The Best Google Phones
Google’s Pixel phones have long been a favorite of Android fans for their cameras, fast processing power and clean version of the operating system. They’re not the cheapest phones, but professional reviewers say they offer high-end features and a premium design at a friendlier price.
However, they have a few issues, including a flaky fingerprint sensor and networking problems around the US.
Pixel phones have a look that makes you want to hold them and show them off. Industrial designer Brian Cutter and his team worked hard to make sure each new model was inviting but also tough and durable. This was a balance they could only achieve with big ambitions and relentless give-and-take. From fretting over button textures to avoiding cliched product names, they went through an exhaustive process to ensure each phone felt right and looked beautiful.
The result is a clean, simple design that makes it easy to pick out a Pixel in a crowd. It’s not as striking as Cupertino’s iPhones, but it’s still distinct enough to distinguish itself from the competition. The key is the line that divides the glass and aluminum on the back of the phone.
Since its launch, Google Pixel phones have been among the top smartphones for camera performance. The latest models have better hardware, a more robust night mode and innovative software features like helping blind and low-vision users take selfies.
The Pixel 8’s main camera delivers the best low-light smartphone video in the market, while the pricier Pro has the benefit of a better telephoto lens. Both offer impressive colors, exposure and detail.
Google’s newest camera software offers new options for fine-tuning shots in real-time, including “pro controls” for shutter speed, ISO sensitivity and white balance. Magic Eraser now does a better job of removing background elements and erasing blemishes from people’s faces. However, it does leave noticeable editing artifacts on some skin tones. A new feature called Zoom Enhance uses generative AI to fill in details at higher zoom levels.
One of the best Google phones isn’t the top-end Pixel 8 Pro, but rather the cheaper Pixel 7. It has the same high-resolution screen and fast 5G connectivity as its rivals but is less expensive and runs a clean, responsive version of Android. It handles navigation smoothly and video playback is lag-free, while demanding games like Asphalt 9: Legends or Genshin Impact run at high settings without issue.
What really sets it apart is its in-house, custom-built Tensor processor. Stats boffins may look at it and see only a slight upgrade from Qualcomm’s fastest chips, but Google says it improves performance in key areas like computational photography (better low-light shots), on-device speech recognition and translation (it can now transcribe recordings and display them on the screen) and battery life.
As with all phones, the Pixel has a tendency to run out of power at the end of the day. It’s not unheard of, but it’s still something to keep in mind.
But if you do end up dropping your Pixel to below 20%, don’t worry. The phone has an Extreme Battery Saver mode that limits notifications, pauses apps and slows down processing. It’s not a great mode for everyday use, but it’ll help you avoid a full shutdown.
Keeping your Pixel plugged in all the time, however, isn’t good for the battery. A swollen battery is a major safety hazard and could cause your phone to shut down, catch fire or explode. That’s why it’s essential to know the signs of a swollen battery.
A couple of things have kept the Pixels from being truly outstanding. For one, the in-display fingerprint sensor — which professional reviewers say can be fussy — has a tendency to lock the phone when you don’t want it to.
But for the most part, Google’s phones are good if not great. They’re the standard bearers for Android and get new software features months before other phones. They also boast impressive cameras, and their UI is slick. Nonetheless, they’ve never quite lived up to Google’s lofty vision of the Pixel as a smartphone that effortlessly navigates customer service calls and removes photo bombers from your shots. Even the Pixel 6 Pro’s augmented reality isn’t particularly compelling. It looks a little blurry. And the Pixel 5a’s 60Hz refresh rate is disappointing compared to competing devices.