Google's new Pixel and Pixel XL phones are loaded with neat features, including best-in-class cameras, a Siri-like Google Assistant and support for Google's Daydream VR platform. Still, they've got some stiff competition from Apple's iPhone 7 and Samsung's Galaxy S7, which are two of the best flagships currently on the market.
Is deep AI integration and VR support enough to make the Pixel stand out from the pack? Here's how the three phones stack up.
Design and Specs
While Google took a few jabs at Apple when unveiling the Pixel, the phone's curvy aluminum edges remind us a lot of the iPhone 7. The Pixel packs a fingerprint reader on the rear panel, which stands out from the front-facing home button readers on the iPhone and Galaxy.
It's worth noting that the Pixel is the only phone of the three that comes in blue, though only Apple and Samsung offer fancy-looking gold options. If having a standard 3.5mm headphone jack is important to you, both the Pixel and Galaxy S7 rock one.
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Specs-wise on the Pixel, you'll get either a 5-inch 1080p screen or a 5.5-inch 2560 x 1440 display on the XL, both with a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor and 4GB of RAM under the hood. Google says that the Pixel's battery will give you seven hours of juice after just 15 minutes of charging. The Pixel comes with either 32 or 128GB of storage, but Google is also promising unlimited cloud storage for your photos and videos.
The Pixel has the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus beat in terms of screen resolution, while both versions of the Galaxy S7 match the Pixel HD's quad-HD display. The Pixel could have a slight performance edge on the Galaxy S7's older Snapdragon 820 processor, but it'll need something truly special to top the blazing-fast iPhone 7.
Like just about every smartphone maker does for their new device, Google is calling the Pixel's 12.3-megapixel shooter "the best smartphone camera ever." The camera has an f/2.0 aperture and 1.55 micron pixels, and has special features like Smartburst for finding the best photo in a bunch and Lens Blur for dramatic depth-of-field effects.
The Pixel may very well hold its own with the 12-MP cameras on the iPhone 7 and Galaxy S7, the latter of which is our overall favorite smartphone shooter. The iPhone 7 Plus' dual camera setup has the unique advantage of 2x optical zoom, while the Galaxy S7 features the dual-pixel technology that you'd typically find in a pricey DSLR.
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Artificial intelligence is the biggest selling point of the Pixel, which is the first phone to come preloaded with the new Google Assistant. We'll have to wait and see how it holds up, but Assistant seems like it could rival Apple's Siri with just how robust and specific it can be.
For example, you can have Assistant remember your bicycle lock combo, bring up photos from a specific month, or pull up a list of upcoming shows at your favorite venue. Galaxy S7 owners have access to both Samsung S Voice and Google Now, and anyone on iOS and Android can test out Assistant by using Google's Allo messaging app.
The Pixel phones work with Google's new $79 Daydream View VR headset, which will let you enjoy a bunch of virtual reality games and apps from the likes of HBO, Netflix and Hulu. It's one of the most stylish VR headsets we've seen yet, though time will tell if it can compete with the 300-plus VR apps you can access on Samsung's $99 Gear VR.
The iPhone continues to be the least appealing option for VR enthusiasts -- Apple has no dedicated VR headset, so you'll be stuck with budget accessories like Google Cardboard.
Perhaps the most significant new Pixel feature is endless cloud storage, which could be a godsend for those who take tons of high-res photos and 4K videos. You can already back up your photos on any device using Google Photos, but the big difference here is that you'll be able to save your files in the cloud at their original resolution.
The Google Pixel and Pixel XL seem like legitimate competitors to Apple's and Samsung's excellent flagships, but it's too early to tell if the new phones can top them in any way. Google Assistant could be a game-changer, but it also looks like something that could end up on other devices. The Pixel's camera looks promising, but we won't be able to fairly evaluate it until it's in our hands.
Still, between Assistant and Daydream VR, Google is building a promising ecosystem for its first homegrown phones. We're only a few weeks away from the Pixel's Oct. 20 release date, so stay tuned for our full review.