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Pixel is cool but costly. Where did you lose Nexus Google?

Sahil Bhalla | Updated on: 5 October 2016, 12:24 IST

At last, Google Phones have been announced. With that, Google has officially joined the big league. But for all those who hoped for an affordable smartphone - a la Google Nexus - it's time to bid your dreams bye-bye. The Pixel and Pixel XL are being hailed as the most 'refined' Android phones. But at a minimum $649 (Rs 57,000 in India), affordability has been thrown out of the window.

Google's Nexus line used to cost $300 or less (below Rs 30,000 in India).

Michael Short/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The likes of OnePlus, Xiaomi and LeEco (all under Rs 30,000) are no longer its competitors. Google Pixel is competing head on with Apple (the latest iPhone 7 starts at Rs 60,000), Samsung and LG. Google's excuse is that this is the Pixel and not the Nexus. Understandably, Google has been in the handsets business for quite some time and the company wants to chase big profit.

But will Google release another Nexus alongside the Pixel? Probably not and that will be a disappointment. A large number of those buying the phone have now been priced out.

So, Google is putting all its eggs, rather phones, in one basket -- a market that is highly competitive: just look at what happened when Samsung tried to usurp Apple's iPhone 7.

This season, it's not about the phones so much as the other gadgets that Google has released. As Dieter Bohn of The Verge says: "If you want to surround yourself with gadgets made directly by Google, this holiday season is going to be a good time for you."

The Pixel phones

Let's not get carried away for even a moment. The Pixel phones are the best phones ever made by Google. They are probably the best Android smartphones one can buy (barring the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge). What the Pixel stands for is approachability. This is where it goes head-to-head against Apple's latest iPhone 7. iPhone's have always been the easiest to use phones.

The Pixel phones are fast, have a class-leading camera and a bright and responsive OLED screen. There is a 3.5 mm headphone jack (a subtle dig at Apple), and from afar, it definitely looks like an iPhone.

Google has taken complete control of the sets from the ground up. They have been designed by Google from start to finish. It isn't based on any previous device.

HTC may have manufactured it but it explicitly has the "phone by Google" branding. The company doesn't shy away from it. What the company also wants you to know is that the camera on the phone has gotten the highest rating ever on the DxOMark benchmark. It also has the "the shortest capture time on any mobile camera ever"

Rick Osterloh, Google's hardware chief, told The Verge that the Pixel represents "the best in hardware and software, designed and built by Google, together".

One could go on and on about the phone. It is the first phone with the new Google Assistant built in. "Google is now moving forward from a mobile-first platform to an artificial intelligence-first platform. And the culmination of all the efforts is the Google Assistant," Google CEO Sundar Pichai proudly said. Google claims the Assistant has been refined and is the best one in the market. It can bring up photos from a certain date and time. It can pick a song from a particular playlist using your favourite music app. It can even pick a restaurant and make a reservation for you. All by using voice commands.

Pixel users will be getting "free unlimited storage for full-resolution images and videos," even for those 4K videos you want to shoot. Pixel phones will be the first to get all the latest updates, for at least two years, and it has "fast charging" that gives you seven hours of power in just 15 minutes charging. There's also a 24-hour live phone support built right into the phone. Lastly, the phones are the first Daydream (Google's VR platform) compatible phones.

Who really buys Google phones?

All of that is great, but the problem is, they've forgotten who really represented the average Nexus user. The jump in price is not going to down well with a number of prospective consumers. It's not like convincing someone to go from a Nokia 'dumb phone' to a smartphone. A decent enough smartphone can be gotten for as cheap as 5K. This represents a paradigm shift.

The last Nexus, the smaller Nexus 5X, came out in India for about Rs 30,000. The Pixel will be coming out for almost twice that amount. It will be coming out at a price where Apple and Samsung already have a foothold. Apple's iPhone's are gorgeous to look at and easy to use, while Samsung's Galaxy S7 have a lot of extra features for the hardcore tech people.

It's like telling a hatchback owner that they should now 'upgrade' and buy a sedan. A Hyundai i10 user suddenly be faced with an option of buying a Hyundai Elantra or Hyundai Verna but nonewer version of the Hyundai i10. It's like they're eliminating economy class and giving the consumers the choice between first class (slightly more screen space) and business class.

First published: 5 October 2016, 12:03 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.