Pixel looks like an iPhone, minus the “unsightly” camera bump, takes amazing photos and videos like an iPhone, offers unlimited storage for those images and looks like it does good VR.
These facts have me considering jumping ship from Apple seriously for the first time since 2007.
I’ve been an iPhone owner since the first generation, but over the last few years I’ve purchased Samsung phones for VR too. While I’m deeply embedded in the Apple ecosystem, Pixel tempts me more than ever before to consider leaving Apple behind completely. Just how embedded am I with Apple? I basically didn’t talk to my family for a week during a recent outage caused by my need to repair the iPhone because our iMessage chat group didn’t port over to Android. If I ever want to jump ship, I have to convince my family to use a different app to chat with one another.
And it’s a jump I’m thinking about making, made more tempting by the promise that if I do decide to “switch,” even my iMessages will come over to Pixel.
Overall, the big draw for me is two-fold.
- Google is claiming Pixel has a better camera than the iPhone 7 (though they didn’t mention the 7+) and it is pairing that camera with unlimited full resolution storage of photos and videos shot with the device.
- Google is releasing Pixel alongside the Daydream View reference VR headset that will offer experiences to compete with Samsung’s Gear VR.
Google knows running out of storage on an iPhone is one of the most annoying moments for an Apple owner, and it already solved that problem through Google Photos. You get unlimited storage for free when you use the app on an iPhone, and the photos are easily searchable so it is easy to find your images again. Unfortunately, the photos aren’t kept at their full resolution. Instead, Google stores “high quality” versions said to be “good for typical printing and sharing.” Not the same with Google Pixel. Google says it will store all videos and photos shot with the phone at full resolution, including 4K videos.
Overall, with this one device and its supporting services, Google has completely eliminated concern about how I’m going to store, or find, my photos and videos. Simultaneously, the company is reclaiming that storage space for apps and VR experiences — the things that make phones so alluring. By giving my phone an unlimited camera roll, Google has also given me a blank slate to install all the software I want on a single device.
I’m not saying I’m jumping ship immediately — but Google Photos has been far and away a better product for storing photos when compared with Apple’s own “optimize iPhone Storage” option, which moves full resolution images off the device to save space. When I’ve wanted to find photos using an iPhone that have been moved to Apple’s cloud, I found it took too long to view that full resolution image again. Google’s cloud is simply faster, and that matters when trying to find a photo quickly that’s buried in the archives.
In Pixel, Google has taken the most exciting things about phones — the images they capture and the apps they run — and made them complementary. You don’t have to choose between taking a photo or installing an app anymore, and if you’re getting the $80 Daydream headset for free, that means you’ll have that much more space for storage-eating VR apps.
Pixel appears to hit Apple squarely where it counts most today — photo quality. The phone will succeed or fail on this feature alone. But Pixel is also the leading device in a push for a number of Android VR phones that could draw developer attention to the new medium. For years people have been drawn to iOS because of its quality apps alongside the quality of the camera, but if developers start investing time and money in Daydream VR apps instead of iOS because they see a promising new market, it could mark the beginning of a reversal to that trend.
Eventually more impressive VR devices than Daydream will arrive powered by Google, like an all-in-one headset that doesn’t require a phone or an HMD capable of inside-out position tracking, and when that happens these early efforts with Cardboard and Daydream could pay off handsomely. If that shift occurs, Google would own a major head start versus Apple in offering a library of VR content for the new medium. That’s why Apple CEO Tim Cook needs to worry. The company’s focus on the long game might be running out of time.
Of course, Facebook and Samsung are also playing this game and we still have yet to see what they will announce at Oculus Connect 3 later this week.