Every major Android manufacturer offers exclusive features in their flagship devices – for example, the Galaxy Note 7 offers the S-Pen and related apps, the LG G5 and Moto Z offer attachable modules and LG’s V20 offers unparalleled sound quality and is the first phone to launch with Android 7.0 Nougat. What they don’t have is anything on the level of the Pixel phones Google announced on October 4. Even if they tried, they couldn’t because they only have third-party access to what makes Android special: Google services.
Sure, Samsung has Gear VR, which Google’s Daydream VR will compete with (and undercut in price by the way). Apple has Siri and Samsung has S-Voice, both of which Google Assistant will be competing with. Also, the Pixel phones lack detachable modules and onboard audio to rival the V20 (not even front-facing speakers like last year’s Nexus 6P). None of that matters. If you have an iPhone, a Galaxy S7 or Note 7, a G5 or a Moto Z you should either take advantage of a trade-in program offered by Verizon or a retailer or you should sell it on Swappa and get a Pixel.
Why make the change? Let’s start with the virtual assistant. The disadvantage Google Now (the predecessor to Google Assistant) had against Siri was its lack of natural-language chops. Its advantage was its access to your personal Google data (provided you use other Google services such as Gmail, Photos or Google+) and Google’s AI (artificial intelligence) technology. Nobody else does search as well as Google, and now they have natural-language skills with Google Assistant. Siri and S-Voice just lost much of their advantage.
What about VR? How does Daydream VR compare to Gear VR/Oculus VR? In terms of hardware, the Daydream headset undercuts the Gear VR by $20. Only $20 cheaper, you say? Well that’s if you don’t need a controller (if you really want the full VR experience, you do). Daydream VR comes with a controller while the Gear VR with a controller will set you back about $70 more.
While the OS-integrated Google Assistant and Daydream VR have significant advantages over their counterparts, the Pixel phones have one killer feature that no other 2016 flagship phones offer: live chat with tech support which includes screen sharing (though Amazon’s now-defunct Fire Phone had Mayday, a superior live support feature built into the OS). We might see this in 2017 flagships (along with Daydream VR support), but they’re not here yet and won’t be until we’re well into next year.
When you add instant updates to the latest version of Android, the Pixel Launcher’s unique user interface, Smart Storage (automatically removes photos and videos that are already backed up to the cloud when your storage space is nearly full) and unlimited original-quality storage of photos and videos in Google Photos, the Pixel phone becomes even more compelling.
Other phones have (or will have) the capability to support Daydream VR. Siri and S-Voice will continue to improve and may even be better than Google Assistant in some aspects. Other 2016 flagships have features that the Pixel phones lack. However, none of them have the complete package of killer Pixel features, and none of their exclusive non-Pixel features are killer.
If you’re a Nexus enthusiast (like me) suffering sticker shock at the price, you might want to keep what you have if you’re unable to find the loose change between your couch cushions to afford a Pixel phone. If you have a recent flagship phone, you’ve already demonstrated your ability to afford a Pixel phone because you already shelled out the same amount of money for the phone you have now. Granted your trade-in or selling price won’t cover all the ground needed to get a Pixel, but if the difference is within your reach I highly recommend doing so.