On Tuesday Google made its boldest foray yet into the world of smartphones with the Pixel and Pixel XL. What sets apart these phones? Should the other biggies, notably Apple, be worried?
Whether it is Cupertino or Redmond or California, Artificial Intelligence is the new mantra for tech companies, and Google too is betting big on AI for its newest phones Pixel and Pixel XL. The new phones will be the first to use Google Assistant that has so far been exposed only in Google’s Allo messenger app. Built on the lines of Apple’s Siri, the clincher for Pixel, however, is that the Assistant will be powered by Google’s search engine, the leader in the space, and thus should be far more responsive and accurate. Google Assistant can be activated by pressing down the home button, or with the verbal command, ‘OK Google’, and it can be accessed even while in another app. And, yes , the Allo app will come pre-installed on the Pixel.
The first Android phones from Google to eschew the Nexus brand, the Pixel is the also first device to run on Nougat, the latest version of Android OS, the 7.1. Nougat updates will be loaded on the phone on a priority basis whenever they are rolled out.
Last year Google introduced the fingerprint scanner on the back of the phone with its Nexus 6P and 5X models, and will continue to go against the industry standard with the Pixel too. The latest Google offering has a headphone jack, the absence of which in the iPhone 7 has roiled Apple users no end, but unlike the latter the Pixel won’t be either waterproof or dustproof.
Both the Pixel models use the USB-C port for chargers, something that is not common yet. For instance, neither the Galaxy S7 nor the iPhone 7 use the USB-C, so Google’s decision to plow a lonely furrow does seem a little strange. Or perhaps it is betting on the new standard catching on and more people starting to use it, since quite a few products do use the USB-C for charging.
The Pixel will come with Google’s own Duo video call app, on the lines of Apple’s FaceTime.
Google will provide Pixel users with unlimited cloud storage of full-sized, high-res photos and videos shot using the phone, including the 4K format videos. Non-Pixel users too have unlimited cloud storage but only of compressed photos, not the original hig-res ones.
Both the Pixel models will run on the latest Snapdragon 821 processor, one of the first smartphones globally to run on the latest generation chip. What this means is that even running 4K videos should be a cinch, as also running multiple apps. Google’s last phone, the Nexus 6P, for instance, ran on the Snapdragon 810 processor.
But the 6P had a slightly larger screen than the Pixel XL – 5.7 inches against 5.5 inches, while the Pixel has an even smaller, 5-inch screen. Both the 6P and the XL pack the same resolution (1440x2560) but the latter has a higher pixel density so the pictures should be sharper. In contrast, the Pixel’s 5-inch screen has a 1920x1080 resolution, which places it alongside the Nexus 5X, but this also packs in a slightly higher pixel density.
But the camera is where Google hopes to take on the iPhone. Both the Pixels come with a 12-megapixel rear camera which, while good enough for most users, falter a bit with their f/2.0 lens, as compared to the iPhone 7’s f/1.8 and the Galaxy S7’s f/1.7. For apertures, the rule is smaller the better. Given this, the Pixel may not be all that great for low-light shooting, but this has not stopped Google from boasting that this is the best camera phone ever made, and even touts a DXO Mark Mobile rating of 89, the highest for any mobile phone ever.
The Pixel’s other specs are 4GB RAM, 32GB/128GB storage, and a 2770mAh battery, while the bigger Pixel XL has 4GB RAM, 32GB/128GB storage, and 3450mAh battery. In India the pre-bookings will open on October 13 and shipping should begin by the end of the month. The Pixel will cost Rs 57,000 upwards -- that is one factor that shouldn't worry Apple.
Image: Rick Osterloh, SVP Hardware at Google, introduces the Pixel Phone by Google during the presentation of new Google hardware in San Francisco, California, US, on October 4, 2016. Photograph: Beck Diefenbach/Reuters.