What The Google Pixel Phones Mean for Android

A few days ago, Google announced their highly anticipated new phones under a new brand called Pixel. I believe the idea was for Google to leverage itself as a more direct competitor to Apple in terms of smart phone manufacturing.

A few days ago, Google announced their highly anticipated new phones under a new brand called Pixel. I believe the idea was for Google to leverage itself as a more direct competitor to Apple in terms of smart phone manufacturing. You see, Google developed the Android OS. As you may know, it’s free and open source, which allows for free manipulation of it. Yet, it’s rare to actually see this “pure” form of Android realized in an actual device. So what happens? If you own any Android phone from a carrier, you’ll be very familiar with what I’m about to say. Let’s use me as the example. I own an HTC One M8 which I bought through a carrier. It ran on Android 5.1 Lollipop. After a few months of owning my device, I saw the news that Google was set to roll out Android 6.0. “Hooray!” I thought, “I’m gonna get the latest version of Android to use on my phone!” Did I receive it? Nah. Only the lucky Nexus users and some of those Samsung users were ever so lucky out the gate. The reason? Since the Android code is open by nature, it gets altered by the manufacturer and then altered AGAIN by the carrier. The result? Bloatware and other shitty apps for which you probably don’t have any use. So as an Android fan, imagine how ecstatic I was to hear that these Pixel phones were coming, that they were being made by HTC, that they would have some pretty incredible specs, AND that since Pixel is the successor to the Nexus brand, that these devices would always have the latest version of “pure” Android. Seems like an awesome time for an Android fan right? Well. The phones were announced, and wow, they’re a massive disappointment.

Google announced two models, a regular Pixel and a Pixel XL. Aside from screen size, there really isn’t too much to differentiate the two devices. Essentially, they have similar specs to some of the most top-of-the-line phones, and Google boasts that it has a pretty powerful camera. OH, I almost forgot. It has Google Assistant integration, which, if you are familiar with Google Allo (more on that in a future review), should function exactly the same. It also has support for VR if you care about that. Now, why does this not excite me? Well, it comes down to price. The phones come in two storage capacities, 32GB and 128GB. In today’s world, a lot of faith is put into cloud uploads and streaming various media to not take up space on a devices limited memory.Because of this perhaps memory is not a big concern for most people nowadays, but is for me. So naturally, I want the 128 GB phone. Guess how much it is. You know what, I’ll just tell you: For the Pixel, it’s $650 for the 32GB and $750 for the 128GB. The XL costs $770 for the 32GB and $870 for the 128GB. I should also mention that Verizon is the only carrier that you can buy these phones from. You can order it from the Google Store or waltz into a Verizon store to get the phone. So now do you see what disappoints me so?

It’s more than the price. Google is trying to pivot Android to make it more like Apple’s IOS. Apple is somewhat of a pompous company that thrives by making their OS closed off so they have absolute control over it. It works for them and their customers love not thinking about their relationship with their tech or worrying about certain nuanced things that Apple just takes care of. However, the consumer ultimately pays a hefty price for these “premium” devices. I use premium in quotes because though Apple is a popular brand, they really don’t make great devices anymore. In fact, if you observe their latest phones, a lot of them have to catch up to features that have been available to Android users for years now. Not to mention the fact that the iPhone costs around $225 to manufacture and sells them for damn near $800. So what does this mean for Pixel? Google took something that is meant to be open and put its best version beneath a massive pay wall that goes against what Android was about. I can understand Google wanting to compete more directly with Apple, but to try and make Android itself more like Apple is where I draw the line. Look at how similar Pixel looks to an iPhone! It’s clear this phone is meant to try to take Apple customers away. Does this really say that Android is better? To me, Google is conceding that Apple is superior and that Android needs to be more like Apple. Android is at its best when it can be enjoyed in its purest form across all devices, so instead of putting a massive pay wall for an iPhone-wannabe, Google should offer a way for Android users to alter (or unalter perhaps?) the already altered code of their phones to gain the pure experience. That way, no matter what device, anybody who has an Android phone can enjoy Android safely and without all the bloat on their favorite devices.

Google took the hype surrounding their new brand and dropped the ball pretty bad. I’m sure these phones are awesome in their own right, but with the high price and Verizon-only support, the only way to get one is to go to Google’s wireless service Project Fi (which is not bad at all), or go to Verizon and contend with Verizon not sending updates from Google to their customers because they have to slowly, if ever, make alterations to it to fit their bloatware (though they claim otherwise but who knows what will actually happen). If Google could take the idea behind Pixel and make it more affordable, “free from the shackles”of carriers and have external storage support (some of us prefer expanding memory through micro SD card support ya know!), then we might have something that truly disrupts the current Apple led smartphone ecosystem. Until then Pixel is just a missed opportunity for greatness in my eyes.