Should I get a Google Pixel?

My current phone, a Google Nexus made by Motorola, is still working fine. I’m much more worried about Amanda’s Samsung, which is a nightmare. The storage on that phone is used up by Samsung proprietary gunk that can’t be removed, and she can’t insert a microSD card because the phone will not operate as an actual phone (reliably) when there is a microSD card in it. Her “deal” at Verizon is running out soon, and I’m personally hoping she goes with the Pixel. And, eventually, I’ll be in the market for an upgrade as well.

One must make proper comparisons. So I did.

The bottom line: Objectively, given the specs, the iPhone is the least cool, the Samsung Galaxy S7 is the most cool, and the Pixel is in the middle, but closer to the Galaxy than to the iPhone. But, if you look at the features that separate these phones, there really isn’t much difference, and your choice should probably be made on the basis of something other than these details, such as price, operating system, and your comfort with the various companies that make the phones (i.e., which company most recently did you the most emotional or physical harm!).

The Pixels (look around for the proper storage amount and color for you):

  • Google Pixel
  • Google Pixel XL
  • The Google Pixel vs. the iPhone: there is only one important difference

    The Google Pixels (regular and XP) have somewhat better specs than the current and corresponding iPhones. The Pixel has an equivalent or better screen, a better camera, does video mostly at the same level at the lower end, but is probably overall better (except for the iPhone’s optical image stabilization, which is better to have than electronic stabilization). As far as I know, neither phone has a hand that comes out of it to slap the user and say “Turn your phone sideways, you idiot,” but I assume there is an app for that.

    The iPhones:

  • Apple iPhone 7
  • Apple iPhone 7 Plus
  • They both read fingerprints, they both have similar sensors, including the all important barometer. The Pixel has a headphone jack, and the new iPhones, sadly, do not have that. You can hook a headphone to the iPhone, but Apple has invented a new kind of plug you need to use, so you either need to buy special headphones or an adaptor.

    The iPhone has stereo, but how can it really be so small and have meaningful stereo? The iPhone may be more water resistant than the Pixel. The Pixel battery life is significantly better.

    The Pixel has more RAM. Depending on which model you get, they have similar amounts of storage, but the iPhones can be gotten with 256GB, while the max for the Pixel is 128GB . The Google free cloud storage deal is way better than the Apple deal (Apple wants you to pay for storage beyond 5GB).

    They are very close to the same price, depending on where you buy it. Other details are comparable.

    While the Pixel is probably better feature for feature in most areas, the two phones are high end and in the same major league ball park. It is not like one sucks and one is wonderful.

    So, the bottom line for this comparison is: Which operating system do you like? If you like Android, get the Pixel. If you like iOS, get the Apple. Neither one is going to disappoint you, and if your current phone is a couple/few years old, either one will be a palpable, and even exciting, upgrade.

    There is one small difference I should mention as well, which may not apply by the time you read this: You can’t easily get a Pixel because they are selling like hot cakes. It will be easer to find a hot cake, because no one is quite sure what that is.

    The Pixel vs. the Samsung S7

    There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who love Samsung to the point that it is kind of disgusting, and those who have been burned by Samsung, and don’t. Of those who have been burned, some of them have actually been burned!

    The Samsung Galaxy S7:

  • Samsung Galaxy S7
  • (Note there has been some confusion here… I do not look at the Edge here. Maybe some other time.)

    But, the top of the line Samsung Phones are still considered to be top products, so comparing the Pixel to the Samsung S7 seems appropriate.

    The S7 and the regular Pixel are about the same size, and are probably similar in overall case mechanics. The S7, like the iPhone, claims to be “waterproof.” People who have played around with the Pixel and the Samsung tend to walk away a bit more impressed by the Pixel.

    The Galaxy S7 has a somewhat larger screen and a noticeably higher resolution, which even with the larger screen translates into a higher density of pixels. Both are “retina” level, as I understand “retina.” The main area where this matters is when you attach the phone directly to your face with special phone goggles so you can experience virtual reality. You’ll like the Samsung better every time you do that. But (see below) the Google phone is going to have better VR abilities in the operating system than the Samsung, at least for a while.

    The cameras are very similar . The Samsung might be a bit better in lower light. Most people will tell you that the Samsung camera is the best one out there. But, the newer version has a lower pixel density than earlier cameras, and that is often the metric people focus on.

    This does not necessarily mean that Samsung downgraded its camera. It is more the case that all the cameras have gotten so good that hardware will plateau for a while. And, in particular, the pixel density metric is no longer as critical since all the main cameras are high in this areas (not true of the front facing selfie cameras, though). In other words, it no longer matters like it did a few years ago that you get THE phone with THE camera. A few years ago there were phones and tablets with truly substandard and awful cameras. Those days are a Kodachrome memory now.

    The Samsung camera does have this fancy “dual pixel” technology which is supposed to make focusing faster. By the way, the front facing camera, the one you use for selfies, is better on the Pixel than the Samsung.

    The Samsung operating system is highly modified from stock Android. To me, this is a deal killer. I tend to dislike Samsung mods, and I tend to like stock Android. But some might like the Samsung enhancements such as an “always on” mode. At the moment, the Samsung phones are only at Android level 6, while the Pixel is at level 7. The Samsung phones will always be behind in this area because they muck with the system so much. By the way, Android 7 is significantly different from 6 in several interesting ways; this is not a trivial difference.

    The internal guts, the computer inside, are similar. The Pixel has more storage, much more storage, internal, and will not have the crazy Samsung space hogging “enhancement” software. However, the Samsung has a microSD slot.

    But, I am no longer impressed with microSD slots. I used to think they were a deal breaker, until I got my current Google phone, which has lots of memory but not microSD slot, and I installed DropSync, which puts my photos and videos onto my main computer and dropbox account in the background. I’m the kind of user that fills up storage space. I’ve not filled up the storage space on this phone, not even close. Add this to the fact that phones don’t use microSD cards like you, if you’ve not used one, might think. Things go wrong with them. Your camera forgets to put the pics there. Apps that use proprietary content may not let you put stuff there. Many apps won’t really run from the microSD card flawlessly, or at all.

    The lesson here: SD card or not, do not rely on that feature. Get the phone with the most storage given the type of phone you are buying.

    It appears that the Pixel kills the Samsung on battery lifespan. However, some Samsungs are known to have had the Exploding Fire Starter Feature in the past. So there’s that!

    Conclusion: In a number of areas, the Samsung is better than the Pixel. However, I feel you should ignore the microSD difference; that is an overrated feature, and that is coming from a person who strongly believed it to be important until I got a phone without it and realized it wasn’t if you get a biggish storage feature to begin with. I don’t see the cameras as being that different, but maybe Samsung is better. The single most annoying thing your phone will do for the first two years of use, assuming it does not catch fire, is running down on battery life. If that is important, the Pixel is the way to go. Also, the operating system will probably always be better on the Pixel than any Samsung phone, unless you really like the Samsung features (which many do) then the opposite is true.

    So, while the comparison between the two is more complicated than with the iPhone (where you get to chose between two vastly different operating systems and ignore everything else) it is probably true when it comes down to it that either one is fine.

    Comments

    1. #1 Don A in Pennsyltucky
      January 18, 2017

      My Nexus 4 was dying and Google had abandoned it. I got an unlocked Moto which has all the features I liked about the Nexus plus more storage, faster processor, and removable storage, too.

    2. #2 Brainstorms
      January 18, 2017

      I got a Nexus 6P and Google Fi service. It’s the cat’s pajamas. And less expensive than a Pixel.

    3. #3 Jeff J
      Fredericton, NB
      January 19, 2017

      I love my Pixel, but it’s my first smartphone so I have no baseline for comparison. You covered all the same points I mulled over. If you purchase software, apps seem to often be substantially cheaper than those in iTunes.

    4. #4 brgulker
      January 23, 2017

      Where are you getting your information about battery life?

      I think if you look at some of the objective testing, you might be surprised: http://www.anandtech.com/show/10753/the-google-pixel-xl-review/7

    5. #5 Greg Laden
      January 23, 2017

      brgulker, I’m getting my info on battery life from sources such as the one you cite, which shows the Pixel as having more battery life than the Samsung to which it is being compared in this review.

      Meanwhile, as noted, the Pixel is likely to have the more advanced/current Android system at any one moment in time, and software aided batter efficiency is something we expect to see with Android, so the Pixel will sometimes have that edge over the Samsung as well.

      But, of course, you aren’t going to be able to light your campfire with the Pixel!

    6. #6 unn
      United States
      June 7, 2017

      Don’t get it . very bad customer service..

    7. #7 Greg Laden
      June 7, 2017

      Unn, I’m going to overrule you on this since I have no idea who you are, you provide no evidence or context, and we’ve got two Pixels’ and are very happy.

      I also don’t know if by “customer service” you refer to the carrier or the manufacture, and they are very different things.