Nexus is dead. Pixel is king. Say hello to the Google Pixel, a handset ushering in a new era of the search giant's smartphone range.
It arrives alongside the larger (and even more expensive) Google Pixel XL, as the firm doubles up on devices for another year.
The Pixel takes over from 2015's Nexus 5X as the smaller offering in Google's lineup. The thing is though, it hasn't inherited its predecessor's price point, with the new Pixel sporting a decidedly more premium tag.
It comes in two variants, 32GB and 128GB, with the smaller storage option costing you a lofty $649 (£599, AU$1,079). Meanwhile the Google Pixel price for the 128GB model is a staggering $749 (£699, AU$1,229), pitching it against the likes of the iPhone 7, Huawei P9, HTC 10 and Samsung Galaxy S7.
In the US it's exclusively available with Verizon on contract for $27.08 a month if you don't want to pay full price, and it'll get all the day one updates, too.
- In the US? Get the Google Pixel from Verizon
Meanwhile, in the UK it's EE who's bagged the exclusive Pixel deal with £9.99 up front and £50.99 per month giving you 10GB of data plus unlimited calls and texts.
- In the UK? Get the Google Pixel from EE
Don't worry; the unlocked Google Pixel is also being sold on the Google Store for those of you who don't want to be tied to a contract or carrier.
Previous Nexus devices had a leg-up over the competition with their slightly lower price tag, which helped users overlook a couple of shortcomings; but in 2016, with the new Pixel brand and a brave new price point, there's nowhere to hide.
If you've owned a Google-brand smartphone in the past you'll appreciate the no-nonsense stock Google interface – and you'll be glad to know it's business as usual on the Pixel when it comes to the Android Nougat operating system.
For those who are new to Google's handsets, things may be less clear. While HTC is the firm that has actually built the device, the search giant has made all the calls on what goes into the Pixel, and how it operates.
Short of time? Check out our Google Pixel review video
These handsets are aimed to showcase the best of Google and Android. They pack new features not seen before on the platform (Google Assistant and a ‘best-in-class’ camera in the Pixel's case), and you'll be first in line for an update when a new version of Android is launched – usually weeks, if not months ahead of the likes of Samsung, LG, Sony and co.
The Google Pixel sports a first for Google's smaller smartphone – a full glass and metal body – along with a 5-inch full HD display, Snapdragon 821 processor, 4GB of RAM, 12MP rear camera, fingerprint scanner and 8MP front snapper.
On paper at least, then, the Google Pixel looks to be a flagship contender – but can it live up to the hype – and that price tag – in real life?
- A smarter, more personal Google in your pocket
- Has potential, but power isn’t fully realized yet
- Can play games, tell jokes and read you poems
At the beating heart of the new Pixel smartphone is Google Assistant, which the search giant claims gives you a 'personal Google', accessible whenever, wherever.
Google is driving the Assistant angle hard, and is keen for it to not only be the center of your phone, but the center of your life. It’s currently only available on Google’s new Pixel phones – but you can expect to see it become more widely available on Android devices in the future.
Assistant is essentially an upgraded Google Now, with better conversational smarts – ask ‘what’s the time in LA?’ and then follow up with ‘what about San Francisco?’ and it’ll know you want the time in that location – and a fleet of new tricks including jokes, poems, facts, games and even funny videos.
As well as the fun stuff you can ask Assistant to do a host of more useful things such as make a list, send a text or check your agenda – which is helpful, but not that much quicker than jumping into the corresponding app itself.
You can use your voice to trigger Assistant at any point by saying 'Okay Google' – and this works even when your phone is locked. Sometimes it can take the Pixel a few attempts to pick up your voice, and we found it struggled in noisy environments, and even at home with some music playing.
If you have to say the 'Okay Google' command more than once the Assistant instantly becomes frustrating – you start questioning whether it would just be easier to tap your query/request into the Pixel with your fingers.
Asking ‘what can you do’ is a good way to find out what else Assistant can help you with, from finding out how the Packers got on last night (they lost, bad times) to diving into a Geography quiz which highlighted the gaps in our flags knowledge.
Generally, Assistant was able to comprehend our garbled commands, but there were several occasions when it got things wrong, or didn’t register our dulcet tones. It still feels a bit strange talking to your phone – and when you’re made to repeat yourself the novelty starts to wear thin pretty quickly.
There’s no doubting that Assistant has the potential to be a powerful tool; with the same smarts built into Google Home and support for the likes of Chromecast, and your smart lighting and heating systems, we're getting closer to the day when you can pretty much run your home with your voice.
Assistant also learns as you go, and the more you use it the smarter it will get – but that takes time, and patience, and you may find it’s easier to just use your fingers.
We’re still a little way off fully realizing the potential, and for now Assistant is a nice addition to the Pixel, but it’s not a feature many will be holding up as the stand-out reason to buy the phone.
What's in the box? Find out in our Google Pixel unboxing video