Google Pixel XL may be the best phone in the world and you don’t know it

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When you decide to plunk down more than Rs 50,000 on a phone which probably will fall victim to obsolesce within a year or maybe two, then there are very specific things a buyer is looking at. And functional is just a minor part of the equation. You’re looking for a couple of things –

1. Brand value: By this I mean you’re looking for a product which doesn’t only look nice but it is by a brand which is of global appeal and of repute. The product can get away with average looks, but for a person spending more than 50 quid, the brand has to be there, because it is to be noticed in his/her social circle and define what kind of a person he/she is.

2. Best in class: The gadget has to be best in class in every sense of the word. That means the phone has to be the fastest one around and it should be the best in the business for at least a year and it should have the best software and camera.

3. Peace of mind: This basically means hassle free service and the best customer experience.

4. Something iconic: Icons aren’t just made out of good products, but icons are made out of things that are marketed well and everyone knows one when they see it.

And believe it or not, for the part Google has exactly created that in the form of the Pixel. It is the iPhone equivalent of Android and perhaps better. In the coming months we will know if this is true or not, but don’t be surprised if Google largely manages to pull this off with the Pixel line of smartphones. Allow me to deconstruct this.

In India, Google is the most revered technology brand. It is higher up in the pecking order than Apple and even in Silicon Valley it has a similar perception. It has 7 products that are used by over a billion people and most of these people are highly dependent on these services. The company is known to be at the bleeding edge of technology.

With the Pixel, it may not have the most attractive phone, but it does have a phone that bears its name. The Pixel is the Google phone at the end of the day. It is the Google brand you buy into and you flaunt not the weird looks of the Pixel.

And it is a damn functional phone. It certainly is the best Android phone I’ve ever used. It has the smartest and most responsive software in the form of Android 7.1 Nougat which is baked in with the new Google Assistant that massifies AI assistants the way even Apple hasn’t managed with Siri. It blends this in a package that’s almost as performant as an iPhone and perceptibly most users wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.

While doing so, Google managed to upend Apple in the photography department which is a crucial factor in decision making process for this generation of millennials who dwell more on the interwebs, Instagrams and SnapChats of this world. The Pixel also offers critically better battery life than the iPhone 7 and charges faster.

It also happens to be the best place on mobile to experience Google’s 7 services which are used by over a billion people. More so than an iPhone because Google can do that kind of an optimisation for its own products.

Google is also pitching the Pixel brand head-on against Apple and Samsung and claiming it to be something iconic. That’s why it charges a premium of Rs 57,000 for the 32GB model of the phone. That’s why the Airports and roads are flooded with hoardings of the Pixel right alongside Apple’s iPhone and Microsoft’s Surface tablets and that’s why we’re seeing a massive marketing push on television.

Unlike a new Galaxy every 6 months, expect Google to stick to a yearly cadence of the launch of new Pixel phone alongside a new version of Android. Google has also built a support system inside the Pixel providing 24×7 support. In India, it still doesn’t have the man power to provide on ground support the way Apple does, but the way Google treats its customers one can expect a pain free experience.

A couple of months ago I was having issues accessing Google Play Music which wasn’t launched in India. Years ago I managed to crack into the service when it launched so that I could use it in India. When I contacted the Google service folks, instead of shooing me away they helped me out and I am still using Google Play Music. That kind of a customer focused attitude gives me hope and for the same the company has tied up with HTC’s network to provide on-ground support.

Pixel owners may not get the sterling treatment that Apple provides iPhone owners with but there is hope that in the future it could have that kind of a cachet. At the moment, the Pixel is easily one of the two best smartphones in the world. The other one being the iPhone. Depending which operating system you like more – iOS or Android – the Pixel could be the best phone for you and yet, you may not know it.

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Google Pixel XL may be the best phone in the world and you don’t know it