Google's Pixel Wins a Place in the Sun
Google's Pixel smartphone, which made its debut last month, has gathered some high praise from reviewers.
"The Google Pixel is now the best Android smartphone you can buy," wrote Joanna Stern in The Wall Street Journal.
"The other leading contender was disqualified due to spontaneous combustion," she added, referring to Samsung's doomed Galaxy Note7, which was recalled for safety reasons.
Stern was impressed with Pixel's display; its high pixel count made the blacks in photos appear deeper, colors more vibrant, and everything sharper.
"The AMOLED display makes photos look better -- even ones taken on an iPhone," she wrote.
Keep Your Pixels Dry
Pixel "offers the look and competence of an iPhone with a truly great camera and loads of innovative software and services," David Pierce noted in a review for Wired.
"It changes my answer to the question I hear most often: 'What phone should you get?' You should get a Pixel," he wrote.
"The immediate joke everyone, including me, made on Twitter after the Pixel launch was that Google made an iPhone," Pierce added. "Well, that's true. As it turns out, an iPhone running Android is exactly what I've been waiting for."
Pixel is a standout compared to other heavyweights in the market, according to Lisa Eadicicco, who reviewed it for Time.
"All told, the Pixel is Google's first smartphone that can go toe-to-toe with Apple's iPhone and Samsung's Galaxy flagship," she wrote. "It's on equal footing with those phones in most of the areas that really matter, although its lack of water resistance is a setback. Still, Android fans who pick up the Pixel should be pleased, so long as they keep it dry."
Google hit a home run with its first branded smartphone, said Cnet reviewer Lynn La.
"With Pixel, Google stepped up to bat, called its shot and knocked it out of the park," she wrote.
It's a departure from Google's earlier Nexus smartphones, because you don't have to be an Android enthusiast to appreciate what Google has accomplished with the Pixel.
"The only thing you'll have to be enthusiastic about is owning a phone that's beautiful, takes awesome photos, and has smooth performance," La wrote. "If you are, the Pixel's for you."
The Pixel's performance was won kudos from Jason Cross, writing for PC World.
"Android fans often complain about phones (especially Samsung's) that lead benchmark charts, but still somehow seem to stutter, chop, and sputter when you use them," he explained.
"The Pixel XL does none of that," he wrote. "At every turn it is smooth, fast, and most of all, responsive."
"Indeed, this may be the smoothest and most responsive Android phone I've ever used," he added.
Rain on Pixel's Parade
Some reviewers were unimpressed by Google's smartphone offering.
"The absence of a major competing Android device works out especially well for Google because the Pixel is, relatively speaking, mediocre," Brian X. Chen wrote for The New York Times.
"It is slower than Apple's iPhone 7 and the Galaxy S7, Samsung's smaller flagship phone," he noted.
"Photos shot with Pixel's camera don't look as good as the iPhone's," Chen continued. "And Google's built-in artificially intelligent virtual assistant, called Assistant, is still fairly dumb."
Pricing may be an issue with the Pixel models, noted David McQueen, research director for consumer devices and strategic technology at ABI Research.
The Pixel is priced at US$650 and the larger Pixel XL is selling for $770.
"This is quite expensive for what you're getting, and the build quality isn't as good as other flagship phones in the market," McQueen told TechNewsWorld. "It's going to be a bit problematic for Google to create differentiation for the hardware at that price point."
Google's Hardware Future
However, baking Google Assistant into Pixel's hardware could do that, McQueen continued.
"Since it's the first device to carry Google Assistant, that will be a differentiator in an Android market where it's very difficult to make any sort of differentiation on the hardware," he said.
Indeed, Google Assistant may not only be Pixel's prime asset, but also a key component of Google's hardware future.
"The Pixel's greatest strength is really not anything in the hardware side," said Mark Hung, a research vice president at Gartner.
It's Google Assistant, which is only available on Pixel, he pointed out.
"It's the future of not only Pixel, but of the Google hardware ecosystem," Hung told TechNewsWorld. "Google is looking to make artificial intelligence the next platform after mobile and social."
Gunning for Apple
Reviewers taking the measure of Pixel never failed to mention the iPhone. There's a simple reason for that.
"They're going after iPhone customers and other high-end phone buyers," said Ross Rubin, principal analyst at Reticle Research.
It may be difficult for Pixel to make headway in that target market, though.
"In developed markets, we're seeing a lot of saturation," Rubin noted. "It's a pretty late time to be a newcomer to the space, even if you have all the advantages that Google has."
iPhone users were Pixel's target market, but the product also will benefit from the recall of the Samsung Note7, pbserved Kevin Krewell, a principal analyst at Tirias Research.
"The Pixel will be the major alternative to the Note7," he told TechNewsWorld, "even though it lacks the Samsung product's stylus and wider carrier distribution."