The Google phone is finally here. After years of dipping its toes with its range of Nexus phones made by third parties and the inevitable compromises that came with them, Google has unveiled two of its own phones – the Pixel and Pixel XL.
This 5.5-inch Android phone is the successor to last year’s Nexus 6P, as Google is altogether ditching the affordable, developer-focused Nexus brand in favor of this new Pixel XL and its smaller 5-inch Pixel counterpart.
Under a new hardware division set up last year, Google itself has taken control of the phone’s look, feel and specifications. The result is what can be described as the first true Google phone, one that takes the combination of hardware and software that Apple have used so well and applies it to Android, the world’s most popular operating system.So Google has the formula, but whether the Pixel phone will stack up to the iPhone is another question.
Design and feel
The 5-inch Pixel and 5.5-inch Pixel XL come in two colours in the UK, irreverently named “very silver” and “quite black” (the “really blue” of the US is not available in the UK). The colours are simply fine: nothing you won’t have seen before but perfectly nice. Out of the two, I preferred the black.
Google came in for a fair amount of criticism for releasing two phones that people said look like the iPhone and while that’s fair, up close you really wouldn’t mistake the two. And it’s not just because the Pixel has a headphone jack.
The Pixels look and feel a little more rectangular – the body curves towards a straight edge on the side of the phone instead of being properly rounded. And with the buttons at the bottom embedded in the screen and the fingerprint scanner on the back, it feels like there’s an awful lot of phone not being used for anything, especially under the screen. The glass panel at the back of the phone – a necessary requirement to fit all the Pixel’s innards in – is a little offputting, and feels plasticky.
It’s not a bad design, but it doesn’t feel up there with the best efforts from Samsung and Apple this year. But the phones are comfortable and light to use, and the XL doesn’t feel oversized compared to other phablets. Apart from the size, the two models are fairly similar.
One of the big selling points of the Pixel is definitely the 12.3MP camera. This was a surprise – the Nexus devices were never known for photography – but according to DxOMark, a true authority on phone cameras, it is the best they have ever tried.
The camera is certainly quick, deals well with quickly taken photos and the results looked good in the demo room, but as always it’s hard to judge based on a few minutes with the phone.
One thing that is nice – accessing the camera is really easy. Just double click the lock button and it is brought up immediately. And to switch between the front and back camera, you can do a little double flick with your wrist, which works really well.
Google Assistant and Android
This is the first phone with Google Assistant, the AI software that the company has spent a lot of time developing. You hold down the home button to activate it (or just say “OK Google”) and it is supposed to intelligently answer all sorts of questions, such as those about nearby restaurants, upcoming films, your calendar, information from Wikipedia, and so on.
While the voice recognition is very good, it remains to be seen how useful this will actually be. At present, it only offers Google services, so you can’t ask it to play Spotify, for example, although this will change.
As with the Nexus phones, it’s Android with Google at the forefront, which many people like best. Apps such as Google Allo and Duo come as default, and everything runs smoothly. Apps are also displayed as circles rather than squares – although this only applies for Google’s own apps, so throw in other apps and the result is a little messy.
The only other difference is that the app launcher: you swipe up from the app tray at the bottom of the screen to get to the launcher, which works perfectly well.
rice and release date
The Pixel cost £599 for the 32GB version and £699 for 128GB, while the XL is £719 for 32GB and £819 for the 128GB model.
They are available for pre-order now, and go on sale on October 20 from EE and Carphone Warehouse.
Had an experience with any of the two models yet? Want to buy one? Let’s hear it in the comments section.
Post first appeared on: Telegraph.co.uk