The Android 11 Beta is another reason to buy a Pixel

Google Pixel 4 XL
Google Pixel 4 XL (Image credit: Andrew Martonik / 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.

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.

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.

The Pixel 4a is coming and here's what we know so far

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.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

  • I will admit I enjoyed my Pixel 2 XL experience but it's no iPhone, the phone it wants to be and will probably be my next Android phone after my OnePlus 7T (as my secondary phone to my iPhone 11) even if the software is inferior oxygen OS, because of the consistent updates.
  • "But it's no IPhone"? Wow, you must not be strong in the Android ecosystem. I'm still on my replaced (i.e. insurance claim to get a new battery after several years) Pixel 2XL and I've yet to see a phone among modern releases that impells me to replace it for a newer model. It's unlocked and rooted and ready for any new software that may improve upon what I already have. But with the monthly updates, I have no reason to make any changes or spend a single dime for years to come. And this is from the guy who used to replace his phone every 6 months over the last 15 years to keep up with the curve of rapidly improving hardware/software. They've finally hit a plateau. But iPhone? Really? Limited, locked-down, feature lacking, customization-preventing, ridiculously over-priced, trendy yet outdated. And every single one I've ever seen on the street, on a subway, in a bar, or in a friend/coworker's hand has a shattered screen. Seriously, every one. Good luck with that. I'll just keep upgrading my pixel (after google stops) and eventually shell out for a 6a or something...
  • 4 generations And google hasn’t figured out how to be a smartphone company. One plus has Grown in that time and been available to sell Phones in my market for a few years now. But not google. I used to give google the benefit of the doubt but if you look at it objectively Apple has been selling phones in my country since the first iPhone. Updates, apps and services are available globally. Yet google has ‘country specific’ app roll outs, phones in a few countries and services only available to certain people, sometimes not even to Some people who brought their phone. I don’t know what their plan is, but growing into a major smartphone player isn’t it.
  • Totally agree with you here. Google want to be default Android phone you think of like iPhone is for iOS. The one true device made for the software and natural part of their ecosystem... but they're not. Like you said they have region/country devices and features which leave a huge part of the world and their users out of with no real desire to include them
  • I've been using dev preview 4 now for a few days without issue. However while casting some music and writing an email my Pixel XL 2 abruptly restarted. I will probably dial back to 10 soon considering I'm the furthest thing from being a dev 🤣😂
  • As soon as google stops overcharging for their hardware and starts releasing their phones with full compatibility with carriers other than Verizon (still no WiFi calling or VOLTE for pixel phones if you are with ATT) then maybe I’ll consider their phones. Until then I’m happy with my Note 9.