Google's Nexus programme gave birth to a pure Android smartphone or two every year. The idea behind Nexus was always to showcase Android in its purest form, away from the poking and prodding of manufacturer skins. Importantly, Nexus was a chance for Google to say "this is what Android is".
But this year brings some big changes. The biggest change is a shift from the Nexus programme entirely and into Pixel. The message is clear from the Pixel launch: in 2016, it's all about being "Made By Google."
Google Pixel: Manufacturer
- Two smartphones, probably made by HTC
- Launched as Pixel devices, not Nexus
Google has changed things up for 2016, opting for Pixel branding instead of Nexus. Of course, Google hasn't just built a factory that assembles smartphones so a manufacturer is behind the Pixel and Pixel XL, though it might never be confirmed who.
The weight of rumours suggest HTC is responsible, and both devices look like HTC-built handsets, even if we will likely only ever know them as "Made By Google". Sources talking to The Information earlier in 2016 claimed that Google was looking to play a much greater role in the hardware design, as well as software, making the smartphone manufacturer more of a contractor than a partner, which has clearly happened.
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Google Pixel and Pixel XL: Design
- Metal body with an upper rear section made of glass
- Same design, different sizes, both 8.6mm slim
- Rear fingerprint sensor
The Pixel is the smaller of the two devices, while the Pixel XL is the larger, suggested in its name. The Pixel measures 143.8 x 69.5 x 8.6mm and weighs 143g, while the Pixel XL measures 154.7 x 75.7 x 8.6mm and weighs 168g.
Both have the same design, offering a mostly metal build with a glass panel for the top third of the rear. Within this panel is a centralised, circular fingerprint sensor, while the rear camera and flash sit flush in the top left corner.
There's a chamfer at the front edges, similar to what you'll find on the HTC 10. Speakers are positioned at the bottom of the devices, either side of the USB Type-C charging port. The power button and volume rocker are both on the right-hand side of the device but that's it when it comes to physical buttons.
The front of both handsets sees just a speaker at the top, with a sensor below and a front camera in the top on the left. The Pixel and Pixel XL will be available in Quite Black, Very Silver and Really Blue colour options.
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Google Pixel and Pixel XL: Display
- Google Pixel has a 5-inch Full HD display
- Google Pixel XL has a 5.5-inch Quad HD display
- Both offer Corning Gorilla Glass 4 protection
As we mentioned above, the Pixel is the smaller of the two new devices, offering a 5-inch AMOLED display. It has a Full HD resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 441ppi and it has Corning Gorilla Glass 4 protection.
The Google Pixel XL has a Quad HD resolution across its 5.5-inch display, meaning a slightly higher pixel density of 534ppi. It too is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 4 and it also offers AMOLED technology.
The AMOLED technology should mean we can expect rich and vibrant colours from the Pixel and Pixel XL.
Google Pixel and Pixel XL: Camera
- Pixel and Pixel XL both have 12.3-megapixel rear camera
- Both devices have an 8-megapixel front camera
The Google Pixel and Pixel XL both have a 12.3-megapixel rear camera with a f/2.0 aperture and 1.55µm pixels, like last year's Nexus 6P. The front of both devices also sees an 8-megapixel camera, again like the Nexus 6P.
In terms of features, there is video image stabilisation and something called Smartburst, which is claimed to be great for capturing action shots.
Additionally, the Pixel and Pixel XL camera will also use a feature called HDR+ by default. This is said to produce clear, vivid results even in challenging conditions by minimising noise and extending dynamic range, by fusing multiple shots together.
Google Pixel and Pixel XL: Hardware and specs
The Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones offer almost identical hardware specifications, which might not come as much of a surprise given the similarities in camera and design.
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 chipset, 4GB RAM, 32GB/128GB storage
- 5-inch 1920 x 1080 resolution display, 441ppi
- 2770mAh battery
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 chip sits under the hood, supported by 4GB of RAM and either 32GB or 128GB of internal storage. There is no microSD support, which will come as no surprise to Nexus fans. A 2770mAh battery is under the hood, supporting Quick Charge, which offers users 7 hours charge in 15 minutes.
Pixel XL specs
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 chipset, 4GB RAM, 32GB/128GB storage
- 5.5-inch 2560 x 1440 resolution display, 534ppi
- 3450mAh battery
It was suggested that the Pixel XL would be the larger and more powerful handset, but instead, it has turned out the only difference is size. Like the Pixel, it has the Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 chip, which is a tweaked version of the 820, offering a 10 per cent performance increase over the Snapdragon 820. Qualcomm itself mentions virtual reality several times when talking about this chipset so the Daydream-readiness is not surprising.
Like the Pixel, the Pixel XL comes in 32GB and 128GB models, and again, there is no microSD support. A 3450mAh battery capacity keeps things ticking along, with Quick Charging on board again, like the Pixel.
Google Pixel and Pixel XL: Software
- Android Nougat 7.1, with new Pixel Launcher
- Round icons
- Google Assistant built-in
The Pixels arrive with the next version of Android from the box, called Android Nougat. Although this was released recently, the Pixels are running an updated version with 7.1.
There is a new launcher and all the apps are now round like the Chrome app. The Pixels are the first phones to feature Google Assistant built-in and they are also the first Daydream-ready phones.
Google Duo, a video calling app will be pre-installed and the Pixels will also come with unlimited storage for photos and videos, through Google Photos.
Google Pixel and Pixel XL: Release date and price
- Release date 20 October
- Pixel has a starting price of £599/$649
- Pixel XL has a starting price of £719
The Pixel and Pixel XL will be available from 20 October, with pre-orders starting in the UK, US, Australia, Canada and Germany on the Google Store from 4 October. India will be able to pre-order from 13 October.
Prices for the Pixel start at £599/$649 or $27 a month in the US. Prices for the Pixel XL start at £719, creeping up to £819 for the 128GB.
The Pixels will be available through the Google Store, EE, Dixons Carphone, Verizon, Best Buy, Project Fi, Rogers, Telus, Bell, Wireless Wave, T-Mobile, Telstra, JB Hi-Fi, Flipkart, Reliance Digital and Croma.