I really liked the Google Pixel phone when I tried it out the other day. I gave it some thought, and then, two days later, I logged on to the Google Store and pre-ordered one.
At $649, it’s on the high end for a Google phone, right up there with the iPhone 7 and the Samsung Galaxy S7. Only the Nexus 6 of 2014 cost as much from the get-go. For the sake of comparison, the Nexus 5 started at $349 in 2013, while last year’s Nexus 5X cost $399, and the Nexus 6P cost $499.
So the question is whether it’s worth the price.
Here are a few reasons why I think it is.
1. Historical significance.
While you could argue that the Motorola Moto X was the first phone to come directly from Google, this is the first phone to only carry the Google brand without the Motorola M or the Nexus brand. It’s a device you’ll want to look back for years if you follow the technology industry, just like the first iPhone. Google’s considerable advertising spend in just the past few days is an indication that Google wants everyone to know this is a big deal.
2. Project Fi compatibility.
The Pixel and Pixel XL are some of the first phones to sport full compatibility with Project Fi, Google’s low-cost and good enough mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), riding on top of Sprint, T-Mobile, and US Cellular. I look forward to switching off of Verizon and saving around $40 a month.
3. Unlimited storage of full-resolution photos and videos.
This is an awesome perk for those people who have opted for the free tier of Google Photos since it launched in mid-2015. The service promises that photos it stores and syncs for free are high-quality, but they’re not complete copies of what you capture on your mobile device. Now I don’t have to worry about using up my precious gigabytes of storage on Google Drive and having to pay extra over time as a result of opting for the “original” quality of photo and video storage.
4. Great camera.
The camera on the Pixel is apparently very good. So good, in fact, that it got the highest score ever recorded in the DxOMark benchmark. And early photos from Googlers who have been testing the Pixel look great. In my testing the camera snapped photos very quickly – faster than the 5X that I’ve spent several months with.
5. The “Night light” feature.
The Pixels’ “Night light” cuts down on the amount of blue light the phones’ displays emit during later hours, which might make it easier to fall asleep. Android Marshmallow almost had a night mode for this purpose. Android Nougat almost did too, but ultimately it got removed from the final release. Now, thankfully, it’s available in an Android phone and presumably won’t be going away.
6. The Google Assistant is as native as it gets.
Google’s real answer to Siri is baked into the version of Android running on the Pixels, rather than sitting inside just a single messaging app, Google Allo. I look forward to having ongoing voice-based conversations with Google this way, and I also look forward to seeing it improve over time. I figure that within a year or two it will be good enough to be included in a version of Android for all mobile devices, not just the Pixels.
7. Free VR headset.
The Google Store now has a special promotion: If you pre-order a Pixel, you’ll also receive a Daydream View virtual reality (VR) headset free of charge. You won’t have to pay the full price of $79. Google is effectively subsidizing the cost of trying out Google’s second-generation implementation of mobile VR for early adopters.
8. Easy 24/7 support.
One thing that the Nexus phones and tablets never had is constant availability of support from people, either over the phone or in an interactive messaging interface. That the Pixels boast it suggests that Google really cares about customer satisfaction with these devices – almost like what Apple offers its customers with the Genius Bar, but not so dependent on in-person meetings. Google’s Project Fi support has been excellent in my experience so far, and I guess it will be just as good for the Pixels.
9. It’s (mostly) flat.
This might sound silly to some people, but I like not having my phone rock when I tap it while it’s lying on my desk. I like it being nice and sturdy. Also if I shove two phones in my pocket I like knowing that one won’t scratch the other. Plenty of flagship phones have camera bumps, but they’re absent on both the Pixel and the Pixel XL.
10. There’s a headphone jack.
You know what I’m saying.