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Google Pixel review: You'll love it, but here's why you absolutely won't buy it

Sahil Bhalla | Updated on: 27 January 2017, 12:37 IST

Exuberant. Looks like it's been crafted with a lot of care. Blazing performance. DSLR-level camera. Gamers and binge-watchers won't be disappointed. No need to constantly approach the wall socket for juice. Two weeks into using the Google Pixel XL and that's what immediately comes to mind.

It's a stunning piece of glass (on the back) that has been crafted to near perfection. Everything about the phone smells like it's aged just the right amount. Except the price, and that my friend is the only reason most will cite for not buying the phone.

It's been many a month since its launch back in October and with a number of phones launched since, the Google Pixel is still very much ahead of the pack. But omparing this device to Apple's iPhone is futile.

You'll definitely buy the iPhone if you're already embedded in the Apple ecosystem. Similarly, if you're an Android nerd, you probably won't be switching to the iPhone, because of its high price and cause you are loyal to Android and its ecosystem.

Google, with the Pixel has set the bar high. It basically took the good from all the other Android devices out there, puts its hat in the ring and chose to decimate the competition.

HTC may be the manufacturers behind the phone but its Google through and through. It's Android at its simple best. Google isn't known as a hardware maker, it's a search engine. The game has changed in the past few years and Pixel takes it to another level.

The Pixel, for those of you who just need to know the specs, has a Snapdragon 821 processor, 4GB of RAM, 32 or 128GB of storage and the highest rated smartphone camera ever. It also heralded the launch of Android Nougat 7.1, the 'exclusive' Google Assistant. It's purity at its best. Throw anything and everything at it and it will not disappoint.

Not for you, butterfingers

Google has served up two screen sizes for you to devour. A 5.2-inch Google Pixel and a 5.5-inch Google Pixel XL. Personally, I prefer the former as it is easier to hold and far easier to use one-handed but I know many out there who prefer the bigger screen for watching videos and gaming (a colleague of mine was completely enamoured while playing Need For Speed).

It has USB Type C ports for charging and it charges almost as fast as the OnePlus 3's dash charging. Buy a Google Pixel and one of the biggest frustrations with the Android ecosystem goes away. You get the latest updates as and when they are released by Google.

Of course, the phone isn't flawless. For one, the glass on the read makes the phone prone to slipping (have dropped the phone on my office desk twice already) and it delivers barely 4 hours of screen on time (SOT) The fingerprint scanner on the back can annoy many.

If you're working on the laptop and need to unlock the Pixel next to you then you'll have to either pick it up and unlock it with the fingerprint scanner or use the pattern (which is frustrating once you're used to the fingerprint scanner). On the OnePlus 3, it's in the front.

Other than that, the video performance lags the competition. I found the sound quality and its 4k video quality was lacking even in good light. It's lacking wireless charging (though not a deal breaker) and it isn't fully water resistant (again, a feature we can live without). There is no micro-SD slot and it's got a non-removable battery. The sound from single speakers isn't even the clearest ones I've heard. All of this in a premium device. Those aren't even the biggest of all deal-breakers. That is the price.

The deal-breaker

I could talk in detail about the superb performance of the phone - everything felt seconds faster than on my OnePlus 3 -, I could talk about the look and feel of it (premium quality delivered right in the palms of your hand), the camera excels in low-light and it's got the Google name plastered all over it (a brand that people trust), but I won't go into any of that detail. What I will tell you about is the sole reason why you won't be buying the phone.

The (not so) friendly cat at Summer House Cafe, New Delhi. This photo turned out pretty darn great with the Pixel. (Jhinuk Sen/Catch News)

Most of those who have used the device wouldn't trade it for anything else. Using the device is one thing. Owning it is a whole other ball game.

I had written an article back in October with the headline, "Pixel is cool but costly. Where did you lose Nexus Google?" and that still stands true. What people have come to expect from Google over the past few years is the Google Nexus. Not the Google Pixel.

The Nexus represented a chance for Google to work with a manufacturer side-by-side and deliver a product to the consumer at a price point acceptable to most. They weren't the best phones in the business but at a price point $300 or less (below Rs 30,000 in India), they got consumers on board from all walks of life.

And a (not so) lively road at night in Qutab Institutional Area, New Delhi. shot to test low-light photography on the Pixel. (Sahil Bhalla/Catch News)

OnePlus 3 and minus 1 for Google

The Pixel and its big brother the Pixel XL are being sold at prices over 50k. In fact, the cheapest Pixel sells for Rs 57,000 (even with the exchange offer, the cheapest I could find was for Rs 45,000). I bought my OnePlus 3 for just Rs 27,999. That's Rs 29,001 cheaper.

I could buy two OnePlus 3s for the price of one Google Pixel. I could buy a OnePlus 3 and go on a holiday somewhere toward the South of India. I could buy a OnePlus 3, buy some accessories, jazz up the phone and go to some fine-dining restaurants. I could do so many things with buying the OnePlus 3 instead of the Google Pixel.

The OnePlus 3 is just one of the many 'flagship killers' out there. You can easily replace the OnePlus 3 with the phone of your choice and the story will still remain true. No one who wants to buy a hatchback will suddenly change their mind and buy a sedan. Pixel being the overpriced sedan.

As awesome as the phones are, as easy are they to use and as much eye-candy they deliver for passersby, they just won't sell. Competition is fierce and the biggest growing segment of smartphone users in the world (especially in India) are in the sub Rs 30,000 price bracket.

With Google completely abandoning that, they have done an injustice to prospective buyers out there. Nexus stood for quality phones with timely deliverance of software updates in a neat package that didn't break the bank. The Pixel, as impressive a package as it is, just won't be the one you're buying. Even if you do have the money, springing for the Pixel just doesn't seem right. It may do everything better but no one feature of the phones is so exceptional that will make you go out and buy the phone right away.

Save the money, buy a OnePlus 3 or similar phone, and do something fun with what you have leftover. Trust me, you may want the best in the business but another phone will do just fine.

First published: 27 January 2017, 12:37 IST
Sahil Bhalla @IMSahilBhalla

Sahil is a correspondent at Catch. A gadget freak, he loves offering free tech support to family and friends. He studied at Sarah Lawrence College, New York and worked previously for Scroll. He selectively boycotts fast food chains, worries about Arsenal, and travels whenever and wherever he can. Sahil is an unapologetic foodie and a film aficionado.