There’s a good side to Pixel phones and a not-so-good side. I’ve owned every single one. Here’s the skinny on how long Pixel phones last…
Google’s grand vision with its Pixel phones is and always has been simple: make an iPhone. I say, iPhone, because as of right now – and since around 2007 – Apple is the only company that makes its own phones and designs the software that runs on them.
Everybody else in the space, save for Huawei’s new phones, tends to follow Microsoft’s Windows model: hardware companies build phones and Google provides the software. The hardware companies, Samsung, OnePlus, OPPO, etc, then integrate Android into their hardware, skin it, and ship the phone out to consumers.
This is how Android phones have worked since day one. It is also why Android phones, despite the fact they all run much the same software, tend to look completely different with respect to UX design. This is part of Android’s appeal for many, but it is also one of its biggest downsides.
I am talking, of course, about fragmentation inside the Android ecosystem, whereby millions – like, tens of millions of Android phones – are running on older versions of Android that are no longer supported. And if your phone isn’t supported, it is not as secure as it should be.
Only a very select few phones ever get the latest build of Android. Samsung is fairly decent these days, promising three years’ worth of Android updates which matches Google’s support for its Pixel phones. But 99.9% of Android phones seldom see more than one update. Two at the very most.
And this isn’t ideal, not when upwards of 80% of Apple’s iPhone users are running the latest version of iOS within weeks of a new build being rolled out. With Pixel phones, Google is attempting to “deal” with this issue by creating its own Android phone that runs its own software. And by and large, the project has been a decent success.
How Long Do Google Phones Last?
The question of how long a Pixel phone lasts is a tricky one to answer, as it covers things like software support, currently three years’ worth of updates, but also hardware reliability too. Google is great with software updates, they roll out like clockwork, but its hardware reliability isn’t quite where it needs to be just yet.
As I noted in the intro to this post, I’ve owned every single Pixel phone. I had the OG Pixel, and it broke after 18 months. I had the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, and they both broke within 12 months. I had both the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, and they still work. My Pixel 4a and Pixel 4 did well too. But my Pixel 5 didn’t; its screen stopped working after 11 months.
Do you see a pattern here? It’s not consistent. Things have gone wrong with nearly all of the Pixel phones I have owned. And the problems range from the USB port no longer working and the screen going eternally black, to the buttons just up and refusing not to work anymore.
Basically, they’re all hardware defects. I’d let one pass, but several? No chance.
So, to answer the above question: technically, a Pixel phone will function as it should for three years. In your first three years of ownership, you’re guaranteed three major Android updates which is about as good as it gets in the Android space unless you go with Samsung.
From a reliability perspective though it is a much different story. Out of all the Pixel phones I have owned, only a couple have not broken and still work today. The Pixel 5, for instance, was a brilliant phone until the OLED display just stopped working. My Pixel 2 XL’s charging port died. And my OG Pixel just doesn’t want to be switched on – it went into a coma after six months.
And it’s not just me, plenty of people have beef with Google’s Pixel phones’ reliability.
Am I saying get an iPhone because they last forever? No. I’m saying keep in mind that while Google’s Pixel phones are great for Android updates, there are downsides to running them. Most notably reliability issues. This is why, in 2021, for the first time in my life, I’ll be switching to the dark side and getting myself an iPhone 13 Pro Max.
I hope the Pixel 6 is better with respect to reliability, but after six years in the Pixel camp, I am now officially jumping ship for a couple of years.
And if for whatever reason you hate Apple, do yourself a favor and get a Samsung phone instead. Samsung has Google bang to rights with Android updates and its phones are WAY more reliable than Google’s Pixel phones in my experience. And they have better spec and hardware too.
I’ve also collected our current “most recommended” phones below, covering budget/affordable options, premium options, and even a “wildcard” option for those of you that are looking for something, umm… a little different from the norm.
The Phones We Recommend Most Right Now
The Best “All-Rounder” – If you want something simple and reliable that has a great camera, a beautiful design, won’t break the bank, and will run for years and years and years, then you really cannot go wrong with Apple’s iPhone 13.
The Best Android Flagship – When it comes to Android phones, there is but one king in the flagship area of the market. And that phone is the Galaxy S21 Ultra. This phone looks amazing, has a best-in-class camera and display, and its battery life is beyond good. The Galaxy S21 Ultra is the phone to get if you want the best possible Android phone.
The Best “Affordable” Option – If you want a cheap, reliable phone that will take great photos, run apps and games, and look great doing it, the Samsung Galaxy A52s 5G is all you need. It has 5G, it has a Super AMOLED display, and it looks like an £800 phone. The Galaxy A52s 5G serves up incredible value for money.
The “Wildcard” Option – Do you want something different? Something unlike anything else? If so, and you have deep enough pockets, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is just about as unique as it gets. This foldable phone is packed to the hilt with next-gen technology and, because it’s foldable, it basically doubles as a tablet too.
Richard Goodwin has been working as a tech journalist for over 10 years. He is the editor and owner of KnowYourMobile.