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 onto the Google Store and preordered 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 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 carry only the Google brand — without the Motorola M or Nexus branding. Like the first iPhone, it’s a device you’ll want to look back on over the years if you follow the technology industry. Google’s considerable advertising spend in just the past few days is an indication that Google wants everyone to know that 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) that rides 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 anyone who has opted for the free tier of Google Photos since it launched in mid-2015. The storage 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 if I opt for “original” quality 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 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 the feature was 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 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 the assistant 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 preorder a Pixel, you’ll also receive a Daydream View virtual reality (VR) headset free of charge. (The headset is normally priced at $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 constantly availabile support from customer service agents, either over the phone or in an interactive messaging interface. That the Pixels boast this suggests Google really cares about customer satisfaction with these devices. This is almost like what Apple offers its customers with the Genius Bar, but it’s less dependent on in-person meetings. Google’s Project Fi support has been excellent in my experience so far, and I imagine 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 to be 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.