Google entered the consumer smartphone market in 2016 when it introduced Pixel phones with the “Made by Google” brand. Previously, Google had the Nexus program, which mainly produced reference devices designed to showcase the Google experience. They were mainly targeted to developers and geeks like us.
Now, the company is aggressively targeting the consumer market with Google phones, and making a fine showing for itself at the same time.
Arguably, one of the biggest selling points for Made by Google phones is the stock Android experience. Pixel phones don’t come with a heavy skin from an OEM. Rather, they come with fast, timely updates of the newest versions of Android available. So we wanted to outline Google’s current offerings in the space to help you pick the best Google phone for you.
Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL
The latest phones from Google’s Pixel brand launched in October 2018. The smaller Pixel 3 looks more like the older Pixel phones, but it still has a larger 5.5-inch 18:9 OLED display with a 2,160 x 1,080 resolution, compared to the 5-inch screens on the Pixel and Pixel 2. The Pixel 3 XL gets a bigger design change, with a huge 6.3-inch Quad HD+ (2,960 x 1,440) display with a now familiar notch on top.
Inside, both the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL have much of the same hardware specs, including the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor, 4GB of RAM, and either 64 or 128GB of storage. Both of the phones have glass backs this time, and both support wireless charging with the Qi platform. While both will work with any QI-based wireless charging pad or stand, Google launched its own Pixel Stand, which not only provides fast wireless charging for Pixel 3 models, but also allows owners to access Google Assistant, either with voice commands or by shortcuts on the screen. Both phones continue ditching the headphone jack, but you get full USB Type-C earbuds in the box with the Pixel 3 models.
The Pixel 3 phones offer a great software experience and have a fantastic camera on board.
As with the older Pixels, the new Pixel 3 phones have excellent onboard cameras. Google fights the dual rear camera trend with the same single 12.2MP rear sensor with an f/1.8 aperture included in the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. However, both new Pixel 3 phones have dual front-facing cameras. Both sensors are 8MP with f/2.2 apertures and are designed to give owners a way to take group selfies, with lots of people in one image. There are also some new photo software features like Top Shot which will recommend the best photo to pick from when you take shots with the camera.
Finally, the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL not only come from Android 9.0 Pie out of the box, but with a number of other features as well. Call Screen answers an incoming call for you, screens the call, and then transcribes what the caller says so you can see if this is just a robocall or a real live person. Google Duplex uses machine learning and AI to let Google Assistant make calls to businesses for you. The unlocked 64GB Pixel 3 starts at $799, while the 128GB model is priced at $899. The Pixel 3 XL 64GB model costs $899 and the 128GB is priced at $999. It’s available from the Google Store and also from Verizon.
- 5.5-inch 18:9 Flexible OLED display with 2,160 x 1,080 resolution, 443ppi (Pixel 3)
- 6.3-inch 18:5:9 Flexible OLED display with 2,960 x 1,440 resolution, 523ppi (Pixel 3 XL)
- Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
- 4GB of RAM
- 64/128GB of storage, no microSD expansion
- 12.2 MP rear camera, dual 8MP front cameras
- Non-removable 2,915mAh battery, wireless charging (Pixel 3)
- Non-removable 3,430mAh battery, wireless charging (Pixel 3 XL)
- Android 9.0 Pie
- 68.2 x 145.6 x 7.9mm, 148g (Pixel 3)
- 76.7 x 158.0 x 7.9mm, 184g (Pixel 3 XL)
- Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL review
- Google Pixel 3 vs Galaxy Note 9, LG V40, and Huawei P20 Pro
- Google Pixel 3 / 3 XL vs Pixel 2 / 2 XL: A tale of four flagships
Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL
Google’s Pixel 2 and the Pixel 2 XL are still excellent phones with high-end cameras. As their names imply, the Pixel 2 XL is bigger, with a bigger screen. Beyond that though, the Pixel 2 XL adopts the 18:9 aspect ratio that became fashionable on flagships in 2017. The 5-inch screen on the Pixel 2 keeps the 16:9 aspect ratio.
Both phones feature beautiful screens with rear-mounted fingerprint sensors. Gone are the 3.5mm headphone jacks, replaced by a single USB Type-C data and charging port. The front and back cameras on these phones both sport single 12.2MP sensors, but use machine learning to capture portrait mode, as opposed to the dual sensor found in most other phones.
Both phones produce remarkable photos, earning very high DxOMark score of 98 (same camera in both phones.) At the time of the DxOMark review, it was the highest rating ever scored. Our reviewers called the camera “stunning” and snappy — highly desirable in a camera. The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are still excellent camera phones, even though their successors have been released. Google doesn’t sell them directly anymore, but you can still find them on Amazon.
- 5.0-inch OLED 16:9 display with 1,920 x 1,080 resolution, 441ppi (Pixel 2)
- 6.0-inch pOLED 18:9 display with 2,880 x 1,440 resolution, 538ppi (Pixel 2 XL)
- Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
- 4GB of RAM
- 64/128GB of storage, no microSD expansion
- 12.2MP rear camera, 8MP front camera
- Non-removable 2,700mAh battery (Pixel 2)
- Non-removable 3,520mAh battery (Pixel 2 XL)
- Android 8.0 Oreo
- 145.7 x 69.7 x 7.8mm, 143g (Pixel 2)
- 157.9 x 76.7 x 7.9mm, 175g (Pixel 2 XL)
- Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL review: the way Android is meant to be
- Google Pixel 2 XL vs OnePlus 5T
- Google Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL: which should you buy?
Pixel and Pixel XL
First generation Google phones were no slouches. The Pixel and Pixel XL started Google’s consumer push and simultaneously ended the Nexus device program. But it was more than just a rebrand of a developer program — it was a shift into the consumer market like we hadn’t seen before.
The original Pixel and Pixel XL were true flagships in their day. Both rocked the Snapdragon 821, the latest Android (at the time) 7.1. Both saw upgrades to Android 8.0 Oreo this year. Both had 4GB of RAM and started at 32GB of onboard storage. At the time, the camera was a real story, scoring very highly on DxOMark. Both phones took outstanding photographs, rivaling the Samsung Galaxy S7 and the iPhone 7.
The original Pixel phones are no longer available from the Google Store, but some retailers are still selling them through Amazon — although mostly refurbished variants.
- 5.0-inch AMOLED 16:9 display with 1,920 x 1,080 resolution, 441ppi (Pixel)
- 5.5-inch AMOLED 18:9 display with 2,560 x 1,440 resolution, 534ppi (Pixel 2)
- Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 821
- 4GB of RAM
- 32/128GB of storage, no microSD expansion
- 12.3MP rear camera, 8MP front camera
- Non-removable 2,770mAh battery (Pixel)
- Non-removable 3,450mAh battery (Pixel XL)
- Android 7.1 Nougat
- 143.8 x 69.5 x 8.6mm, 143g (Pixel)
- 154.7 x 75.7 x 8.6mm, 168g (Pixel XL)
- Google Pixel XL review
- Google Pixel review
- Problems with the Google Pixel and Pixel XL and how to fix them
That’s our look at the phones Google made or branded. Which is your favorite? Let us know in the comments.