Google has unveiled their new “Made By Google” Pixel phones.
Available in two sizes, the Pixel and Pixel XL. Both devices feature exactly the same internal specs and both are made by HTC, but you wouldn’t know that by looking at either device.
Evolution From the Nexus
Nexus was once Google’s pride and joy. The ultimate showcase for Android as it was meant to be, without all the add-ons and skins created by handset manufacturers. While the Nexus series of devices were the darling of the hardcore techies and Android purists, it didn’t quite catch on with the mainstream market.
In 2016, Google decided to change its approach and make devices that have more mainstream appeal and could finally stand a chance of being direct competition to Apple’s iPhone.
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Introducing the Pixel
From a design perspective, the Pixel handsets are easily some of the most boring devices ever produced. From the front they look like iPhone clones and from the back, they look like every other Android handset with a rear fingerprint scanner. The only difference is that Pixel also has a weird half glass back which doesn’t look that great and doesn’t appear to have any purpose. If there were wireless charging then at least that would explain the glass panel, but there isn’t.
Pixel might not be the most exciting looking handset, but Google’s made it clear that this is the beginning of a new era for them. One that isn’t about hardware but instead focusses on artificial intelligence (AI).
Features Exclusive to the Pixel
The new handsets both come with a special version of Android Nougat – Android 7.1 – pre-installed and quite a few Pixel-only exclusive software tricks.
Google Assistant is essentially the smarter sibling to both Siri and Google Now. It’s more contextually aware and is more capable than any other smart assistant on a smartphone. It also integrates with other apps including Uber, which means that you can get more done using just voice.
Other than Cardboard, Google has been largely absent from the virtual reality game. Daydream, the company’s new VR platform, is supported by both the Pixel and Pixel XL, something that no other Android is capable of at this stage.
Both the Pixel and Pixel XL come with a brand new home screen design which Google calls Pixel Launcher. The app drawer button is gone, which means that you now have to swipe up from the bottom dock of apps if you want to see all of your apps and games. The time, date and weather are in the top right corner, and if you tap on Google’s G logo, you’ll be taken straight to search.
The Nexus range of handsets were always great, but every one of them had one major letdown, the camera. With Pixel, Google appears to finally have a great camera app! Pixel’s 12-megapixel camera is being touted as the best camera in any smartphone, ever. It includes features like white balance control and exposure compensation as well as a new “smart burst” mode which captures a stream of shots. Google then uses artificial intelligence to choose the best shot. The camera also uses HDR+ by default.
Unlimited Backups of Photos and Videos
Google already provides unlimited backups of photos in its Google Photos app, but non of those are at the pictures’ original quality. With Pixel, Google provides free unlimited backups of all pictures and videos taken with the device in their original format, even if they’re 4K.
Pixel is only available in two storage sizes, either 32GB or 128GB. There is no SD card slot. If you’re running out of storage space, the devices will automatically clear out any photos and videos which have already been backed up to the cloud via Google Photos. Because those shots and recordings are stored at full quality, you lose nothing by removing them from your onboard storage.
24/7 Chat Support
Got a problem with your Pixel phone? Well now you don’t have to take your phone in for assistance. Simply head to the settings menu and you can launch a voice call or chat session with Google’s customer support team. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week! You’ll also be able to initiate screen sharing so that the Google employee can control your device and show you how to fix whatever is not working properly with your phone. If this sounds familiar, it’s because Amazon.com already offers a similar support feature with their Kindle Fire devices.
Looking to swap to Pixel? Google has included a USB-C adapter in the box which will let you transfer contacts, messages, photos, and other content from your current Android phone or iPhone over to your new Pixel.
At this stage there is no word as to whether or not Pixel will be available in South Africa.