Google Pixel is an Android 7.0 Nougat smartphone with a 5-inch FHD AMOLED display, 1080x1920 resolution, and 441ppi index. It is equipped with a 2.1GHz Quad-Core Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, 4GB of RAM, 128GB onboard storage, and the Adreno 530 GPU. For photos, the device has a 12MP rear-facing camera with 4K video recording and an 8MP camera in front. The 2770mAh battery has the ability to last up to 19 hours of talk time and 26 days in standby mode. The phone comes with NFC technology. Color options include Quite Black, Really Blue, and Very Silver.
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For years, diehard Android enthusiasts have talked up the virtues of a "vanilla" Android experience, free of modifications and user interface tweaks that are often put into place by third-party Android device manufacturers like Samsung and Motorola. Their chosen device was the Google Nexus, a lineup of phones that Google made in partnership with third-party manufacturers, but which used a plain, modification-free version of the Android mobile operating system. The Nexus line seems to have run its course, however, and in its place is the Pixel, the first Google-made phone.
For those new to Google devices and Android itself, the Pixel's mission could best be compared to the iPhone: A unified design experience that brings together the phone's design with its intended operating system. And, like the iPhone, Google's Pixel hits it out of the park in many ways. The phone is fast, has a stellar camera, and utilizes perhaps the most simple, pleasing industrial design of any Android phone ever released. A full review of the phone reveals a device that was meticulously thought out, with the right combination of hardware and software features to put it on par with market leaders like the iPhone 7 and the Samsung Galaxy series.
The Google Pixel is the Right Size for One-Handed Use
Followers of the smartphone industry know that there's been only one trend line in recent years when it comes to screen size: upward, onward, and much bigger. The market now bursts with phones that have 6-inch screens and are increasingly awkward to hold. That's not the Pixel's market, however. The Pixel features a 5-inch screen, with minimal bezels on the left and right sides. A small "chin" sits both atop and below the screen, much like the iPhone, giving the device a sense of symmetry and balance.
In the hand, the phone's balance is absolutely essential for one-handed web browsing and even typing. Unlike phones with a power center point, the Pixel will remain flat and stable in the hand, reducing the risk of dropping the device and cracking its screen. Smooth materials on the back of the device make the phone easy to hold or slip into a pocket, again reducing the risk of damage in everyday life. While the design is impressive, however, it's what's inside the phone that really makes the Pixel shine as a flagship Android device.
Speed Demon: The Pixel is a Lightning-Fast Android Device
Android is known for being many things, but "fast" is not one of them. In fact, Android suffers a reputation as a worthy, but laggy, mobile operating system that might not be for people who are impatient when using a mobile device. Google has openly admitted this, and even unveiled "Project Butter" several years ago, hoping to improve the operating system's responsiveness and make it feel "like butter" when performing routine tasks. That effort has been largely successful, but flagship devices from the likes of Samsung, LG, and Motorola still struggle to be truly stutter-free and seamless when switching tasks. With the Pixel, Google's mission was to prove that Android could be just as responsive as iOS, without the lag and stuttering that had so annoyed users in the past. In this effort, the device is a massive success.
Google's Nexus devices were always a bit more enjoyable to use as daily drivers because they were free of operating system cruft, like user interface overlays, manufacturer-specific services, wireless carrier applications, and third-party features. This approach was carried over to the Pixel lineup of devices this year, with only a slight twist: With Google designing the Pixel in-house, the company was able to promote more communication between its hardware and software design teams, operating underlying Android code for the specific processors and sensors used inside the device. This results in a much faster experience when using the Pixel for things like messaging, social media, and even mobile gaming.
Beyond the Lock Screen: Software Refinements Enhance the Pixel Experience
Historically, Android was left "untouched" on Nexus devices, free of any bloated features that might slow the device down or make development harder for advanced Android users. The Pixel is largely committed to this same approach, with a few notable exceptions. Perhaps the biggest divergence from untouched Android is the inclusion of Google Assistant. Described by many as a logical evolution of Google Now, and a far better virtual assistant than Apple's Siri or Microsoft's Cortana, Google Assistant is currently exclusive to the Pixel hardware lineup.
Google Assistant takes the power of a Google Search and translates it into artificial intelligence. The company proudly notes that you can ask it anything, whether you're looking for a recipe, a random factoid from history, or an app that could come in handy. Google Assistant is activated using the same "Ok, Google" phrase, but its interface has been radically redesigned, it has been integrated into the operating system in exciting new ways, and it is exceedingly more useful than its predecessor.
Beyond the incredible Google Assistant, however, Google Pixel also ships with a refined Android interface. This includes the Pixel launcher, which is a far more neat and tidy way to browse and launch apps in the latest version of Android. Rounded icons, which were first introduced in beta builds of Android "Nougat," are found throughout the operating system and create a consistent user interface that's actually a joy to use. Notifications on the Pixel use the new and improved "Nougat" method of interaction, which presents more rich and useful information in each notification than was previously possible. This makes it easy to interact quickly and effectively with the device, all without launching an app.
Finally, A Google Device with an Utterly Fantastic Camera
One of the chief complaints about the Nexus lineup throughout its history was that each device had a lackluster camera when compared to the competition. These concerns were legitimate: Nexus devices often lagged in terms of sensor quality, pixel size, megapixel rating, color saturation, and white balance. It made for a hard choice when choosing Nexus devices over the competition: Which mattered more, pure Android or a good camera?
With the Pixel, that tough choice is simply gone. The device features one of the best smartphone cameras currently on the market. The rear-facing camera is a 12.3-megapixel sensor, while the front-facing camera can take pictures at up to 8 megapixels. Both cameras use completely new sensors that focus on reducing noise, creating an image with the proper white balance, and saturating colors so that they look both vibrant and natural. The result is stunning photography and video, which are easily on par with the top-ranked cameras in Apple iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, and Sony devices. Most users will be able to simply point and shoot, and get a great photo without altering any settings or doing any post-processing.
Battery Life: A Potential Concern for Frequent Phone Users
In a world where consumers value battery life and thin industrial design, one of those priorities is bound to get overlooked. Increasing, manufacturers overlook long battery life in order to deliver a thin and light device, and the Pixel is no exception. The compact device is powered by a 2,770 mAh battery that is decidedly small for this type of phone. Google counters that the device uses a highly efficient Snapdragon 821 chip, in combination with power-efficient Android 7.1, but that's cold comfort.
In routine tests, the Pixel barely lasted a typical workday when used consistently throughout the day to read and respond to texts and emails. Most people will probably want to have a phone charger at home, at work, and even in the car, to make sure that they maximize charging time and therefore extend the device's usefulness until the end of the workday. If there is good news in this regard at all, it's that a larger number of people now have a phone charger at home, at the office, and in the car, because they've become accustomed to thinner devices and lesser battery life.
The Pixel, despite all of its many benefits and improvements, definitely suffers in this area. Those buyers who are coming from larger devices with larger batteries may be in for a shock, but users of phones like the iPhone 6 and Google Nexus 5 or 5X, will be used to this type of compromise.
Design Challenges: A Few Things Worth Noting
Since it was announced the Google Pixel has been compared to the iPhone in a very favorable way. It's true: A quick, passing glance at the device might make it easy to mistake the Pixel for an iPhone 6, 6S, or 7. There's so much more to the design, however, that separates it from those devices. First and foremost, Google has devised a different way, and a more aesthetically pleasing way, to make sure its antennas get a full mobile signal. While the iPhone uses thin lines, the Pixel has a sleek, glass back panel near the top of the device. This larger panel does result in better reception for the Pixel, making it more reliable on the "cell edge," where coverage is close to dropping out.
While the Pixel has a superior way of managing antennas and connectivity, there are some design challenges that will leave some users perplexed or inconvenienced. The first of these is the decision to place the fingerprint sensor on the back of the device. This decision isn't new in the world of Android devices, but it remains a confusing while. The only time that a rear-mounted fingerprint reader is convenient is when the device is already mounted in the hand. At this point, it's probably unlocked anyway.
Converts from the iPhone, or those who haven't ever used a fingerprint sensor, will find this placement frustrating when the device is lying flat on a table and the sensor is, quite literally, out of reach. This frustration is compounded by the inability to double-tap on the screen to wake the device. This feature, common on LG devices, would bypass most of the awkwardness associated with the fingerprint sensor's rear placement.
The Pixel is also not waterproof, which is disheartening in a world where Samsung and Apple flagships have added this feature for their 2016 releases. Buyers will want to be careful when they use their device in the kitchen, the bathroom, or on the beach. One other thing worth noting is that the Pixel lacks a high-efficiency, high-brightness OLED display. Instead, the device comes with an AMOLED display that is decidedly hard to read in bright, direct sunlight.
Despite Minor Flaws, the Pixel is the Best of the Best
It has been a long time since there was this much excitement around a new Android flagship series, but Google has done a good job creating a phone that is easy to use, fast in routine usage, and attractive from every angle. The Pixel includes industry-leading technologies, like Google Assistant, and top-notch hardware sensors, like the excellent front and rear cameras found on this model. This device represents the future of Android as well as the future of Google, which is working toward a tightly integrated mobile ecosystem where everything "just works."
Despite a few minor flaws, including the perplexing placement of its fingerprint sensor, the lack of waterproofing, and an AMOLED screen that struggles in direct sunlight, the Pixel is the most promising phone to hit the market in years. Fans of pure Android finally have a phone that can be used for development work, look good doing it, and take spectacular pictures in the real world. Fans of thin, high-end industrial design finally have an Android device that doesn't feel cheap, make creaking noises, or utilize gimmicks in place of quality materials. All told, this is a win-win device from Google and is absolutely the best phone buyers who love Android, want a pure experience, and are seeking an unlocked device that can travel with them between all of the major carriers in the United States and around the world.
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