There’s a huge amount of advertising push surrounding the Google Pixel phone right now, but although it feels like it, this isn’t the first time the Google has sold smartphones under its own name. But it is the first time it has marketed them under the Pixel brand, which is important. Why? Because the new Google Pixel phone and its supersized cousin, the Google Pixel XL, represent a paradigm shift in the smartphone world. The Pixel phone is Google, finally, going out on a limb and stamping its own mark on a smartphone, and it’s going directly after Apple.
The clue is in the pricing, which let’s face it, is going to be a huge disappointment to fans (and I count myself among them) of the now-defunct Nexus brand. The Nexus name always stood for reasonable prices, great specifications and a chance to keep up with the freshest, most up-to-date version of Android. The Pixel brand retains only two of those key strengths, ditching low prices in favour of iPhone-matching, wallet-shrinking starting prices of £599 and £719.
The key question has to be, then, do the new Google phones deliver? Are they as good as the prices suggest they should be or has Google slipped up? The answer is, as you may have ascertained from my tortuous rhetorical questions, a bit of both.
Google Pixel and Pixel XL: Key specifications
|Google Pixel||Google Pixel XL|
|Screen||5in, 1,080 x 1,920||5.5in, 1,440 x 2,560|
|Processor||2.1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 821||2.1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 821|
|Size (WDH)||70 x 8.6 x 144 mm||76 x 8.6 x 155mm|
|Software||Android 7.1 Nougat||Android 7.1 Nougat|
|Rear camera||12MP, OIS||12MP, OIS|
|UK price||£599 inc VAT, 32GB; £699, 128GB||£719 inc VAT, 32GB; £819, 128GB|
Google Pixel phone and Pixel XL review: Design
First up, the Pixel phones both look great. From a design perspective, I prefer them to Apple iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. I was sent the larger of the two to review and was immediately struck by how much impact a little cut in weight and height makes. The Google Pixel XL simply feels more comfortable to hold and slip into the pocket than the iPhone 7 Plus, and I’m a fan of the way it looks too.
Essentially, it’s a progression of the design seen on last year’s Nexus 6P, just a little more polished. It could even be described as a touch outlandish, with its inset glass camera surround spanning the top third of the rear panel, encompassing the camera and circular, centre-mounted fingerprint reader.
I like it; you may not, but at least you couldn’t call the design bland.
What I’m not so keen on, and more than a little disappointed by, is the relative ease with which that glass rear seemed to scratch and scuff. Not three days after first easing the Pixel XL from its box, and being very careful about how and where I put it down in the interim, I found several short, light scratches marring the surface. I dread to think what it will look like in a year or so’s time after I’ve grown tired of being ultra-careful with it.
Something else I don’t like is the phone’s lack of dust and water resistance. Here it seems Google has missed a trick, especially as this is the year Apple has chosen to add the feature to its iPhones in order to compete with Samsung and Sony.
So, there’s some good news and some bad news. Everything else about the Pixel is firmly middle of the road, right down to the good old-fashioned 3.5mm headphone jack on the top edge and the white/silver and black/charcoal colours it’s available in. It’s good to see at least one manufacturer rejecting the idea of offering a lurid rose-gold finish.
Thank you for your visit on this page Google Pixel phone and Google Pixel XL review: A superb smartphone that’s very nearly as good as the Galaxy S7