Google selling a phone is not something new. Since 2010, Google has been working with manufacturers to push out phones that showcase what Android can offer at its finest. The HTC Nexus One was ahead of its time when it was launched, and the trend continued with almost all Nexus phones, bringing something new to the table with each iteration. So, when it was rumoured that Google was working on creating its very own smartphone, I was stoked. While I was trying to keep my expectations low in order to avoid being disappointed, I was still expecting Google to knock it out of the park.
Finally on October 4th, Google showed what its very own phone brought to the table in a market saturated with all kinds of phone manufacturers. After having very mixed feelings about the phone at first, I decided to give it a shot. Here are my thoughts on the Google Pixel.
Googled nailed it in terms of software optimization when it came to the Pixel phone. Apart from the slow boot up time, the phone is blazing fast. The Moto Z and the Pixel are the only phones from Android that absolutely nail it in performance. Even things like the unlock transition are super smooth. Apps load very fast and switching between apps is a breeze. Even when apps not kept in memory, it isn’t that bad because it transitions smoothly between apps. The Pixel is one of the few Android phones that rivals the iPhones in terms of overall smoothness.
I was quite skeptical when I found out that DXOMark gave the Pixel phone a score of 89. Nexus phones have not been known for their camera quality, so I wasn’t expecting much. However, after getting the phone and testing it out, I was very impressed with the pictures that came out of the Pixel. The autofocus is pretty fast and the camera fairs very well even in places with very low light.
The video capabilities also blew me away. While I don't shoot a lot of video, I had try it after hearing a lot about the smoothness. The video is impossibly smooth handheld. The panning could be better as it jerks slightly, but it isn't very noticeable unless you know what you're looking for.
Also, having unlimited cloud storage for full resolution video (including 4k) is a huge bonus for folks who record videos.
The design of the phone was one of the talking points when it came out... and not in a good way. The Pixel has a very polarizing build. Some people love it, and some people hate it. Having used both the white and black variant (no blue in Canada sadly), I am in the same boat. I love the design of the white variant, but I think the black variant looks cheap.
On the white version, the silver aluminum complements the white glass very well. Whereas, the matte black aluminum with the shiny black glass doesn't fair as well.
I love that Google included gestures such as double tap to wake and raise to wake. Being able to view notifications by just raising the phone is one of my favourite features on iOS, and having that support from an OEM is great to have on Android. The double tap to wake feature, one of my favourite features on LG Smartphones, is a welcome addition. Although, I wish it vibrated to provide feedback after the double tap.
The Pixel was one of the the first phones to launch with Android Nougat. However, even a couple months after the launch, I had quite a few apps crash on me. Apps were more stable on the LG V20 , but that could be because LG V20 was on an older build. It's not as bad as it might sound though. About 90% of the time, things worked perfectly fine.
I am not a fan of the button placement on the Google Pixel. Having all the buttons on one side of the device makes it very difficult to mount the phone on anything. I fly a drone and create cinemagraphs sometimes, and the buttons make it very difficult to use the DJI controller or a regular smartphone tripod mount.
Also, I have lost count of the number of times I ended up pressing the volume button while lifting the phone from a table.
The Camera App
For a phone whose major selling point is photography, I have not been very impressed with the user interface of the stock camera app. I wish Google had a manual mode for me to take full advantage of the sensor, but I had to rely on the auto mode and HDR+, which though worked very well most of the time, didn't allow the freedom of getting a shot exactly how I wanted it. I understand I'm in the minority here, but it is something Google should really look into adding to the camera app.
Although the Pixel packs a decent battery, I'd love it if I didn't have to worry about not making it through a full day. I don't game on my phone, but I do listen to Spotify for a couple hours during my commute and have a few email accounts set to push. The most juice I was left with at the end of the day around 10PM was about 20%, which is on the low end of the spectrum for me. It's not the worst battery I've seen by any means, but it could be much better.
I usually have something bad to say about a phone, but that hasn't been the case with the Google Pixel. The phone is easily the best android device in the market that's not too big for small to medium sized hands. I am really looking forward to where Google goes from here and the improvements we get to see in the next Pixel device.