So it’s the 20th of October, and everybody has been not-so-quietly anticipating the release of the first phone from non-hardware company Google. Given that the iPhone 7 turned out to be a bit of a fizzer, and the fact that Samsung don’t currently have a phone to sell us, Google’s timing is somewhat serendipitous, and a spot of luck on their part as a sea of tech-savvy onlookers await something fresh, and exciting in the form of a shiny new smartphone.
Google have talked up a big game about their foray into the smartphone market, and few have doubted their ability, considering how much they’ve got right so far in their 18 years of being the number one search engine in the world. I’ve been playing on my new Pixel for a day now, so can give you the verdict, Man of Many style.
First and foremost, this is an android phone. If you’re an iPhone user, it’s going to be a big step, no matter how easy Google have made it for you. And make it easy they’ve tried – after all it looks pretty darn similar to an iPhone, and there’s even an adapter in the box to help you transfer all of your data from you old phone no matter what platform it’s running. The feel of it is very pleasant. Lightweight, a subtle wedge shape so it’s thinnest where you grip it, fingerprint sensor on the back (instead of the home-screen button of the iPhone) which is a very smart feature, and about the same size.
As an iPhone user for years, it’s not the easiest task to get your head around a completely different operating system immediately, but the features of this phone are well worth the effort. One of the biggest features Google are boasting is the built-in Google Assistant, basically Siri, except for the fact it actually works. You teach your Pixel to recognise your voice, so all you need to say is ‘Okay Google’ in your regular dulcet tones and the thing comes to life. And you can ask it anything and expect a proper answer or reaction. While Siri will collect the weather in Mozambique when you ask it for the time in Sri Lanka, a short play on Google Assistant proves that they’ve spent a lot of time developing this tool to be very accurate.
It even understands Australian colloquialisms (‘this arvo’ instead of afternoon, etc.), a nice touch. It’s so impressive that one might actually find themselves using voice commands as they were intended, instead of just getting frustrated when it keeps calling the wrong people. They’ve also tackled battery life. It might not be the same as the good old days of your Nokia that could survive a three-day bender and still have 70% juice left, but it’s certainly a step above the iPhone’s notoriously blasé attitude towards staying alive.
Another cool feature is Daydream, a $120 virtual reality headset that turns your Pixel into an immersive 3D experience, available next month. But perhaps the most obvious top-quality feature about this phone however, is the camera. They’ve named it Pixel, after all, instantly setting the bar high on the expectation that this is a phone made for taking photographs. In a darkened room filled with flowers, the tiny camera which sits flush with the case picks up the most detailed of colours and subtleties within the image, more so than the human eye can capture in low-lighting. A side-by-side comparison with a new iPhone and a Samsung Galaxy Note 7 taking a photograph in the same conditions and it’s very easy to see that the Pixel is leagues ahead of the competition for images. It also shoots 4K video and features auto-stabilising software for perfect videos every time.
The Pixel is offered in two sizes, a 5” and a 5.5”, both of which are available with either 32GB or 128GB of storage, but the real kicker is the unlimited cloud storage offered to all Pixel owners in Google Drive. The phones come in either ‘quite black’ or ‘very silver’ (unfortunately not the ‘really blue’ limited edition colour enjoyed overseas).
The short of all of this is essentially simple – this is the android phone for iPhone users. Google have gone above and beyond to try to win over this segment of the market, and the Pixel is a formidable handset in a ferociously competitive marketplace. Whether or not iPhone users will make the jump and spend the time learning how to use a different OS that won’t sync as seamlessly with their Apple computers? Time will shortly tell. As for now, it’s safe to say that Google have proved that they know what they’re doing in the hardware department and won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.