This past Tuesday, Google held an event where they showed off their two new flagship smartphones – the 5-inch Pixel and the 5.5-inch Pixel XL. The two premium smartphones offer great build quality, powerful processors, 4GB of RAM, a highly rated camera, endless cloud storage, and more. However, with a premium build comes a premium price. Although the Pixel and Pixel XL are replacing the Nexus line of smartphones, which were moderately priced in comparison to other high-end smartphones, the Pixel and Pixel XL are priced very similarly to the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. For an almost identical price, you would expect the brand-new Pixel and Pixel XL to offer the same, if not better features than the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, but it appears as if that’s not necessarily the case.
Some of the features offered on the Pixel line are quite impressive. The processors, for example, are top-of-the-line, quad-core Snapdragon 821 processors, newer than the Snapdragon 820 processors found on Samsung’s Galaxy S7 line. The iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, by contrast, sport Apple’s proprietary quad-core A10 processors. While the two processors are pretty comparable when it comes to power, Apple’s processors consistently beat out Android processors, often due to the fragmentation of the Android operating system. Google’s “stock Android” OS on the Pixel will likely perform better than other Android smartphones, due to the lack of bloatware and third-party UI overlays that many manufacturers load onto their phones, but it’s doubtful that the two phones will beat out an iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus in speed tests.
The displays on the Pixel line are also impressive – the Pixel sports a 5-inch, 1920×1080 resolution AMOLED display, while the Pixel XL boasts a 5.5-inch, 2560×1440 resolution AMOLED display. The iPhone 7’s Retina display offers a 1,334×750 resolution, and the iPhone 7 Plus offers a 1920×1080 resolution – the same as the 5-inch Pixel. Based purely on numbers, the Pixel line feature more impressive displays, and being AMOLED displays (vs Apple’s LCD displays), should offer deeper black levels and more impressive contrast ratios. However, the Pixel line lacks the Wide Color gamut offered on the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus display, which DisplayMate claimed “excels due to its record absolute color accuracy, which is visually indistinguishable from perfect.” It should also be taken into account that the higher-resolution displays on the Pixel line may tax the processors, which will likely already be under a heavy load with the Android operating system, and may also take a toll on the Pixel lineup’s battery life.
The Pixel and Pixel XL also offer an impressive 4GB of RAM, more than the 3GB Apple offers in their iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. However, the added RAM will, once again, probably be quickly used up by the fragmented Android operating system, which notoriously hogs RAM, even for simple processes. Although we’re still awaiting benchmark tests to see how the Pixel and Pixel HD perform, if the past is any indication, the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus running iOS 10 will likely run much more efficiently than the Pixel and Pixel XL. The impressive batteries on the Pixel lineup offer a similar conundrum – although the Pixel sports a 2770mAh battery, and the Pixel HD sports a 3450mAh battery, larger than the iPhone 7’s 1960mAh and iPhone 7 Plus’s 2900mAh battery, the Pixel phones will likely offer similar (or perhaps even worse) battery life than the iPhone due to the resource-hogging Android OS, as well as their beefed up displays.
Although full reviews on the Pixel lineup’s camera haven’t hit the web yet, the numbers are also pretty similar to the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. Both feature 12-megapixel rear-facing cameras, with the Pixel cameras sporting an f/2.0 aperture and the iPhone cameras sporting a lower, f/1.8 aperture, which should result in better low-light performance. Although the Pixel and Pixel XL offer video stabilization, optical image stabilization is notably absent, which both iPhone 7 cameras offer. The flash on the iPhone 7 is also brighter, and the incredible dual-camera setup with true optical zoom found on the iPhone 7 Plus is unmatched by the camera on the Pixel XL, or really the camera on any other smartphone, for that matter.
The Pixel and Pixel XL offer a number of other attractive features for their users – free endless cloud storage lets you store unlimited full-resolution images and videos shot on your phone, similar to what Google Photos offers, but without the resolution and size cap on photos and videos. The USB-C port can be used for storage, audio, and data transfer, and also offers Qualcomm’s fast charging for quickly juicing up your battery. The Pixel and Pixel HD are also compatible with Daydream, Google’s new virtual reality platform.
However, the Pixel lineup is lacking in several features that many expect in a flagship smartphone these days. The Pixel smartphones may have a traditional 3.5mm headphone jack that was notoriously eliminated from Apple’s most recent smartphone lineup, but it doesn’t offer water resistance, which was recently added to Apple’s flagship phones. The Pixel smartphones also lack the 3D-Touch displays and haptic feedback that have been on the iPhone lineup since the release of the 6s and 6s Plus, as well as the stereo speakers that were introduced with the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. Two features that Android users typically tout as necessities. Other big selling points for their phones over Apple smartphones are also absent – removable storage and a removable battery. Somewhat surprisingly, much like the iPhone has always been derided for, the Pixel lineup doesn’t accept SD cards, and the battery is fixed within the casing of the phone.
The Google Pixel is available for pre-order right now, with a starting price of $649 for the 32GB model and $749 for the 128GB model, priced identically to the iPhone 7’s 32GB and 128GB models. Similarly, the Pixel XL is available for pre-order with a starting price of $769 for the 32GB model, and $869 for the 128GB model, identical to the pricing structure for the 32GB and 128GB models of the iPhone 7 Plus. The Pixel lineup lacks the 256GB capacity model that the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus offer, at $849 and $969, respectively. Although the Pixel and Pixel XL are both pretty solid phones, the lack of several key features and the high price tag make it much less groundbreaking than Google touted it to be. Once the two phones are out on the market for a bit, and have received some head-to-head testing against the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, it will be easier to make a direct comparison, but at this point it’s safe to say that the Pixel is no iPhone beater.
Do you think Google has a winner on their hands?
Or did the company do too little too late?
Let us know in the comments below!