Google’s Pixel phones have a lot going for them.
Are you looking for a smartphone with Google Photos, Chrome, Gmail and Google Drive integration? If so, a Pixel might be a good choice for you. Google offers many iterations of its Pixel phones, including the Pixel 4A and Pixel 5, and now the new Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro that come with the company’s in-house Tensor chip.
Pixel phones are known for taking great photos. But it isn’t just about having an excellent camera and luxurious hardware: Software and the services that a phone ties into are also important. Let’s get into a few of these.
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Read more: CNET’s Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro reviews
Unlimited storage for Google Photos
One big reason to get a Pixel is unlimited storage in Google Photos. Unlike other non-Pixel handsets, Pixel phones have no data cap for backing up photos to the cloud. Photos you take on a Pixel will be saved in their original quality, not automatically compressed to save space. The extent of this benefit varies based on the Pixel you pick up: If you can find the first Pixel phone released in 2016, you should be able to upload photos at original quality for the life of the device.
Read more: Google Pixel 6 vs. 6 Pro vs. Pixel 5 vs. 5A
Pixel phones will enjoy unlimited storage on Google Photos. Other handsets will not.
Later Pixel phones, such as the more recently released Pixel 5 and Pixel 4A 5G, allow unlimited photo uploads at a compressed storage-saver quality. Google outlines the rules for each Pixel phone on this support page.
Unfortunately, it does appear the 2020 Pixel phones will likely be the last to get the unlimited storage benefit. Google does not plan to extend this benefit to the next wave of Pixel phones, according to several reports from The Verge and Tom’s Guide, among others.
Read more: What’s Pixel Pass?
No bloatware, ever
The menace of unwanted apps, services and often redundant software features continues to plague most Android phones subsidized by US wireless carriers. Not so with Google Pixel handsets. What you get is the pristine Android OS the way Google originally designed it, not masked with odd skins, proprietary overlays or strange UIs.
Pixel phones have access to beta software like new OS versions and features.
Fresh Android OS updates
Besides unfettered storage for photos, Google has pledged to make updating its Pixel phones a priority. Whenever a new Android OS version or security patch rolls out, it’ll arrive on Pixels first. That includes new features separate from full OS updates. And for the truly adventurous, Pixels have first dibs on beta Android versions as well.
All Pixel phones are available in Google Fi cellular network versions.
Google Fi is always an option
While not a massive force in the wireless carrier market, Google does offer its own cellular service for mobile devices. Called Google Fi (not to be confused with Google Fiber), this MVNO-style system offers pay-as-you-go data plans. It also uses technology that enables seamless switching between Wi-Fi and cellular networks during voice calls.
All Pixel phones come in versions specifically designed to operate on Google Fi. These phones are also unlocked so you can port them over to another carrier if you’d like. For instance, the Pixel 5A is available in both Unlocked and Google Fi (also unlocked) versions.
Things get more complicated, though, when choosing a Pixel 6 or Pixel 6 Pro. Google sells three varieties of each: Verizon, Google Fi (unlocked) and Unlocked (no specific carrier). The models without a specified carrier will work on all major US carrier networks. That said, they aren’t all fully compatible with each carrier’s 5G network.
Squash that spam
If you’re constantly assaulted by a deluge of unwanted scam or shady marketing calls, then you’ll find this Pixel feature compelling. The Pixel Call Screen function in the phone app works with Google Assistant to stop robocalls from reaching you. Together they can prevent unknown callers from making your phone ring, or screen calls for you in real time.
A sweet phone deal
Right now one of our favorite phones on the market is the $399 Pixel 5A. Compatible with 5G cellular networks, this budget-friendly handset has an excellent ultrawide camera and a big OLED display. It also enjoys strong software support from Google and the promise of timely updates for up to three years. And at $500 less than the price of the $899 Pixel 6 Pro, or $200 less than the $599 Pixel 6, it’s a tempting alternative.