Google’s new Pixel phones have arrived — this is what you need to know.
Google’s Pixel and Pixel XL are here, and they’re fantastic. These latest phones are the first made entirely under Google’s control, following in the footsteps of the two Chromebook Pixels and the Pixel C tablet.
That makes these phones interesting from a hardware perspective, wearing just the “G” logo on the back and taking on some neat design cues, but also in terms of how the software and features are deeply integrated into these aluminum blocks. Here’s everything you need to know about the Google Pixel and Pixel XL.
Read the review
The easiest way to learn about Google’s newest phones is to read our full review and then watch the video review that goes along with it!
Nexus is dead. Long live Pixel
The new Pixel and Pixel XL are of course not Nexus phones by brand, but they clearly carry on the legacy of the line. They come from Google, are sold unlocked and epitomize the complete Google experience.
If you owned (or lusted after) Nexus phones in the past for their simplicity, direct support from Google and clean integration of Google’s own apps and services, you’ll be served just as well by the new Pixels.
There are some Pixel-exclusive software features
One thing that differs with these latest Google phones is that the Pixels have exclusive software features that won’t be coming back to previous Nexus phones in an OTA update. The biggest feature on the list is Google Assistant, which is built right into the Pixel’s software and accessed through the home button. It isn’t part of Android 7.1, but something tied to the Pixels right now. The Pixels also have advanced camera processing and features, which technically could work on the Nexus 6P because of its similar hardware, but in likelihood will be kept Pixel exclusive.
We don’t know exactly which features will be just time-limited exclusives, which will be brought over with a different implementation and which will stay exclusive to Pixels forever. But you can know that Nexus phones’ software won’t look or act the exact same as a Pixel does today — that’s even more true for other phones that eventually receive Android 7.1 updates.
You get 24/7 support built in
It’s not necessarily a software feature at its core, but part of the justification of the Pixels’ high prices is the inclusion of live 24/7 support direct from Google. The support is built right into the settings of the phones, and lets you quickly contact Google for a phone call or chat to talk about what’s going wrong with your phone.
Much like Amazon pioneered on its Fire tablets, Google can also start a screen sharing session with you so you can literally show your exact problem to the support person and figure it out while on the phone. It’s these sorts of things you may not think about all the time, but when you just can’t figure out a problem it’s great to have it there. The feature may be particularly useful if you’re looking at the Pixel for a less tech-savvy family member or friend — you’re no longer the tech support!
Two sizes, same phone
Google’s branding for the Pixel phones is a tad confusing, as the name used in marketing is just “Pixel” while we of course we know there’s more than one phone available. But the way you should look at this is just two different screen sizes of the same phone: a 5-inch Pixel, and a 5.5-inch Pixel XL.
The phones are identical in terms of internal specs, build, hardware quality, features and software — there are just three differences to note: the Pixel XL has a larger 5.5-inch display, a higher 2560×1440 resolution, and a larger 3450 mAh battery. That compares to the Pixel’s 5-inch 1920×1080 display and 2770 mAh battery.
The drop in screen resolution shouldn’t be too upsetting considering the still-high pixel density at 5 inches, and of course when the body gets smaller the battery is going to shrink as well. Battery life shouldn’t drop off much considering the smaller screen and resolution. Really, this comes down to how much screen you need to get your daily tasks done, and how much you can manage in your hand and pocket.
Yes, they’re expensive
The standard Google Pixel starts at $649, with the larger Pixel XL at $769. An extra $100 in either case will bump the internal storage to 128GB. Those are absolutely top-end prices, competing directly with Samsung, HTC, LG and of course Apple. Whether these phones are worth that price to you is a personal decision, but Google is certainly trying to make a compelling case.
One thing to keep in mind here is how the Pixels fit in with the full retail prices of the Nexus phones that came before them. Aside from the Nexus 4 and Nexus 5, which both set an abnormally low expectation for price, Nexus phones have regularly broken the $500 and $600 price levels for their respective years — from back at the Nexus One launch, up to the Galaxy Nexus and on to the Nexus 6 and even Nexus 6P. They haven’t all been as inexpensive as we like to remember.
Updates come from Google, guaranteed
One of the most compelling reasons to buy a phone from Google is software updates. Not only will the Pixels be supported by two years of guaranteed Android platform and feature updates, but you’ll also be getting monthly security patches for three years as well. Those updates won’t be such a pain to take, either, as Android Nougat introduced seamless updates that get in place in the background and apply quickly on reboot.
There are lots of phones with really cool software features right out of the box, but it’s their shaky continued support a year or two down the road that make us take pause. If you don’t want to worry about when or where your future software update is coming, the Pixels should be your top choice.
You can buy from Verizon, but shouldn’t
When Google announced the Pixel and Pixel XL it touted the fact that a deal was made with Verizon as the exclusive U.S. carrier for the phones. Thankfully, you don’t have to buy the phones from Verizon — and in our opinion, you shouldn’t.
If you buy the Pixel or Pixel XL from Verizon, you may have future Android updates delayed due to Verizon’s testing — even though Verizon claims it wants to launch updates simultaneously with Google. There are also a few “bloatware” apps from Verizon pre-installed on the phones, which you may not use. The bootloader is also encrypted, meaning if you want to tinker with your phone you’ll be out of luck.
Our recommendation is to buy the Pixels from the Google Store.
You should look at Project Fi, however
If you’re looking to switch carriers after getting your Pixel, you may want to look into switching to Google’s own carrier offering called Project Fi. It’s an awesome carrier that doesn’t tie you down with contracts, agreements, lengthy bills or overage charges — it’s all about simplicity, just like the Pixels.
With Project Fi, your Pixel will actively switch between using Sprint, T-Mobile and U.S. Cellular networks depending on which is best, and will also jump on open Wi-Fi outside of your house as well as let you make calls and texts over any Wi-Fi network. It’s just $20 per month to start, plus $10 per gigabyte of data you use, no matter how much you use. You’re refunded for data you buy but don’t consume in the month, and you can even use that data outside of the U.S. with no extra fees. There’s even a group plan where you can bring along your family to Project Fi.
You can get a Project Fi SIM card for free when you order your Pixel, or if you already have one on the way you can pick up a SIM card when you sign up for Project Fi online.
Comparing it to the competition
The Pixel is one favorite Android phone right now, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some seriously good competitors out there. From the LG G6 to the Galaxy S8, there are plenty of devices looking to steal the crown, and we’ve got your in-depth comparisons.
Still having problems?
We’re running into some serious issues with the Google Pixel, from Bluetooth to Wi-Fi to microphones cutting out. Google has promised to fix all of them in time, but in the meantime you can find our running list of Google Pixel issues and share your stories.
Undecided? Hop in the forums!
There’s so much to learn about Google’s new Pixel phones, and even when you get to know more it can often lead to even more questions. If you’re still on the fence of whether or not to buy a Pixel, or have a specific question to discuss, the Android Central forums are the place to be!