Arriving on the market Thursday, Google's new Pixel and Pixel XL Android smartphones are earning plaudits from a majority of reviewers on the strength of their cameras, long battery life and built-in intelligence. On the flip side, the devices get a bit of flak because they're not water resistant. In addition, some are calling the designs of the phones uninspired as compared to Apple's iPhone.
The fact that the new Pixels are being compared to the iPhone at all, though, highlights Google's apparent success at coming out with high-end phones that can be compared head-to-head with Apple's iconic design. That could prove to be a key to how well the Pixels perform on the market, considering the devices' equally high-end prices: $649 for the Pixel and $769 for the Pixel XL.
Designed and built by Google, the Pixels replace the company's previous in-house Android brand, the Nexus line, which first launched in 2010. Before unveiling the new smartphones at a launch event earlier this month, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the Pixels, which are loaded with smart software, represent the shift from a mobile-first world to one led by artificial intelligence.
More Thumbs Up than Down
A review of the top 20 headlines about the Pixels on Google News today showed raves outnumbering criticisms by a score of 15 to five.
Among those weighing in with positive assessments were the Wall Street Journal, Time, CNET, PCWorld, The Verge, Engadget and ZDNet. Reviewers responding with a "meh" included Ars Technica, the New York Times, ABC News and The Telegraph, while Gizmodo's thumbs-down -- "too dumb and ugly to replace your iPhone" -- was a definite outlier.
The Pixels' screens and cameras are the features earning the strongest praise from most reviewers.
"The AMOLED display makes photos look better; even ones taken on an iPhone," Joanna Stern wrote of the 5-inch Pixel today in the Wall Street Journal. "Blacks are deeper, colors are more vibrant and the higher pixel density makes everything sharper."
IDG Greenbot's Jason Cross, meanwhile, called the 5.5-inch Pixel XL's camera "at the very least among the best -- together with the iPhone 7, HTC 10, and Galaxy S7."
Assistant Better than Siri?
As Pichai noted at Google's launch event, the Pixel was designed to bring a new level of artificial intelligence to personal devices. The first smartphones with Google Assistant built in, the Pixel and Pixel XL are part of the company's plan to "build a personal Google for everyone," he said.
So far, the reviews appear to support those efforts, with Time's Lisa Eadicicco declaring that Google Assistant was "better at answering general questions that Siri, in most cases." And the Verge's Walt Mossberg concluded that Google's AI "blew away every competitor I've tried" and "shredded Siri," Apple's intelligent digital assistant.
However, Ars Technica's Ron Amadeo, found that Google Assistant is "not much different from Google's old voice command system." In his critique of the Pixels, Gizmodo's Michael Nunez said he found the AI system "underwhelming."
"Ultimately, the Pixel and Pixel XL are gateways for feeding the Google brain more information about yourself," Nunez said. "As Google's AI gets smarter, the Assistant will become more helpful. While some people might find this creepy, I think the idea is exciting, and it's a letdown that the tech isn't there yet."
Image credit: Product shots of Pixel and Pixel XL phones by Google.