Seven reasons to fall for Google’s new smartphone

Outstanding camera, magnificent assistant and quick-charging battery kick things off

Google Pixel phone, from £599
Google Pixel phone, from £599 | Image: Hugh Threlfall

A person could have many reasons for choosing the new Google Pixel over the other most significant smartphone release of this past year, the physically near identical iPhone 7. (Yes, there was the Samsung Galaxy Note 7, which was an absolute beauty but, sadly, had a tendency to catch fire and was withdrawn.)

While the Pixel and the bigger Pixel XL cost the same as the Apple equivalents, the fact that they are less good-looking doesn’t worry me greatly, nor does their lack of water-resistance. The Pixel’s version of the Android operating system, Nougat 7.1, is, for me, the cleanest and least confusing there has yet been. It’s still not as simple or, frankly, good as Apple’s iOS 10, but I have to concede, on this phone, Android does look a whole lot more modern.

So what are the other advantages of the HTC-built Pixel, the first ever Google-designed phone? (The often superb Google Nexus range was developed by other phone brands.) Well, the f2.0 aperture camera is even better than the iPhone 7’s incredible rendition; ditto the Pixel’s twin AMOLED screens. You’d need a good eye to notice both are better, but believe me, they are, especially for taking and viewing low- or strong-contrast photos. More importantly, as a business tool, Google’s voice command system, now called Google Assistant, is quite magnificent, and you may well find you use it a lot.

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Still more significantly, the fact that the Pixel uses Google Maps by default rather than Apple’s still deficient mapping is a big plus. The Pixel phones are also the snappiest I’ve tried – apps open and do their work blisteringly fast. Another key point, the Pixel’s battery charges very quickly: 15 minutes will give you enough for several hours of light use.

Among the lesser features that may be an advantage for you, Pixel phones still have the old-style 3.5mm headphone socket, meaning you don’t need to buy new cans or route your existing ones through an adapter. The fingerprint reader is on the back, as it was with the Nexus 6P phone, which is ergonomically superior to a front-mounted reader. Also, Pixel users get unlimited, uncompressed cloud storage for photos and videos, including 4K (which come in big files). That is a big deal.

Further down the list of reasons for going with a Pixel, yet still not insignificant, is something more debatable. There’s a sort of cachet now in using a smartphone that’s not an iPhone. The iPhone’s dominance is so total – not without reason, particularly since the 7 and 7 Plus are so polished and superb – that an Android, especially the best Android ever, which the Pixels are, is almost an act of rebellion.

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Although it doesn’t bother me a lot personally, some may feel that handing what is essentially an advertising company all their photos, videos and desires, as expressed to Google Assistant, is not wholly prudent. But what is undeniable is that both Pixels are truly best-of-breed smartphones.

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