Google Pixel: A smaller flagship phone makes its triumphant return

My favorite part of the Pixel event — excuse me, the Pixel, Phone by Google event — was when Google announced that the smaller of the two phones they wanted everyone to love had the same internal specs as the bigger one. The same CPU, the same amount of memory (both kinds), even the same colors. Outside of the screen and the overall size, they were identical. And the Pixel's not even that small at 5 inches. But it is one of the few times that you don't have to buy the biggest most gigantic version of a phone to get the best specs. I know I'm not the only person who reached for a credit card at that little factoid. I asked around. I'm not.

A 5-inch phone isn't really small, but we're getting closer.

Actually, in a world where companies have continued to build bigger and bigger phones because that's much cheaper to do, then passed it off as a response to undisclosed market research, things have tapered off a bit on that front. This is again largely because of hardware and costs — the really good screens being used now are both difficult to manufacture and pricey as hell past a certain size — but also because the people making the phones care more about how they look. The big screen tiny frame look is what most companies (not all, thankfully) think looks more premium. They're not the only ones who feel this way. Show off a new phone with a moderate sized screen and some real estate to hold it with around the edges and some of the first responses will be "bezels!" or the like. This makes a phone that doesn't fit this narrative rare. Especially if you want the same great stuff under the hood.

Both Pixels mostly fit this bill. The bigger model is only 5.5 inches and neither looks like this with no place to put your big clumsy thumbs when you're watching a Fail video or playing some pointless game (two of my favorite things to do in life). Seriously — hate on bezels that only exist to be bezels all you like. I'll know that you never tried to use that damn Sharp Aquos thing from Boost.

Sharp Aquos thing from Boost

Oh God how I hate you, Sharp Aquos thing from Boost.

Another thing the Pixel, Phone by Google (I'll get tired of typing that before Dan Bader tells me to stop) (No I won't) did that was very iPhonesque in the very unAppley world of Android is put the same guts inside the "little" flagship phone. Not that the 5-inch Pixel is little. My Xperia Z3 Compact was little. My Moto X was little. The Pixel is not-biggerish at best. Nevertheless, same shit under the hood. Glorious sameness. For some reason, this matters to me. Nothing I'll ever do will really push the processor to the limit or run out of RAM. If that were the case, we'd already know because no Android phone could do them. But still, after seeing all these phones other people really, really liked I get one that I really, really like. I'm not complaining.

Of course, the Pixel's also very much like the iPhone in one other way — it won't take six or more months to get updated. Apply salve to burned area.

Does this mean anyone is going to follow suit or that phones are going to start shrinking? Doubtful. Companies will make the phones they think they can move out the door fastest, and some of those will be smaller than others. They'll probably still be burdened with mediocre specs, too. If the Pixel ends up selling 70 million or so units (it won't) other companies might notice (nope) and follow along to catch this market, too (not going to happen). But Google will probably keep doing it until they abandon yet another thing I love. I'll at least have that to look forwards to.

Anyhoo, to hell with the future. I'll take what I can get when I can get it. For 2017, that means a Pixel. (Please don't explode.)

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.