teresting as it may sound, the truth is that Google, the company that is behind Android, has not made an Android phone. At least not in the way Apple makes the iPhone. This is changing now. Several days ago on October 4, Google announced Pixel and Pixel XL. According to Google, the Pixel phones are the first phones that it has engineered and developed completely in-house. Although technically Motorola phones, when Motorola was a Google-owned company, were also Google official phones and so are the Nexus devices, the Pixel phones are indeed slightly different. Although Google has sold phones using its Play store earlier, this is indeed the first time it is taking full ownership of the phones.
In the coming days, Pixel and Pixel XL will reach shops in India. Pre-orders have already started and Google has already started reaching out to prospective consumers, telling them all about the virtues, as it sees them, of the Pixel phones. Here at India Today Tech, we will take a better look at the Pixel phones in the coming days. But for now, on the basis of a day I have spent with the Pixel XL, there are some quick thoughts on what I make of the Pixels XL (and up to an extent Pixel).
Design from HTC
Although the Pixel XL is a Google phone, it unmistakably looks like an HTC phone. Well, there is a reason for that. The Pixel XL is a phone manufactured by HTC, even though it carries the Big G logo of Google. And its design is a mishmash of HTC phones, primarily the HTC 10 and the HTC A9. As you expect from a mishmash, the design will leave a user with mixed emotions. It is not a bad design. But it is not great either.
The Pixel XL uses an aluminium metal shell, with the left and the right edges carved with clean straight lines, something that we have earlier seen on the HTC 10. On the other hand its curved corners reminded me of the HTC A9 and the iPhone 6. This is a familiar design and we have seen it again and again on high-end — and now mainstream — phones. The unique bits to the Pixel design, however, come from the glass portion on the rear and fingerprint scanner. The phone has a conveniently located — and I must add very fast — fingerprint sensor on the rear cover.
Android in the Pixel XL seems fast and quite beautiful with its clean, flat layer-based users interface. There are no unwanted apps here, unless you count some of the Google apps as unwanted
All in all, my impression of the Pixel XL in terms of design is that this is very utilitarian design, and somewhat boring for a phone that costs Rs 67,000. The bezels are thick and various design elements give the fairly generic look. Although with slim profile and, for a 5.5-inch phone, a compact enough frame also means that you can use Pixel single-handedly. Well, most of the time. Compared to a phone like the Galaxy S7 Edge, the Pixel XL doesn’t look all that well. But it sure is more convenient to use compared to the iPhone 7 Plus.
Google’s Android and possibly a killer camera
The big story with the Pixel XL is not its design. It is the software inside it. With Pixel phones Google is taking charge of Android back from the phone makers in China and Korea and instead trying to give users a version of Android that will fast, good looking and feature rich. The company is also promising timely updates to Pixel users.
All of this sounds very promising and Pixel XL does highlight some of the better aspects of Android. It comes inbuilt with Google Assistant. It seems very smart, smarter than Siri, although I need to spend a bit of more time with it. Then there is a new app drawer — swipe up from the bottom edge — and it looks better than the app drawer that is out there by default in the Android 7 aka Nougat. The Pixel XL not only runs a more recent version of Android — Android 7.1 — but also has the exclusive Pixel launcher that Google has created.
In the Android 7.1 on Pixel XL, Google has added a couple of more unique features. The most intriguing of these seems to be the shortcuts. You long press on an app, and it shows a shortcut. For example, long press on the Chrome app and it shows shortcut for opening a tab or opening an incognito tab. This is very neat.
Overall Android in the Pixel XL seems fast and quite beautiful with its clean flat layer-based users interface. There are no unwanted apps here, unless you count some of the Google apps as unwanted. And there is no tacky animations or colours, which we often see on phones made by China-based companies.
It also helps that Pixel XL has pretty good hardware inside it. It is powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor and has 4GB RAM. It also has 32GB internal storage. The AMOLED screen of the phone, at first glance, look beautiful as it shows rich and deep colours. It also seems to be a very bright and vibrant screen, although this is something that will be tested properly once the phone is used outdoors in bright sunlight.
iPhone 7 Plus vs Pixel XL: On the left is image by iPhone. On the right the photo by Pixel. The iPhone exposed the image better and has accurate colours. Pixel image has more details, richer colours.Talking of hardware, probably the best part of the phone seems to be the camera. We haven’t yet really put the phone’s camera through its paces but it seems to capture images that have great detail and extremely punchy colours. Although speed wise — focus and processing — it does seem slower than the camera in the iPhone 7 Plus, or for that matter the camera in the Galaxy S7.
Summing it up
In the coming days I will take a better look at Pixel XL, see how well its battery holds up, whether the phone heats or not, whether its software has bugs or not, and most importantly, see how well it works with the Jio network. You guys do want to know how well it works with Jio, right? But all of that is for later. For now my impression of the Pixel XL is mostly positive, although the design could have been better. For example, it doesn’t have the water and dust resistant body, which is kind of a big miss at a time when both Galaxy S7 and the iPhone 7 have it. Similarly, the glass panel on the back cover looks tacky and useless. But then there is the software and features. The Android 7.1 Nougat inside the Pixel XL looks fantastic and seem to work very very well. It is the kind of software that is going to make you fall in love with Android. And although software is not everything, it matters a lot in a “smartphone”.
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