This week Google offered what it thinks a smartphone should look like. After a host of leaks and teases, the company has formally unveiled its new Pixel and Pixel XL phones.
The $649 five-inch Pixel runs at 1080p, and the 5.5-inch Pixel XL pumps out Quad HD (a standard that simply means “four times the quality of standard HD”). Internally they have a lot of identical hardware — the Snapdragon 821 processor provides the computing power for each of them, 4 GB of RAM keep your apps running, and your choice of 32 GB or 128 GB of storage keeps your data sorted. But we’re not here to talk about that; we’re here to talk about what you can accomplish.
Keep your beloved headphones.
This phone throws a design dig at Apple by retaining the headphone jack. It was a huge deal when Apple announced it was shunning the headphone jack in its iPhone 7. Google has no such motivations. Long live the headphone jack.
Explore virtual worlds.
The Pixel line of phones is the first one built to work with Google’s virtual reality platform, Daydream. A $79 head accessory lets you insert the phone and turn it into a full-on VR headset.
Take better photos.
Pixel’s camera hardware is perhaps the best that’s ever been outfitted to a smartphone. Claiming that the camera has the fastest capture time of any camera on the planet, Google’s rear-facing camera shoots 12.3 megapixel images. DxOMark, which provides benchmarks for camera performance, gives it an 89, the highest score ever awarded to a smartphone camera.
Store absolutely everything in the cloud.
When you buy one of the new phones, it comes with unlimited cloud storage, so no matter how much video and photo work you want to shoot and store, Google’s got you covered.
Get what you want just by asking for it.
The voice-activated Google Assistant feature operates pretty much exactly like a more-robust version of Siri. “Show me pictures I took on Thursday.” “What’s Russian for ‘No, thank you?’ ” “Play Springsteen.” Whatever you need done, ask Google Assistant to do it first. Hell, it even makes dinner reservations.
Get free tech support and automatically get its latest updates.
Sure the phone's not waterproof, but if you have another issue, Google's making it easier for you to get tech support. Built into the Pixel and Pixel XL is a tech support system that lets you ring a Google employee for assistance; they can see exactly what you see on your phone, and Google’s Duo videoconferencing software is built in to help you troubleshoot problems while seeing a person’s face. No more Genius Bar appointments. And Pixel owners will get software updates straight from Google the moment they become available. The phone stays on top of its game.