So, given the awful bugs in Android 12 lately really souring the experience, and given my Pixel 3a will see its final security-update next-month (May) then I’ve been thinking about what phone to get next, with the upcoming Pixel 6a being one obvious consideration. (The Pixel 5a wasn’t released in the UK; and it makes little-sense to buy the Pixel 4a at this-point, given it’s about halfway-through the guaranteed Android update period.)
BUT, take a step-back, and I am wondering a lot lately: what is the point in the Pixel series, these days?
The Pixel 6 phones clearly have some bad-batches during manufacturing, given the clear disparity between people who have endless issues with them, and others who report they’ve never had a single issue since purchase. Yet Google are still pushing adverts for them literally everywhere. And even on all other supported Pixel devices before the 6 models, Android 12 is also wreaking-havoc, with the only-advice ever-offered to go into “About Phone” in the Settings and use the “Send feedback about this device” option, or factory-reset your phone! Quality-control clearly doesn’t seem to be a thing much, it would seem.
I’ve listed below what many people cite as the reasons to get a Pixel, and my thoughts on those:
GREAT CAMERAS. Before the Pixel 6 series, the Pixel line just used Sony-made lenses and sensors, like many-other Android phones (it’s speculated the Pixel 6 now uses ones from Samsung). So nothing other vendors also couldn’t use. What makes the photos great on Pixel devices is the AI performed by the Google Camera app. But you can get “ports” of the Google Camera app (sometimes called GCam) for other makes of phones (except Sony), which will then deliver similar-results.
NIGHT MODE. Now available in other Android devices, and on Apple‘s devices (except I think the iPhone SE models?). As stated above, you could also just find a port of the Google Camera app to then use that feature on phones, too.
FAST ANDROID UPDATES. This is something other brands have got-better-at in recent-years, and you can look for phones in the “Android One” programme, which should guarantee updates quickly. But Google themself have clearly had issues updating their own Pixel 6 phones lately. And given all the bugs and issues in Android 12, staying on a previous version, and only getting security-fixes, might not be a bad-thing anyway!
CLEAN ANDROID EXPERIENCE. Sure, many other devices, especially those from Samsung and Motorola, come littered with pre-installed apps. But it really doesn’t take that-long to simply “disable” or “uninstall” each one. And any phone in the “Android One” programme will also come near-stock, such as virtually any from Nokia. Windows, macOS and iOS all come with extra apps installed, some non-removable, so it’s not an Android-exclusive issue. Linux is about your only way to completely-control which apps you have, and even-then some distros come with more preinstalled stuff than others.
REDUCED SPAM CALLS VIA PHONE BY GOOGLE APP. Similar to my point above, look for a port of the Google Phone app for other devices.
NEW FEATURES BEFORE OTHER MANUFACTURERS. I’m sure on the software-side, there are Android features that Pixel devices see before others. But hardware-wise, it’s difficult to think of anything Pixel devices have done lately before any others. I’m sure they weren’t first to add optical-zoom, nor 90Hz or 120Hz displays, nor fast-charging, nor wireless-charging, nor USB C, nor NFC, nor multiple rear-cameras, nor foldable devices. The only recent thing I can think-of is that “Project Soli” thing from Pixel 4, where you could wave your hand over the phone to switch apps or change song, which most conceded didn’t work well, and I think was dropped in the Pixel 5.
SUPPORT DIRECTLY FROM GOOGLE. What support would this be? You mean the often useless “Pixel Community” forum, where literal self-appointed experts race to answer questions to get their answer marked by the original-poster as “best answer” to earn Play Store credit and other perks? If Google actually did offer some level of direct-support, this might be a selling-point… even if a paid-extra, similar to AppleCare. But as far as I know, they don’t. (And in forums, anyone who has had to send their phone in for repair often say Google takes longer to return the repaired device than the likes of Samsung, Nokia, Motorola or Apple.)
TEST NEW APPS AHEAD OF TIME. You can do this on any Android phone… just find an app in the Play Store and see if a “Join the beta” option exists.
UNLIMITED CLOUD-BACKUP STORAGE FOR GOOGLE PHOTOS. This was dropped as-of the Pixel 6 series; the Pixel 5a series was the last to offer this.
GOOGLE FI. Not really sure what this is (a way to more-easily roam than picking-up local SIMs?), but a cursory search suggests it’s limited to US customers only.
So, at this-point I’d love to know… if you’re still a Pixel fan, then why?
I’m genuinely curious what advantages their devices still offer over other Android makes and models?