The Google Pixel 7 series is close, and the company’s hardware has taken many turns over the years. We wanted to take a trip down memory lane and explore each of the Pixel smartphones that have been launched over the years and talk about some of their notable features upon launch.
Google’s Pixel series has a strange long way to get to where we are now, as some of the original devices in the series are completely unrecognizable from what we know about the series now. The focus on software features has always been consistent, but the company has made some strange decisions along the way.
Google Pixel 1, as the name suggests, is the first Pixel phone ever launched. It packed a completely new design against previous Nexus hardware in the series and the beginnings of Google’s software savvy. We’ve seen one of the best cameras in a smartphone to date, the introduction of EAS ahead of the rest of the competition for fast and smooth scrolling, and the Google Assistant being introduced in Android for the first time. This side of the camera just got even better with unlimited native storage on Google Photos promised to users for life.
Of course, it wasn’t without his problems either. It was more expensive compared to previous Nexus smartphones, and the screen was a little dim for reading in sunlight. However, this set the tone that Google wasn’t here to play, and that it was starting to take its smartphone business seriously as a de facto flagship product.
Oh, also, the Google Daydream View VR headset natively supported. This product (and daydreams in general) is dead now, by the way. The last update this device received was in December of 2019, and it left it on Android 10.
Google Pixel 2
The entire drive for the Google Pixel 2 was improvement over the first Pixel, and it did so in several key areas. In the beginning, there was actually two Variants offered – Standard Edition, and XL for those who prefer a larger phone screen. The smaller variant is made by HTC and the larger variant is made by LG, with the larger version of HTC being redeveloped into the HTC U11 Plus.
As for the improvements, the company has doubled down on the camera and Google Assistant experience. Introduced ‘Active Edge’ which can be used to call the assistant at any time by pressing the side of your phone, also introduced the Google Lens app. Even better is the introduction of Now Playing, a feature similar to the always-listening Shazam music. To this day, this is still one of my favorite Pixel-exclusive features, although you can get it on any device now thanks to the mod.
One of the biggest and most interesting features that were introduced, looking back, was the introduction of the Pixel Visual Core. It was an image processor dedicated solely to photography and video and laid the foundation for the company’s project in dedicated chips years later. Nowadays we see companies like OPPO and Xiaomi doing this, but Google was one of the first.
The latest update that both devices received was a December 2020 security patch, leaving them on Android 11.
Google Pixel 3
The Google Pixel 3 is where things are starting to go a little downhill for Google, and there are two reasons for that. The first is entirely design related, and to be honest I’m not really sure Google didn’t see the problem when it was building the Google Pixel 3 XL. This was the slit leaked.
However, while the rest of the phone did very well at launch with better photos, dual front camera, several camera features, and more, a lot of issues were discovered during the life cycle of this product. However, even then, this phone was a huge problem upon its launch. Night Sight introduced its first, Super Res Zoom, and Top Shot, taking advantage of the Pixel Visual Core provided in the Pixel 2 for better quality photos and videos.
These devices also introduced wireless charging for the Pixel series for the first time, launching along with the Pixel Stand with support up to 10W.
Google Pixel 4
The Google Pixel 4 has continued the Pixel lineup’s decline in the eyes of enthusiasts, although it has once again amassed a number of improvements. This time around, there were a lot of issues the Pixel 4. Between removing the fingerprint sensor in favor of Soli, the company’s face unlock tech, poor battery life, and removing the Pixel-exclusive’s unlimited original quality photo storage from Google Photos, Google was noted to be holding back a bit. . The Pixel 4 XL also has a larger top bezel than the bottom, which looks out of place when it’s usually in reverse.
It wasn’t all bad though. The 4 XL saw the debut of the Pixel’s 90Hz screen, Motion Sense that allowed you to use gestures via the phone’s Soli sensors (although they don’t always work), and a second telephoto camera on the back. What was particularly annoying when it came to Soli was that, since it uses the 60GHz spectrum for the radar, it requires licensing in countries to operate, otherwise it is geo-blocked.
What is particularly interesting to look back now is that with this hardware, the Pixel Visual Core has been replaced by the Pixel Neural Core. Google was scarce in the details, but basically, it was an improvement over the Pixel Visual Core. This phone may have just received its latest update as the official support window recently expired. It is currently running Android 13.
Google Pixel 5
This phone ruffled some feathers when it was launched, and for several reasons. The biggest reason is that with the Pixel 5, this was the first phone in the series that didn’t have a major chipset. Google Pixel 5 came with Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G processor, which is top notch mid range Slices. However, the company has kept all the same software features it’s always had, all the while offering more.
However, there’s no doubt that this was an odd entry into the Pixel lineup. I ditched the Pixel Neural Core, Soli, and Active Edge, and went straight to Qualcomm for a mid-range chipset with no changes, naming it today. The Pixel 4 was, in the eyes of many, a better buy. While I loved the Pixel 5 and still think it totally deserves the flagship title, it was a bit of a joke that its predecessor was probably a better phone in many ways.
This is where Google began doubling down on some of the exclusive software features, introducing the call screen and personal security app. It also brought the Extreme Battery Saver and it was basically a pretty good phone in all respects. The Pixel 5 is expected to be supported until 2023.
Google Pixel 6
The Google Pixel 6 comes until last year, which is where Google has essentially reinvented much of its smartphone ecosystem. The Pixel 6 series has taken a completely new design with updated camera modules, a dedicated chipset, and a much larger software support window. The company also got rid of the “XL” variants, and instead made a Pro and non-Pro version.
In the case of the Pro, you get an additional telephoto camera that supports up to four times zoom. You also get a 50MP primary and 12MP ultra-wide sensor on both the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro. Both devices come with wireless charging, the latest Android versions, and high refresh rate screens.
The future of the Google Pixel series is currently unknown, though Pixel 7 series leaks suggest that this time around it will be more of a iteration on the Pixel 6 series rather than another radical reinvention of the wheel. We’ll be waiting to see what the company comes up with during the launch event, and we’re excited to see the future of the Pixel series and what Google brings next.