What makes Google’s just-announced Pixel phones different from the Nexus products we’e seen before? It’s all in the software. Yes, the Pixels will keep current with the latest version of Android and monthly security updates; those are important things! But this is no longer the bare “stock” Android that Nexus devices were always known for. Google has layered on new features exclusive to the Pixel and Pixel XL overtop Android 7.1 Nougat. A lot of the changes are cosmetic, but there’s also some genuinely useful stuff that’s reserved for Pixel owners. Here’s all that’s new.
Google’s answer to Siri and Alexa is one of the Pixel’s biggest features. Google Assistant is more advanced and capable than the Google Now voice assistant on other Android phones; it’s more contextually aware to what’s happening on your devices and can tap into popular third-party apps like WhatsApp and OpenTable.
Both Pixel phones are the first to support Google’s virtual reality platform, Daydream. You’ll need the new Daydream headset for a fully immersive experience. You’ll be able to play VR games and watch video apps like YouTube, Netflix, and HBO directly inside the virtual reality experience.
When you unlock the Pixel and Pixel XL, you’ll see a brand new home screen design that Google is calling Pixel Launcher. The app drawer button is gone; instead, you now swipe up from the bottom dock of apps to see all your apps and games. The date, time, and weather are in the top right, and tapping on Google’s G logo will quickly get you to search.
Google finally made a good camera app! To go along with the Pixel’s 12-megapixel camera — touted as the best camera in any smartphone, ever — Google has unveiled Pixel Camera. With features like white balance control and exposure compensation, it’s a lot more capable than the old Nexus camera app. A new “smart burst” mode captures a stream of shots, and Google uses artificial intelligence to choose the clearest, best shot. The camera also uses HDR+ by default with “zero shutter lag” to achieve the maximum dynamic range for each shot.
Unlimited backups of photos and 4K videos at original quality
Pixel buyers get worry-free backup with Google Photos. All photos and videos (even 4K recordings) can be backed up — for free — with Google’s cloud service.
The Pixel phones come with either 32GB or 128GB of storage, but there’s no microSD card support. So if you’re running out of room at any point, the devices will automatically clear out photos and videos that have already been backed up to the cloud via Google Photos. Remember that those shots and recordings are stored at full quality, so you’ve got nothing to lose by removing them from local storage.
24/7 voice and chat support
If you’ve got a problem with either Pixel phone, you can head to the settings menu and immediately launch a voice call or chat session with Google’s customer support team. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. From there, you can also choose to allow screen sharing so that the Google employee can control your device and show you firsthand how to fix whatever’s not working right.
Easy switching from other phones
A bundled USB-C adapter will let users easily transfer contacts, messages, photos, and other content from their existing Android device or iPhone over to the Pixel.