In many ways, Google Pixel is the best phone I've ever used. However...
Google Pixel is priced at a point where people expect a premium experience — and in many ways, Google has delivered. The aluminum body looks and feels nice, the software is incredibly smooth and capable, the camera is out of this world excellent almost every time, and the battery life is on the higher end of functional. This is a great phone, and when you factor in security updates this is going to be the phone I recommend to people for a long time.
That said, over the last few days I found myself missing the kitchen sink of features that comes with owning a Galaxy Note 7. Before it was the laughing stock of the world for occasionally turning into a heap of molten slag, the Note 7 had some lessons to teach every other phone.
"Pro" camera mode
Google's camera app for the Pixel couldn't be easier to use, and the shots you get from this phone are incredible, but I want more. Specifically, when I took a trip out to the middle of nowhere to play with light painting I was reminded that there's no way to do that in Google's stock camera. You can install other apps to accomplish long exposure shots, but you'd think a phone trying to offer a premium experience would bake something like that in right?
Samsung's camera app isn't the easiest to use, but the ability access Pro mode and gain remarkable control over your photography is one of the things that makes the S7, S7 edge, and Note 7 so great. It's a fairly small thing overall, but useful when you need it.
Especially now that Google has made it possible to add storage to your phone in a permanent fashion, WHY hasn't Google seen fit to add removable storage to their big flagship phones? Why bother with the feature if you're not going to use it?
Samsung doesn't offer Adoptable Storage by default on their phones, but there's so much you can use the SD card for now that cameras are recording in 4K and taking enormous photos with RAW support baked in. It's there if you need it, which is what you expect from a premium phone!
I don't fault Google for not including wireless charging in a phone with a metal body, because no one has fully implemented that feature yet and I personally prefer the metal body on the Pixel to the slippery glass on Samsung's lineup, but it's still a great feature. Google's lack of wireless charging in the last few phones has been a bummer, and something a lot of people were hoping would come back with the Pixel phones.
Samsung, on the other hand, has been crushing it with wireless charging. Not just regular wireless charging, but fast wireless charging that really makes a difference. There's a big part of the wireless charging experience that is greatly improved with the newer rapid chargers, making it much easier for people to consider adopting with new phones.
Welcome to 2016, where IP53 is not acceptable in a phone with a premium price tag unless the Google logo is on the back? That seems odd, right? HTC was slammed for this same water and dust rating on their most recent phone, and despite being a great piece of hardware no one bought it because it was so expensive. The mental gymnastics require to praise the Pixel without talking about water resistance but slam the 10 for being too expensive for what you get are impressive.
Meanwhile, on Samsung's phones you can watch Alec Baldwin in what is probably the best performance of his career on SNL while sitting in a hot tub. While not something you should do every day, it's the kind of thing you should expect on a phone with one of the highest price tags on the market.
Is this a premium phone?
I've been beating up on the Pixel here a little, but it's important to point out the things you get for "free" on this phone contributed to the seemingly inflated cost. Unlimited lifetime storage for full res photos and video is insanely great. Free 24/7/365 phone support with live video mirroring is a big deal. You get these things on top of a phone that offers a ridiculously good fingerprint scanner, one of the better displays you can buy in a phone, an insanely good camera, and a battery that will easily get you through the day.
This is a fantastic phone, but there's clearly room for improvement and it's important to remember that as we place this phone on its pedestal. And yeah, I miss the Note 7. I can't have a Note 7 though, and the S7 edge isn't nearly as comfortable to hold and use. So it's a Pixel for me for now, in hopes that Google figures out how to really push for premium next time.
- Google Pixel and Pixel XL review
- Google Pixel XL review: A U.S. perspective
- Google Pixel FAQ: Should you upgrade?
- Pixel + Pixel XL specs
- Understanding Android 7.1 Nougat
- Join the discussion in the forums!