Should You Buy A Pixel Phone? A “PROS & CONS” Guide…

by | 25/07/2021 1:17 pm
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If you use Android and want the best software support possible, a Pixel phone could just be what the doctor ordered. But should you buy a Pixel phone over, say, something from Samsung or OnePlus? Let’s investigate…

Google’s Pixel phone has been through numerous iterations now. It took The Big G a while to find its feet in the mobile space; building a premium phone brand from the ground up is no mean feat, even for one of the world’s biggest and smartest companies.

Picking up where Google’s Nexus phones left off, the Pixel line of phones is closer in pitch to Apple’s iPhone than Google’s old developer-focused Nexus phones. With Pixel, Google is selling a pure Android experience – its Android just as Google intended it to be.

I’ve bought and used every single Pixel phone to date. I have the Pixel 5 too. And I will almost certainly get the Google Pixel 6 when it launches later on in 2021.

And the reason? Google’s 2021 Pixel phones are shaping up to be massively impressive updates, most notably the Pixel 6 XL – or the Pixel 6 Pro, as it might be called. You’ll have a new, heavily updated camera module and Google’s new Whitechapel CPU, as well as some fairly unique design changes too.

Prior to that, I used Nexus phones. I know pretty much all there is to know about Pixel phones. Think of this guide as the distillation of around six years of Pixel usage on one page.

It will answer all the questions you have about Pixel phones, detail why Pixel phones are great, where they shine, and also where they’re not so good. No one phone is perfect, but they all have their individual charms.

In this post, we’ll look at both the PROS and CONS of Google Pixel phone ownership.

Let’s do this!

Google Pixel Phone PROS – Why You’d Buy One

Should You Buy A Pixel Phone? A “PROS & CONS” Guide…
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Before we get into the not-so-good-stuff, let’s first take a look at why you would buy a Pixel phone. Or, more specifically, why I decided to use Pixel phones for the past several years over instead of – technically more exciting – phones from Samsung, Huawei, and OnePlus.

Pixels Phones Are Best For Android Updates

Getting early access to the latest Android updates is one of the main reasons why I – and millions of other people – use Pixel phones. Google designs and makes its Pixel phones. Google also makes Android.

The two are designed to work together seamlessly. And when there’s a new Android update coming, Pixel users ALWAYS get it first. If early access to new Android versions is important to you, Pixel phones are the way forward.

On top of this, ALL new Pixel phones are guaranteed for three year’s worth of Android updates, so if you buy the Pixel 4a today you will be getting Android updates well into 2023.

Samsung has now matched this on some of its phones, but 99.9% of Android phones only ever get two Android updates maximum – some get even less. And running the latest build of Android is important too; it keeps you protected from malware and security breaches.

Beautiful Software Design

There are BILLIONS of Android phones in circulation today, and they all run on the same operating system – Android. But in order to differentiate their respective products, Android phone companies skin Android with custom software – sometimes called an Android Skin.

These skins vary in look and feel. Some are great (like OnePlus’) and others not so much (like Xiaomi’s). They’re all still Android phones at a source code-level, so you get most of the same functionality, but they all look and function slightly differently.

And most aren’t great, either.

With a Pixel phone, you get the purest Android experience possible; it’s Android just as Google intended. Android running on a Pixel phone looks stunning, way better than iOS on the iPhone. It is also free from ALL the useless bloatware you get on non-Pixel Android phones.

For me, the software and UX design of Google’s Pixel phones is one of the #1 reasons to go with Pixel over, say, a phone from LG, Huawei, or even Samsung. Google’s UX design is flawless, free from bloatware, and super-intuitive to use. I could never go back to a custom skinned Android phone.

Google’s Pixel Camera Tech is Amazing

Besides Android updates and software design, Google’s camera tech is the main thing that its Pixel phones are known for. Unlike everybody else in the mobile phone space, Google’s Pixel phones are ALL about doing more with less.

While Samsung and OnePlus are adding in more and more lenses, Google is working on ways to makes its camera software smarter. This approach has worked too; Google’s Pixel phones (even the cheap ones) constantly top “best camera” lists all around the web.

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Rather than shoe-horning a myriad of hardware into a phone, Google’s approach to camera technology focusses on fewer physical components and more machine learning – AI to you and me.

With machine learning in place, Google’s camera can capture better images than some Android phones that have twice the amount of lenses. Case in point: my Pixel 3a (which retails for less than £300) has a single 12MP camera and it takes better shots than my £700 iPhone 11.

Google’s secret sauce is essentially a combination of machine learning (AI) and its image processor. Combined with things like HDR+, this helped Google create one of the most powerful (and easy to use) mobile phone cameras on the planet.

And, best of all: you get access to this camera tech on ALL Pixel phones – not just the flagship models.

Simplicity – Pixel Phones Focus on Utility, Not Gimmicks (Most of The Time)

As phones have gotten bigger, they’ve got more complex. Bigger phones, more features, multiple camera lenses that most people don’t use – all of these things have combined to inflate the price of phones.

And that’s not exactly good for the consumer. Around the launch of the Pixel 3a, Google stumbled onto something, something it originally discovered back around the time of its Nexus 4 phone: that people ACTUALLY just want affordable, good quality phones.

The Pixel 3a was Google’s best-selling Pixel phone to date. For this exact reason: it was awesome and it was cheap. Google followed suits in 2020 with the release of the Pixel 4a and, importantly, the lessons learned from its 3a and 4a range informed how it positioned the Pixel 5.

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The Pixel 5, Google’s flagship for 2020, and unlike the Pixel 4, is not positioned as a flagship phone, meaning it doesn’t cost £1000. Instead, Google is following the demand and undercutting Apple’s iPhone 11 (and its incoming iPhone 12) by offering a phone with 5G and great specs for £599.

How did it do this? It ditched Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 865 processor and used its cheaper 5G-enabled Snapdragon 765G one instead. Will this affect its performance? On paper, yes. But not in real-life. In real-life, no one will care. And that’s the point.

Like Apple, Google has finally woken up to the fact that the vast majority of consumers DO NOT want to pay north of £1000 for a phone. It knows that by retailing a solid phone at a fair price it will sell more units, make more friends, and, in the end, generate more revenue and profits.

Google Pixel Phone Cons – Why You’d Look Elsewhere

Google’s Pixel phones – in my humble opinion – are great; they tick nearly all of my boxes with respect to performance, software, and usability. But there are definitely some things, not issues per se, but factors you should know about before you commit to buying a Pixel phone.

Below, I’ll give you a quick overview of things that Google’s Pixel phones don’t do especially well, as well as areas where other phones do things better.

Not The Most Exciting Phones

When it comes to the overall design and “sexiness” – if that’s even a thing when talking about phones – Google’s Pixel phones aren’t quite as desirable as, say, Apple’s iPhones and Samsung Galaxy S phones.

They look nice enough, sure, but none of Google’s recent releases are going to win any awards for industrial design. The Pixel 4a is a little different. And so too is the Pixel 5. Google has finally done away with the massive bezels and protruding chins that plagued the design of its previous models.

Still, though, not even Google’s latest releases – the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a – are what you’d call “exciting” phones. They’re designed for usability, for easy one-handed use, and in this respect, the Pixel design ethos is more focussed on utility than baser things like looking fancy and impressing your friends.

However, if, like me, you like simple, you will love the look and feel of Google’s newest range of Pixel phones. I have the Pixel 4a at the moment and it has been stunning in the few months I have been using it – a huge improvement on the already very impressive Pixel 3a.

Still Not As Good As iPhone with Updates

When it comes to Android updates, Google is the clear leader in the Android space. Samsung comes in a close second, following its announcement that “certain” Galaxy devices (spoiler: the most expensive ones) will get three years worth of Android updates. Neither can match Apple, however.

With iPhone, you’ll get six, possibly more years of iOS updates. My iPhone SE, now an ancient relic in phone years, just got updated to iOS 14, Apple’s latest build of iOS. No Android phones launched during the same period as the iPhone SE are getting Android updates today – they’ve all be left out to pasture.

Should You Buy Refurbished iPhone XR In 2020? PROS & CONS...
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This is one of the major reasons I like Apple’s iPhone so much. I know that if I buy the iPhone 11 today (or the iPhone 12 in October), I will be able to use it, more or less seamlessly, with the latest software, until its internal battery reaches its end-of-life cycle (around 10,000 charges).

No one else is the phone space does updates and support quite like Apple. This is likely the #1 reason why it has so many loyal fans. That and the fact that its phones, which aren’t even that pricey anymore by modern Android flagship standards, look and function perfectly over extended periods of time.

Less Choice, Fewer Places Carry Them

Google’s Pixel sales are steadily getting better, thanks mostly to the Pixel 3a and its replacement, the Pixel 4a. This means more networks now carry them. But prior to the release of the Pixel 3, Pixel phones are tricky to come by (if you shop purely through carriers and phone networks).

You can now get deals for all of Google’s Pixel phones from the UK’s major phone networks, so this is not a problem. However, you do have less choice when it comes to actual models. Google makes fewer phones than Apple, Samsung, and even brands like OPPO and Xiaomi.

What Google does do right, however, is hit the two major price points bang on the head. You have the Pixel 3a and Pixel 4a as your cheaper options, and the Pixel 5 as the slightly more expensive, kinda-flagship model. All of Google’s 2020 phones, save for the non-4G Pixel 4a, also support 5G if that’s something you need as well.

Funky Issues Plagued Older Pixel Phones

Google’s first few generations of Pixel phones, while impressive, weren’t without their problems. There were issues with the OLED panels on certain models, problems with the charging ports on some, and my Pixel 2 XL just stopped working for no apparent reason. I still don’t know what happened.

The Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL weren’t loved either. But all agreed that one thing remained constant throughout all the ups and downs: Google’s software was still the best available version of Android you could use and its camera tech kicked A LOT of ass.

With the Pixel 3a and, more recently, with the Pixel 4a and Pixel 5, Google has finally hit its stride. The design is on point. The specs and pricing make sense. And the camera tech has evolved to bring even more performance. Basically, Google has finally found its own special niche in the phone market, a place that should help it make a lot of new friends and converts in 2020 and beyond.

Google Pixel Phone Overview: What You Need To Know About The Current Models

Should You Buy A Pixel Phone? A “PROS & CONS” Guide…
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OK, that’s basically my 2¢ on Google’s Pixel phones. As you can probably tell, I like Pixel phones. For me, they’re the most utilitarian (in a good way) phones on the market.

Pixel phones, now Google has figured out its place in the market, are well priced, have great battery life, nice OLED panels, gorgeous software, and killer camera tech.

As a 36-year-old dude that isn’t trying to impress anyone with my tech, that’s just about all I need from a phone. And remember: I’m currently using the Pixel 4a, Google’s cheapest modern Pixel phone. Switch it up to the Pixel 5 and you’ll get even more of the above – and a nice performance boost to boot.

What’s The Latest Pixel Phone?

The latest Pixel phone release is the Pixel 5, the Pixel 4a, and the newly launched Pixel 4a 5G.

The Pixel 5 is the flagship phone, while the Pixel 4a and the Pixel 4a 5G are Google’s mid-range offerings.

What’s The Cheapest Pixel Phone?

The Pixel 4a is currently the “newest” cheapest Google Pixel phone, although you can get some killer deals on Google’s Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL, as well as older models like the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL.

When Is The New Pixel Phone Launching?

Google’s 2020 Pixel road-map, as far as I can tell, is complete. In 2021, Google will begin development on the Pixel 5a and Pixel 6. These phones will likely hit the market during Q2 and Q4 2021, respectively – the Pixel 5a will launch first, followed by the Pixel 6 later on in the year.

Where To Buy Pixel Phones?

If you’re in the USA, Verizon is your best bet for carrier-backed deals on Google Pixel phones. Or, you can buy direct from Google.

In the UK, you have plenty of options for Google Pixel phone deals – most networks carry all of Google’s current and older models. As always, the newer models (the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a) will be more expensive than older models like the outgoing Pixel 4 and Pixel 3a.

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