The Google Pixel phone is finally here. Rumors had been swirling for months, but it wasn’t until Google’s unveiling event in early-October 2016 that its existence was officially confirmed.
The phone is being billed as an iPhone competitor. The old Nexus line of handsets were cheaper and more accessible to the masses, but the Pixel will go head-to-head with Apple on price, features, and build quality. We’ll finally get the showdown we all dreamed about as the two most preeminent tech companies in the world get ready to do battle.
But will be Pixel phone be a success? I think there’s a strong argument to suggest it’ll be a giant flop. Here’s why.
What was the best thing about the Nexus range of phones and tablets? A lot of people would say it was the pure “stock Android” experience. A lot more would say it was the price.
The Nexus offered everything that was great about the Android operating system for a fraction of the price of the top-end Samsung models. No bloatware, no manufacturer overlays, and no exploding devices.
That “pureness” won’t change with the Pixel, but the amount you’ll be paying for it will.
The 32 GB entry model costs $649, and the 128 GB version will set you back $749. The entry model is exactly the same price as the newly-released iPhone 7 and just $20 cheaper than an unlocked Samsung Galaxy S7.
Compare that to the recent Nexus models. The Nexus 5 entered the market for $349 in 2013, and its successor, the 5X, was only $379 when it hit the shelves in 2015.
Whether or not long-time Nexus users will be prepared to shell out almost twice as much for a largely similar experience remains to be seen.
At the unveiling event, the phone was only available for pre-order in five countries: the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Germany, and Australia. India was added to the list shortly after.
At this stage, there are no official plans to expand that market — and that puts it at a serious disadvantage.
Roll the clock back to 2008 when the first iPhone was released. Apple made it available in more than 80 countries worldwide. Today, there are very few countries where you can’t buy an iPhone — they’re mainly places such as Cuba and North Korea where the United States has trade embargoes.
The Pixel might sell very well in the areas where it’s available, but the global sales figures won’t be close to either Apple or Samsung.
One of the reasons tech enthusiasts love Android so much is because of the customization options available.
The catch? To be able to enjoy the vast majority of these customizations, you need to root your device. For those who aren’t sure what I mean, rooting gives you to access the phone’s entire operating system. You can then install, tweak, and replace anything you want.
Sadly, rooting the Pixel will be harder than ever. This will be a shock to Nexus-lovers. Although the tide was starting to turn, the Nexus devices were historically some of the easiest to root and had some of the largest and most vibrant modding communities as a result.
Since the release of Android Marshmallow, Google implemented a new check that would make the phone fail to boot if the /system file was modified. Modders got around the problem by editing the ramdisk, but according to reports, the ramdisk will be in the /system file on the Pixel.
Will the community find a way around the issue? Almost certainly. But the process is becoming less and less appealing to the average user.
Say hello to Google’s stab at virtual reality (VR). Called Daydream, it’s one of Google’s big selling points, and one they hope will revolutionize the way we use our devices. The software is baked into the Pixel phone, and the supporting headset is on sale for $79.
But do people want it?
Sure, the advancements in VR over the last few years have been impressive. Devices from Oculus, HTC, and Sony have changed the way we think about the sector. But is mobile VR going to become a thing? The jury is still out. Maybe Google should’ve focused its efforts elsewhere.
More and more phones are now becoming water resistant (the days of pushing people into swimming pools are set to return!), but the Pixel’s waterproofing is conspicuous by its absence.
The Pixel’s two biggest competitors, the Samsung S7 and iPhone 7, are both water resistant. Apple’s offering has an IP67 classification, which means it can be submerged in water to a depth of roughly one meter for up to 30 minutes. The Samsung phone goes one better — it’s IP68, meaning it can be put into a depth of 1.5 meters for 30 minutes.
Why did Google omit what would certainly be a popular feature? You tell us!
A Success or Failure? You Decide
Will the Pixel range of phones be a long-term success? Very possibly.
The Pixel 2 — whenever it is released — is potentially the phone you should be waiting for. There is every chance that it will be the device that many onlookers hoped this Pixel would be. It will have more features, the teething problems from the original Pixel will have been ironed out, and Google will have a clearer idea of their long-term vision for the phone.
I’ve explained five reasons why I think the Pixel phone is doomed to flop, but I am sure many of you won’t agree.
Whether you think my points are valid concerns or meaningless worries, I’d love to hear from you. Let me know your thoughts on the Pixel phone in the comments section below.