Wee little Android guysSource: Jerry Hildenbrand / Android Central

The last thing any sensible person should want to do is use beta software on their phone. Your phone is a treasure trove of personal information that should be kept safe by tried and true software, not a test version that has none of the guarantees that come from using software that's been vetted, tested, and held back for more vetting and testing.

But a lot of people just don't care and, like me, really want to see what Google has in store as soon as possible. To scratch that itch, there is the Android Beta Program and a Google Pixel phone.

I love the smell of beta software in the morning.

Sure, there will be other phones that participate in the Android 11 Beta. We'll see those announcements as we move into the "proper" consumer beta on June 3. But there is also a good chance you'll need to jump through some sort of hoop or have to wait until an Android phone maker is ready to let you try or even both. Google doesn't play it that way — you bought the phone, it's yours to break, so here is all the stuff that could break it.

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Google has even made the Android 11 developer preview — which is 100% software that you probably should never install on a phone you actually use — super simple to get running through the Android Flash Tool to make breaking your phone infinitely easier. The only thing more fun than breaking your phone by using developer alpha-preview software is having an easy time doing it. Trust me.

Google Pixel 4 XLSource: Andrew Martonik / Android Central

Seriously, though, the Pixel phones have a lot of things that are great. The camera experience is still the best of any phone you can buy — even though every phone manufacturer tries to say differently — and the software fine-tuning, adherence to things like Project Mainline, exposing all the right APIs to developers, and the acknowledgment (sometimes a little late) of bugs and quickly trying to fix them can't be ignored.

What Pixel phones don't offer: bleeding-edge hardware, extra features, or huge batteries.

There are also plenty of things that aren't as good as other phones you can buy. They have smallish batteries. They don't have 1,001 extra software features. Their release cycle means the hardware is six months behind phones that come out just after they are released. This means a lot of people aren't going to want one.

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But the real draw for Pixel phones is the updates. Security patches are posted online so you don't even have to wait for an OTA download slot, platform releases and Pixel Drop feature additions come with a regular schedule, and you get more years of both compared to any other Android phone.

I don't care much about phone hardware. I keep a Chromebook in reach for any heavy lifting or goofing off so my phone is a way to communicate — that means I don't need a 4K HDR display with 95 pages of settings or a Bluetooth stylus. But I do care about fast updates, which is why I've used every Nexus or Pixel phone that Google has offered. If you care about them, too, you should probably take a look at a Pixel the next time you buy a phone. And if you don't, there are plenty of other great phones out there to pick from.

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