At a landmark event earlier this week, Google announced a huge amount of new things, including two new phones, called the Pixel and Pixel XL. Bearing "Phone by Google" right on their bodies, the new phones channeled designs like the HTC 10 and iPhone 7, but the G logo, text, and software made it quite clear who really designed the phone. With Pixel, Google wanted to take the reigns and exert the tightest hardware control they've ever exerted. The Nexus lineup still allowed wiggle room for manufacturers, and it showed; LG's Nexus 4 could almost switch places with the Optimus G, and the Snapdragon 801-powered Nexus 5 very much channeled the LG G2. Motorola's Nexus 6 was a dead ringer for their Moto X lineup, and Huawei's Nexus 6P clearly showed the design philosophy that went into their Mate and Honor lineups. Pixel is uniquely Google, and it shows; the phone's design couldn't be any simpler, but it's still premium and a joy to look at and hold, much like the Chromebook Pixel laptops before it that gave the Macbook a run for its money with their square Chrome design. With Pixel already being an established premium brand within Google's wheelhouse, attaching the new phones to it seemed to just make sense. There are, of course, other reasons.
For starters, let's talk about where the Pixel brand has already been. The high-end Chromebook Pixel kicked things off. It was priced impractically high, even for its super-premium build and specs, but still did well enough to warrant a sequel. We also have the Pixel C tablet-cum-laptop. Offering about the highest-end Android experience one can get in such a form factor by way of pure Google software and the same insanely powerful NVIDIA Tegra X1 chip found inside the NVIDIA Shield TV, the Pixel C has more than a few things in common with the Chromebook Pixel, and analyzing those common elements can tell us a few things about where the new phones fit in the Pixel brand. The premium build quality, uber-high specs, and pure Google software are all common points among the Pixel lineup, as is the attempt to mainstream or legitimize an OS; the Chromebook Pixel finally offered up a Chromebook that broke the mold for cheap Chrome OS devices, and gave professionals a machine powerful enough to get real work done on the go, even under the limitations of Chrome OS, which are gradually fading away. The Pixel C showed that even power users, with few exceptions. could replace their laptop with an Android device and make very few sacrifices, if any, depending on use case. Sure, it couldn't run Adobe Photoshop, chew through a server-based Linux distribution, or play high-end PC games, but it runs the versatile Android OS with a huge amount of software to cater to almost every need, and sports the right hardware to connect to other devices as needed.
So, what are the new Pixel phones trying to accomplish? Quite simply, they're trying to mainstream pure Google Android software. The Nexus lineup never really took off in a big way, even with critical acclaim for the Nexus 5X and 6P, and a good amount of people still clinging to their beloved Nexus 4, 5, and 6 units. Still, this was nowhere near enough to compete with the likes of Samsung and Apple, or even less mainstream names like Xiaomi. Pixel looks to change all of that. The two Pixel phones are not only premium, powerful, and pure, they boast exclusive features that no Nexus will ever get, and presumably, no phones by other manufacturers either. They are also the first fully Daydream-ready phones, giving them a killer app of sorts. The Pixels aren't for everybody, of course; they are by no means rugged, and their IP53 specification provides very little water protection, unlike most modern flagships. They are also extremely pricey, and the only US carrier that will sell you a Pixel right now is Verizon, meaning that customers who may have garnered good enough rapport with their carrier to finance phones without good credit are left in the cold unless they're willing to shell out upfront. It's a bold move, and some may argue that Google is shooting themselves in the foot, but there's no arguing against the fact that they're trying to shake up the industry and light a fire under OEMs with Pixel, and it's looking like the lineup is going to do just that.