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Today, Google said goodbye to its long-running Nexus line and replaced it with Pixel, a smartphone line that puts the Google brand front-and-center.
Historically, Nexus smartphones represented Google's official stock Android experience, with companies like Huawei and LG doing most of the design work for phones like the Nexus 6P and the Nexus 5X. This year, the Pixel and Pixel XL are branded not by a Nexus logo, but with Google's; even though HTC had a hand in the Pixel design, these phones are all about Google.
So how do the Pixel and Pixel XL compare to the Samsung Galaxy S7, the iPhone 7, and the iPhone 7 Plus? We won't know for sure until we get the new Google phones into our lab, but for now, here's how they stack up on paper.
Round 1: Design
The Pixel and Pixel XL are 5- and 5.5-inch phones, respectfully. The appropriately-dubbed Pixel XL is a phablet-sized smartphone aimed squarely at the iPhone 7 Plus and Samsung Galaxy Note 7. Both Pixels have nearly-uniform aluminum bodies that immediately call to mind the design of the iPhone, though the Pixel and Pixel XL (available in "Really Blue", "Quite Black", and "Very Silver") feature glass on the back that create a two-toned look.
While both Samsung and Apple have kept their fingerprint scanners on the front of their respective flagships, Google is keeping its fingerprint scanner on the backside of each Pixel—a feature shared with the Nexus 6P and the Nexus 5X.
On the bottom of both Pixels you'll find a reversible USB-C port which allows for fast battery charging, and yes—there's a 3.5mm headphone jack on the top of the device.
Round 2: Under the hood
Google ain't messing around when it comes to the Pixel's hardware, and really, why should it? In order to keep up with the Samsung Galaxy S7 and the iPhone 7, Google needed to pack as much horsepower as possible into the Pixel, and it appears as if it has.
Google took a page out of Samsung's book and outfitted the Pixel with an AMOLED display, which has been a staple of the Galaxy line for a several generations now. Much like OLED TVs, AMOLED smartphone displays offer brighter highlights and deeper black levels; the dizzying contrast ratios typically make content—like video, photos, and mobile games—appear much more vivid than they otherwise would on an LCD display.
Both Pixels run on 4GB of RAM (compared to 2GB on the iPhone 7 and 4GB on the Galaxy S7) and are equipped with an industry-leading Snapdragon 821 quad-core processor (compared to the Galaxy S7's Snapdragon 820 processor and the iPhone's proprietary A10 chip).
Now, to a certain extent, the finer aspects of a processor's performance are only as good as the ecosystem of hardware and software built on top of it, but it's safe to assume that Pixel's quad-core processor combined with a nearly-stock Android experience will deliver top-of-the-line performance.
An Android experience with only the lightest of software touches means that users won't be tripping over an added user interface like Samsung's TouchWiz, Huawei's Emotion, or HTC Sense, so Pixel owners get all of the benefits of Android 7.1 (Nougat) without any bloatware or added frills. Some might miss the added flavor of an added interface skin, but the vast majority of Android users I speak to cherish the stock Android experience above all else. Given some of the Google software integration present in the Pixel, it might not be as stock as the Android experience gets, but it's closer than most.
Round 3: The camera
In recent years, iPhones and Galaxies have led the pack when it comes to smartphone photography, with the Galaxy Note 7 offering possibly the best smartphone camera we've ever tested.
But at Google's Pixel announcement, the company proudly boasted that the Pixel's camera is the best ever. We can't speak to that claim just yet, but what we do know is this: The Google Pixel and the Pixel XL are poised to take a shot at overtaking the iPhone and the Galaxy S7's at the top of the photography food chain.
From a resolution standpoint, the Pixel's 12.3-megapixel primary camera isn't that far off from the iPhone 7 and the Galaxy S7, which also sport 12MP cameras. But with a robust 1.55μm pixel size, the Pixel and Pixel XL are ostensibly well-equipped to capture low-light images.
Much like the iPhone 7 and the Galaxy S7, the Pixel and Pixel XL also capture 4K video. And if you're worried about ultra-HD video eating away at your storage, you might want to keep reading.
Round 4: Extra features
Expandable storage is nice, but you know what's nicer? Unlimited storage.
In lieu of expandable storage, Google is offering Pixel users unlimited cloud storage for full-resolution photos and video, including 4K video. It's reminiscent of the Nextbit Robin, which automatically stores apps and files that aren't frequently used in a 100GB cloud, though Google's storage is limited to photos and video and... well, never runs out.
To compare, the Samsung Galaxy S7 offers up to 256GB of expandable storage on top of its built-in memory, and the iPhone 7 offers 32, 128, or 256GB of internal memory with no expandable storage.
If there's one big advantage both the Galaxy S7 and the iPhone 7 have over the Google Pixel, it's water resistance. The iPhone 7, the iPhone 7 Plus, the Galaxy S7, and the Galaxy Note 7 sport either an IP67 or an IP68 water resistance rating, making them submersible to 1 to 1.5 meters of water for up to a half-hour. The Pixel and Pixel XL, however, do not, so be careful using them near pools and toilets.
Round 5: Price
The Google Pixel is available for pre-order now and starts at $649 for the 32GB base model and $749 for the 128GB variant. The Pixel XL starts at around $769 for 32GB and moves up to $869 for the maxed-out, 128GB model.
Today, the iPhone 7 starts at $649 for the 32GB base model, and the iPhone 7 Plus starts at $769 for the same capacity. Each phone is also available in pricier, 128- and 256-gigabyte variants, and these max out at $849 for the 256GB iPhone 7 and $969 for the 256GB iPhone 7 Plus.
The Samsung Galaxy S7, on the other hand, starts at around $673 for 32GB base model, or $793 for the 32GB Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, which features a slightly-larger, edge-to-edge display.
These prices not only vary based on internal memory, but the retailer, as well. That said, even though the Pixel carries a premium price tag, it's priced competitively, given the current landscape of top-of-the-line smartphones.
In the coming weeks, we'll have more information about the Pixel and the Pixel XL, including battery, camera, and display tests, as well as a full review.
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