Fifteen minutes with Google’s new Pixel phone can’t tell me much. It’s can’t tell me anything about real-world battery life. It can’t tell me about still-photo image quality. Indeed, 15 minutes is only enough time to develop the inchoate wisps of first impressions. But I still left the Tuesday Pixel phone demo feeling like I found the replacement for my Nexus 6P daily driver.
It comes down to this, people: If you want pure Google in a smartphone—the all-powerful Googley experience as Google intends it—then you need a pure Android phone. For most of 2016, that’s meant a Nexus 5X or Nexus 6P. But come October 20, the story shifts to two Pixel phones, one with a 5-inch display, and the other clocking in at 5.5 inches.
Are these two phones earth-shattering upgrades? Maybe not. But with better build quality, a better camera experience, and Google Assistant baked directly into their home buttons, the Pixels might be too alluring for Android enthusiasts to pass up. Shoot, maybe even mainstream buyers will give the Pixels serious consideration—especially when they see what Google’s new machine-learning assistant can do.
I spent almost all my demo time with the 5.5-inch Pixel XL. Like its smaller sibling, it comes with a Snapdragon 821 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 12.3-megapixel rear-facing camera. The only main differences are battery size (3,460mAh for the XL; 2,770mAh for the Pixel) and AMOLED display resolution (2560×1440 for the XL; 1920×1080 for the Pixel). The Pixel XL has a slightly smaller display than the 5.7-inch Nexus 6P, but the newer phone feels noticeably lighter—and perhaps a wee insubstantial—in the hand.
Google killed the oblong “bump” that surrounds the camera on the Nexus 6P, and now in the Pixels you get a broad, rectangular expanse of glass on the upper-third of the rear chassis. I never minded the 6P’s bump, so I can’t say the new design is a vast improvement. But if you like your phones as streamlined as possible, you’ll probably prefer the Pixel’s design.