Google’s Pixel

google-pixel-and-iphone7-images-from-googledotcom-and-appledotcomGoogle’s Pixel: a reader asks…

Now that Samsung’s officially killed their newest smartphone/phablet (the Galaxy Note 7) before it kills more people, I’m currently deciding on one or the other of these two smartphones: Google Pixel and Apple iPhone. I’m leaning towards the Pixel because I’m comfortable with Android. Is there anything I need to consider in this? I’m a Verizon customer btw.

Ok, so my first bit of advice is that if you get a Pixel, order it directly from the Google Play Store. Yes, you might get a discount or slightly better payment options by ordering it from Verizon, but it’s not worth it. FYI, Verizon is Google’s exclusive outlet for Pixel smartphones, other than their own store, and there’s a big difference between the ostensibly same-model Pixel depending on where you bought it.

Why not take advantage of Verizon deals? Here’s the problem with Android-powered smartphones:

  1. Google updates Android software about as often as Apple updates iOS, which is a good thing. Often, these updates fix bugs and security vulnerabilities in the software. Having out-of-date software on your smartphone is a huge security risk these days (same as for larger personal computers).
  2. Carriers like Verizon add on their own crapware and customizations, contributing to the bloat of software overlayed on top of the operating system (e.g., Android). I should note that other smartphone manufacturers (Samsung, HTC, Motorola, etc.) do the same. Disclaimer: HTC actually makes the Pixel, but there’s no branding and they’ve added nothing to sully the pure Android experience.
  3. When Google puts out an operating system update, the carrier has to then test it out and make it conform to their customized version of Android before they can send it out to customers. This is almost never done, as carriers carry so many different brands and models of Android-powered smartphones that it’s too expensive to do all that work for all the permutations they sell or have sold.

Verizon-logoAs a result, your Pixel from Verizon is going to work differently than a Pixel from Google, and you’ll have to wait (months, years, never?) for Verizon to send updates to the Android operating system on your Pixel. Google’s own smartphones (the Nexus and now the Pixel) were always the only Android-powered smartphones that got updates as soon as Google issued them. That’s no longer true if your Pixel came from Verizon. So choose value over price and get your Pixel from Google directly. You’ll have the pure, unaltered version of Android, your phone will work on any carrier, and you won’t have to worry about updates.

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reset-button-image-from-shutterstockUPDATE: As this article was being written, Verizon announced (and Google apparently confirmed) that the Verizon Pixel will get updates at the same time that direct-from-Google Pixel smartphones will. Verizon’s statement (issued to major news outlets, such as TechCrunch) says “Verizon will not stand in the way of any major updates and users will get all updates at the same time as Google.” Also announced was that the Verizon Pixel will come carrier-unlocked (as Google’s own Pixel) so it can be used on any carrier. We will watch and update this article as more information and/or independent confirmation appear.

bragi-the-dash-earbuds-image-from-amazondotcomAs far as the differences between the Pixel and the iPhone go, they are quite similar in appearance. True, the iPhone 7 does not have an earphone jack (but does have an adapter you can plug your earbuds into that plugs into the Lightning jack), but as we all head towards wireless technology that’s going to matter less and less. If you don’t routinely use wired earbuds, then it won’t matter to you, same for if you already use wireless earbuds (like The Dash from Bragi, Tone Active headset from LG, or TaoTronics wireless earbuds from Amazon).

collage-of-snapshot-photos-image-from-shutterstockOperating system differences are mattering less and less these days as well. Notably, the Pixel has cloud-backup of all photos included, while Apple’s iCloud service offers a paltry 5gb of storage space before you have to cough up more money for more space. But the iPhone 7 has real water resistance (not waterproofing), which means the occasional spill or drop into a puddle won’t harm the iPhone 7. The Pixel has no real water resistance. Hence the Pixel’s IP53 rating versus the iPhone 7’s IP67 (see here for what those ratings actually mean).

woman-holding-two-cellphones-shrugging-image-from-shutterstockThe difference in internal and display specifications don’t really amount to much more than marketing claims (on either company’s part), both phones are gorgeous, fast and capable smartphones. If you were to use one in each hand in a side-by-side comparison, the differences would really be more of what the person doing the comparing is comfortable using. Since you’re an Android user, I’d guess the Pixel will fit smoothly into your life, while switching to an iPhone would entail more than an little change.

So to sum up, either smartphone would be a good choice for you going forward, I’d probably tip the nod a bit towards the Pixel (because of your past), so long as you don’t buy the phone from Verizon.

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