After a number of years of being apparently content to play the industry underdog with their third-party engineered Nexus smartphones, Google has finally unveiled a pair of smartphones of their very own, the Google Pixel and Pixel XL – with Google helming the phones’ full design and specifications themselves for the first time. And, keeping in line with the vast increases in mobile phone photography exploding around the world, the tech giant looks like they’ve put a lot of emphasis on the Pixel’s imaging capabilities – in fact scoring the highest ever mark for a smartphone camera on review lab DxOMark.
The Pixel and Pixel XL both feature a 12.3-million-pixel sensor with an f/2 6-element lens on the front, roughly in line with this year’s flagship smartphone releases (the iPhone 7 and Samsung Galaxy S7 both feature 12MP cameras) and a quite impressive 8MP f/2.4 front-facing camera. Over on the video side of things, the Pixel phones are capable of 4K recording at 30fps and 1080p video at 120fps. But it’s really the behind-the-scenes software that power the Pixel.
Smartphone photography expert, Lars Rehm, says: “In terms of camera hardware, the Google Pixel is pretty similar to several other current high-end smartphones. However, it’s the software that sets the Google device apart. Instead of capturing just one exposure, the Pixel’s HDR+ mode records several frames at faster than usual shutter speeds and uses image stacking methods to merge them digitally into one image. This results in better detail, lower noise levels and increased dynamic range at all light levels. Thanks to more image processing power on the Pixel, this is now happening so fast that there is no noticeable delay and HDR+ can be activated by default.”
Another noticeable difference in the Pixel is the inability to expand the phone’s memory with an external microSD card, which may perplex keen photographers. However, Google intend to woo them by including unlimited storage space through Google Images for full-resolution photos and even 4K videos – rendering their Pixel very much a cloud device.
Other Pixel features that might interest users are the integration of Google Assistant, an upgraded version of Google Now, which will be familiar to those using previous Android devices, Android’s Nougat 7.1 OS, and compatibility with Google’s affordability-focused Daydream View VR headset.
The Google Pixel will go on sale in the UK from 20 October 2016, from £519 (£719 for the Pixel XL).