Google takes aim at Apple and Samsung with Pixel phones

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The Google-branded phone has arrived, and Apple and Samsung are its primary targets.

But to make room for the Google-branded Pixel, Google’s Nexus phone brand will fade, according to an official statement Tuesday from Google.

“As Nexus users, you’ve played an integral role in this journey for Google. We’re excited about Pixel, and also want you to know that we’ll continue to support your Nexus devices,” Google said Tuesday.

Nexus phones have been co-branded with Google, but the branding tended to emphasize the partners that manufacture the device such as LG and Huawei, the two current Nexus phone makers. But that strategy appears to be coming to an end.

“Pixel is a bold move,” said Ian Fogg, an analyst at market researcher IHS Markit.

“Google is aiming to go straight head to head with Apple and Samsung. And, in fact, companies it partners with too,” Fogg told in a phone interview. “They're not giving exposure to any of their partners that have [to date] been involved in the design and manufacture of Nexus phones.”

Fogg said the phone’s pricing makes it clear that Google is going after Apple and Samsung.

“The prices are essentially the same as the starting prices for an iPhone. And similar to the top-end Samsung phones,” Fogg said.

The 5-inch Google Pixel is priced starting at $650, while the 5.5-inch Pixel XL starts at $770, essentially the same price as the 4.7-inch iPhone 7 ($649) and 5.5-inch iPhone 7 Plus ($769).  

Fogg adds that Google had to take control of both hardware and software to compete effectively with Apple. “Apple is the most successful [phone] company and Apple believes that only by integrating hardware and software together can you create great products. This [announcement] is a statement by Google that they believe Apple is right,” Fogg said.

And Google is adding artificial intelligence (AI) on top of this to try to surpass Apple, which has its own AI technology, most notably in the form of the intelligent personal assistant Siri.


“Google is emphasizing the AI and camera for this phone – it is about making devices smart enough so that they can capture and analyze info in the Google Cloud,” Jordan Edelson, founder and CEO at Appetizer Mobile, an app development agency, told in an email.

How does the Pixel stack up against the iPhone 7?

Display: For starters, both Pixel phones use an active-matrix organic light-emitting diode (AMOLED) display, compared to Apple’s more conventional (though improved with the iPhone 7) liquid-crystal display (LCD). Apple is expected to move to AMOLED for future iPhones because of its inherent advantages over LCD.

Camera: Google is claiming its camera is very competitive, citing "a best-ever" 89 DxOMark Mobile score, a respected yardstick for camera performance. That score beats the iPhone 7 by 3 points.

Storage: It’s the same as Apple, starting at 32GB then jumping to 128GB for the pricier Pixel.

Processor: the Pixel uses the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 quad-core processor. We’ll have to see how it competes with Apple’s fast A10 chip in the iPhone 7.

Virtual Reality: Pixel is Google Daydream VR compatible. The headset is priced at $79. Currently, Apple doesn’t offer anything equivalent.

The Pixel and Pixel XL will be available in the U.S. at Verizon, Best Buy, and the Google Store, where it will be sold unlocked.