Instant Insights: Google Pixel Reviews’ Top Pros and Cons

As someone who has made a living from selling, blogging about, and launching smartphones, I was really interested to see what the first reactions would be for the Pixel, the first “Phone by Google.” Media samples went out around a week ago and the press embargo lifted this morning, so I thought it would be fun to analyze the first reviews of this important device.

In order to provide some instant insights, I scanned the pros and cons from the first 25 reviews I found with Google search. To keep it simple, each pro got a point and each con lost a point. Then I tallied up the results to examine the stand out features, and tossed out all the stuff in the middle.

Top Pros and Cons from Google Pixel Reviews

Feedback ranged anywhere from Best Phone on the Planet to Bland and Pricey, but the overall tone was very positive. Even though many claimed this to be the best Android phone available, my fuzzy math found the Pixel to have an average review score of 8.8, which is slightly behind the Samsung Galaxy S7 that averaged 9.1 in similar reviews.

My Quick Takes On Standout Features

Camera: Google spent a lot of time pushing the camera during their launch event and boasted it was “The highest rated smartphone camera ever” using the DxOMark of 89 to back up their claim, and it appears to live up to the hype so far. Even though the Galaxy S7 has been winning blind comparison tests by a mile, the average consumer still thinks Apple has the best cameras thanks to the Shot on iPhone campaign. If Google markets this wisely, they might be able to win mindshare and be eventually recognized as the best smartphone camera.

Unlimited storage of pics and videos: Speaking of the camera, a quarter of the reviewers praised the unlimited backup of all your photos and videos at original quality. Google has previously attacked Apple in this area with their Free Up Space TV ads, and offering this unlimited cloud storage can help emphasize the strength of Pixel’s camera. Now that Google has made unlimited media backup the standard, customers are going to expect this kind of treatment on other flagships.

Google’s take Android and fast OS updates: As expected, the software experience is one of the top reasons to buy this phone and it’s going to be difficult for other Android OEMs to compete here. Phones that I helped launch were badly criticized for their heavy Android skin, and I didn’t see any praise for Samsung’s software this year either. Looking forward, all Android OEMs are going to have to rethink their strategy in this area. How do you attempt to differentiate your software experience from Google, and do you risk annoying the Android faithful by altering their beloved stock Android just for the sake of change? It should also be noted that even though Google is promising at least 2 years of software support, some pointed out they are still behind Apple that updates some devices for 4+ years after launch.

Google Assistant: Siri is suddenly dumb, and Assistant is new smart kid at school and it’s exclusive to Pixel for now. Even though some have pointed out that Assistant is mostly just a repackaging of what we already had, it does appear to be a more useful implementation that more consumers will find easier to use. Assistant integrated with the home button will remain a Pixel exclusive in the near-term and it might help Google sell some more units, but other Android users can still access it from Allo in the mean time. We are still at the beginning of this AI first journey, but Google is raising the stakes for the smarts that consumers will begin to expect in future smartphones. Samsung appears ready to respond with Viv in upcoming products, but I think the smaller OEMs will be playing catch up for the next couple years.

24/7 On-device customer support: This feature didn’t receive as many kudos as I thought it might, but I think that’s because all the reviewers are pretty tech savvy and know how Android operates by now. Customer service is not an area that Google is well known for, but this could help change that perception. Just the fact that it got called out as a pro in reviews is a win for Google, since Samsung has offered their similar Samsung+ live support app which has been largely ignored by the media.

Speakers: Pixel suffers from a single bottom-firing speaker, and more consumers are starting to demand a more premium audio experience with dual stereo speakers. Apple and Huawei have offered this in their latest flagship smartphones, and I expect all the major flagships will include it next year or continue to be criticized.

Dunkable water-resistance: Pixel is only rated IP53 for dust and water resistance, which means it won’t survive a swim in the pool or dunk in the toilet. The two most popular smartphones, Galaxy S7 and iPhone 7, are both much higher rated and can be submerged under water for 30 minutes, so now consumers are demanding this from competing flagships.

Pricing: Pixel is priced correctly like other carrier flagships, but I think reviewers were disappointed it didn’t receive the value discount of last year’s Nexus models. Even though the Pixel might not check every single item on the hardware wishlist, it does deliver one of the best cameras and it offers the most premium Google experience to date. Now that Pixel has been established as Google’s premium smartphone brand, I don’t expect to see price as a big issues next year.

The Long and Short

Today was just the first test for the first Phone by Google, and it appears they have aced it so far. Multiple sites are already proclaiming it’s the best smartphone available and I don’t see any glaring issues yet. I don’t expect the Pixel to be a huge seller in the US since only Verizon offers it in stores, but Google doesn’t need this to be a homerun product. Google has proved they can deliver a premium Android phone that can compete with the iPhone and Galaxy, and next year’s model will only get better.

Google has said it’s business as usual with their Android OEM partners, but If I was an Android OEM, I would already be losing sleep thinking about Pixel 2/3/4 and how I’m going to compete at the high-end where the money is being made.

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