Christmas 2016: Google Pixel's First Christmas

2016 was a year of many firsts. It was the year that Samsung undertook an unprecedented global recall for the Galaxy Note 7, it was the year that modular smartphones (well, sort of modular) became properly available and it was the year when virtual reality took a big step forward in becoming mainstream - largely thanks to the introduction and launch of Google’s Daydream platform. It was also the year that Google unveiled their new smartphone vision by introducing the world to a brand new line of smartphones, Pixel by Google. Which essentially makes Christmas 2016, Pixel’s first Christmas. And with Google seemingly ‘in it for the long run’, it would seem that this Christmas is only the first of many Christmases for the Pixel line. Likewise, this year will also be the first year that many people will be spending Christmas with a Pixel phone. In fact, there is every chance that there will be one or two Pixel phones sitting underneath various Christmas trees around the world waiting to be unwrapped. If you are one of those hoping that Santa does bring you a Pixel for Christmas this year, then you probably are already aware that you are in for a treat.

While this is effectively a debut smartphone, it is one of significantly quality. Of course, it is also one which costs significantly, but that cost is not for nothing. You will be getting a premium built device which comes with a great design and a whole host of top-notch specs to rival any major flagship smartphone currently on the market. In fact, when it comes to the camera, you are very much in for something special. While Google announced that the Pixel (and the Pixel XL) come equipped with the best DxOMark-rating to date, you don’t have to rely on the company marketing. Just ask any owner of the Pixel and they will likely tell you that while it has suffered from some software teething issues, it really is one of, if not the best, smartphone camera experience currently available.

The hardware is only one half of what is on offer with the Pixel though. As this is a smartphone which places Android at the heart of the user experience. Unlike the Nexus range (which came with Android as it was released to other smartphone manufacturers), the Pixel comes with a tweaked version which is specifically intended for the Pixel and Pixel XL. One which includes notable features like the integrated use of the Google Assistant. So inside and out, if this is a smartphone that is waiting for you under your Christmas tree this year, you will not be disappointed. You are getting an excellent smartphone which has been designed from top to bottom with an Android user (and probably some iPhone users) in mind.

That said, if you do become a Christmas Pixel owner, you will not be alone as in spite of this being Pixel’s first Christmas, it does seem as though the Pixel and the Pixel XL are off to a flying start in terms of sales. While hard numbers have yet to be provided by Google, the reports that have come through do keep confirming that the Pixel and Pixel XL are moving pretty well - and especially for a debut phone. In fact, reports on this started coming through fairly rapidly after the device(s) first went on sale, with data suggesting that after only the first week of availability, the Pixel(s) were already selling better than the Nexus 6P. Although that might seem like an obvious statement to some, it is worth keeping in mind that the Pixel and the Pixel XL are largely only available through Google, Best Buy and Verizon. So in reality while they are more available than the Nexus range ever was, it is not like they are as available as other flagship devices, like the iPhone or the Samsung Galaxy S7. Not to mention, when you then also consider that these are expensive smartphones (which do compete at the iPhone and Galaxy S7 price level) - it becomes even more impressive that the Pixels are selling as well as suggested. A trend that many expect to continue going forward, with recent reports stating that Morgan Stanley expects that in 2017, the Pixel line could see revenue close to $4 billion for Google - with 5-6 million units sold during the year.

Which naturally leads us to the future of the Pixel range. It seems somewhat counter-intuitive to assume that the Pixel and the Pixel XL will remain the only devices in the Pixel range. After all, Google has spent a lot of money on marketing these two devices and all indications from Google is that they do intend to continue with the Pixel line of smartphones for the foreseeable future. Although unfortunately with this being a debut phone, it does mean that we do not have much in the way of foresight on what will be on offer when the Pixel line returns for its second Christmas. As there is no real benchmark for Google devices like this, it is somewhat difficult to guess what the next Pixel will be like. While the Nexus range is technically a predecessor line, it was also a line which consistently switched between manufacturers - with each manufacturer bringing their own unique design to each generational device. That is very unlikely to be the case next year and it would be a safe bet to assume the second-generation Pixel(s) will be much more akin to this generation. Not dissimilar to the micro-evolution often noted with the iPhone.

For instance, it does seem unlikely that Google will want to gamble too much with the features, the specs or the design. What is far more likely is that the next Pixel will be very much in line with Google’s ethos of offering (what some might consider) a plainer-looking device. One which lacks any of the current major design deviations seen from other manufacturers, like ‘Edges’, modules, and so on. Instead, the Pixel 2 - if that is what it is called - will probably keep to Google’s core vision of providing a straightforward hardware and software experience. Although, it also does seem very likely that certain departments, like the camera, and the ‘intelligence’ factor, will continue to be the big selling points. The Pixel, just better and more refined.

Of course, this is all up for debate at the moment. As after all, this is Pixel’s first Christmas and that does mean that it is almost impossible to guess where Google will take Pixel next year. While it stands to reason that they will want to continue along the same design and ethos lines as the current Pixel, with Google, you just never know what is around the corner. Google may feel that next year is the time to really strike while the Pixel iron is hot and announce a device which is unlike anything currently available. Not to mention, Google has a wealth of pools to draw unique functionality from, including the likes of Daydream and Tango. So in all honestly, the next Pixel could be a whole different ballgame. While the speculation on what Google will bring to the Pixel table next will be a hot topic next year, until then, it is worth taking a moment to welcome the Pixel and the Pixel XL to this year's Android Christmas party.

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About the Author
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John Anon

Editor-in-Chief
John has been writing about and reviewing tech products since 2014 after making the transition from writing about and reviewing airlines. With a background in Psychology, John has a particular interest in the science and future of the industry. Besides adopting the Managing Editor role at AH John also covers much of the news surrounding audio and visual tech, including cord-cutting, the state of Pay-TV, and Android TV. Contact him at [email protected]
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