advice’ blog series, sharing our thoughts and insights into the most recent devices releases from the world of mobile, tablets and beyond.
Last month, Google announced the arrival of two smartphones: the Pixel and the Pixel XL. Having previously released devices under the Nexus name, the Pixel is, in Google’s words, “the first phone built by Google inside and out.”
The Pixel and Pixel XL are similar in specification. Both feature Qualcomm’s latest processor – the Snapdragon 821 – along with 4GB of RAM and options for 32GB or 128GB of storage. The key difference, as you might expect, is that the XL is the larger of the two devices, with a 5.5-inch screen compared to the Pixel’s 5-inch equivalent.
The Pixel and Pixel XL boast a fingerprint sensor on the rear of the device, often popular with other Android handsets. The sensor also doubles as a gesture control, providing a more subtle means of checking for notifications.
With an Android phone at the higher end of the price spectrum, these specifications are to be expected. And, with so many devices running Google’s mobile OS now, the buyer is going to be looking for that extra something that they can’t get with a similarly powerful device. This is where Google has excelled.
Anyone used to Android will know that you get unlimited photo storage on Google Drive, with one catch – that the images uploaded are not full resolution. Although not all of us are necessarily printing our photos to A3 canvasses, the knowledge that images backed up to the Google Drive aren’t full resolution prompts the need to take local backups of the phone when storage runs low. You can choose to upload full resolution images, but to do so you need to purchase additional Google Drive storage (which is still competitively priced). Pixel buyers get something of an exclusive free pass – unlimited full resolution image and video uploads are part of the package, taking advantage of Google’s suite of services. It sounds like a small sweetener but it’s valuable, and if you’ve used Google Photos you’ll know why. It’s a very powerful service with highly intelligent search and sharing features; the likes you would expect from a search giant’s genius algorithms.
The other key advantage to operating Android on a Google device compared to a Samsung, LG, Huawei, etc. is ‘native Google code’. With an official Google device you’ll always get the latest software updates to Android before anyone else – which keeps the user and IT department happy. This isn’t a case of Google holding back some advantage for themselves – far from it – it’s a case of other manufacturers wanting to layer their own tweaks and changes over the top of Google’s native Android code, which often brings about delays to owners of Samsung or LG devices, for example.
Google has priced the Pixel range high, which is not surprising, as prices have been creeping up on the ‘Nexus’ line over the last three years. The cost of a 5-inch Pixel is currently £499 (exc. VAT), whilst the 5.5-inch Pixel XL is retailing at £599 (exc. VAT) for 32GB capacity and £682 (exc. VAT) for 128GB capacity. But, with that unlimited photo storage, you could question whether you would need the larger capacity. It does seem odd that Google went for 32GB and 128GB variants with no 64GB option in the middle, especially as it’s likely most would purchase the smaller size.
The Pixel price point puts it on a par with Apple’s latest iPhone models – and rightly so, as the Pixel is a fantastically powerful handset with a great suite of Google services baked into the offering.
But there are some significant differences between these two families of devices. The Pixel and Pixel XL feature higher-quality cameras than the iPhone 7, and both sport the 3.5mm headphone jack, which was notably missing on the Apple device, to the annoyance of many.
If you’re looking for an alternative to the iPhone 7, but with the same level of power behind it, the Pixel may be a wise choice. With these handsets developed to Google’s specification, you can ensure that their integration with Android software and software upgrade paths will be second to none.