Google’s Pixel Phone Features And It’s Review

Since the Pixel and Pixel XL are among the first devices with the Snapdragon 821 SoC, their specs are a little different from what we’ve seen this year. The 821 isn’t a huge advancement of what is already in high-end devices—it’s just a Snapdragon 820 with a higher clock rate, 2.4GHz versus 2.15 GHz. Both devices also include 4GB of RAM, 32 or 128GB of storage (no 64GB option), a 12MP rear camera, 8MP front camera, rear fingerprint sensor, and a USB Type-C port.

Google spent a lot of time talking up the Pixel’s 12.3MP f/2.0 rear camera, including its DxOMark score of 89 (the highest ever for a smartphone, according to Google) and its lack of an “unsightly camera bump.” Google will give Pixel owners unlimited storage for full-resolution photos and videos via the Google Photos app.

The Pixel phones also mark the release of Google’s “Daydream VR” platform, making them the first “Daydream ready” phones. This is basically an ecosystem-wide version of the Samsung Gear VR—you can buy an empty VR headset and slot your phone into it. Then you can use the phone display, SoC, and battery to power a VR experience. Google announced its own “Daydream View” headset that will be compatible with the Pixels as well as, presumably, other Daydream VR-compatible phones.

Google is also targeting iPhone switchers with new hardware and software. A new app will facilitate the transfer of contacts, photos, videos, music, texts, calendar events, and iMessages from your old iPhone, and a dongle included in the box with every Pixel will let you connect to your iPhone with a cable to make the transfer faster and less error-prone than wireless transfers can sometimes be.

Google is still fully in control of the software on these devices, so expect relatively speedy major updates along with monthly security updates. Like Nexus phones, the Pixel devices will get updates as soon as they’re available from Google, and they can take advantage of Nougat’s seamless update mechanisms to update quietly in the background without subjecting you to endless progress bars. Google has tried to do something different for the Pixel software, basically providing its own “Google” skin on top of AOSP with a custom launcher, settings, and System UI.

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Previously, the Nexus 5 had an exclusive launcher for a short period, but the Pixel line definitely marks an expansion of device-exclusive Google software. The new launcher is the most striking change, with circular icons, a hidden swipe-up gesture to access the app drawer, and a redesigned Google widget. With the new Google, widget comes a rebrand of Google’s voice technology to the “Google Assistant.” We’ll definitely have to dive into the new software changes once we get some time with the device.

Like Nexus devices, you can buy the Pixel phones unlocked and directly from Google. One surprise is that they’ll be available exclusively on Verizon in the US, and not from other US carriers—if you want to use it on another network, you’ll need to buy the unlocked version. Verizon has a history of delaying updates on Nexus devices, but hopefully, that won’t be a problem here. We’ll be going hands-on with the phones and giving them a full review as soon as we can.

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