Google first entered the phone business in 2010 by partnering with third-party hardware manufacturers for its Google Nexus line, but it wasn't until 2016 that the tech giant went all-in on its own phone with the Google Pixel.
The Google Pixel smartphone line is powered by Google's own Android operating system and competes with other high-end phones like Apple's iPhone and Samsung's Galaxy S handsets.
What to consider when choosing a Google phone
These days, new smartphone models seem to arrive every other week, each touting a bevy of fancy new features promising to improve your life in all manner of exciting ways. Determining which of these features is actually worth your money isn't always easy, so we've broken down the key factors to keep in mind when shopping for a Google phone:
Unlike many Android-based phones, Google's Pixel handsets do not come with a microSD card slot for expanding their storage capacity beyond their internal limits. While it is possible to add more storage using USB-C flash drives and microSD to USB-C adapters that require additional cables and dongles, these are not an ideal solution. Instead, it's better to choose a Pixel handset with sufficient internal storage for your needs, whether that be 32GB, 64GB or 128GB.
Google offers two models of each of its Pixel handsets: a standard model with a 5-inch screen and an XL model with a larger screen. Choosing between the two typically comes down to whether you prefer portability or more screen real estate for navigating websites and interacting with apps.
As high-end smartphones, all Google Pixel handsets carry a premium price tag. You can offset this slightly by signing up for a contract plan with an Australian mobile provider and paying the phone off over the course of 24 months or more. However, you'll still be spending a pretty penny to get your hands on a Pixel handset. A more budget-friendly option is to consider picking up an older Pixel model, since these tend to drop in price significantly once a newer model hits store shelves.
Apple isn't the only company to cop flak for removing the headphone jack from its phones. While the first generation of Pixel handsets included a 3.5mm connection, the Pixel 2 handsets do not, necessitating the use of an adaptor to hook up a regular set of wired headphones. Fortunately, Google packs in one of these adaptors with its Pixel 2 handsets.
If you're concerned about strangers getting their hands on your personal data, you'll be glad to know that both generations of Google Pixel handsets include fingerprint sensors for added security when unlocking your phone, authorising purchases through Google Play and activating certain apps.
The camera is one of the strongest selling points of all models of the Google Pixel. Packing a 12MP sensor and sporting plenty of extra features like smart autofocus, image stabilisation and the exclusive ability to record 4K video, the Pixel is more than capable of serving as your primary camera for everything from holiday happy snaps to near professional-quality photography.
While not as powerful as the rear-facing camera, all Google Pixel handsets feature a front-facing camera capable of taking some pretty impressive selfies. With an 8MP sensor and a f/2.4 aperture, you shouldn't have any trouble capturing glamour shots worth posting to Facebook.
As mobile networks get faster, so too must the phones we use to connect to them. Phones with support for higher-category network speeds are able to squeeze more performance out of their mobile connections, and Google's Pixel handsets feature some of the highest network speeds currently available. The original Pixel line supported up to Category 11 speeds, while the Pixel 2 line goes all the way up to Category 15. For more information on what this means in practice, check out our Network Category speeds guide.
With the Pixel 2, Google added a fast-charging feature that can deliver up to seven hours of use from a 15-minute charge. While that seven-hour figure is based on what Google defines as "average use" and may be less depending on how frequently you pull out your phone, it's still an impressive feature that is especially handy for those constantly on the go.
Battery life continues to be a thorn in the side of every smartphone, but Google's Pixel handsets rank better than most in the high-end marketplace. All models will survive a full day under typical use, and thanks to the Pixel 2's fast-charging feature, stopping for a quick top-up isn't as frustrating as it is with many modern phones.
No matter how careful you are with your phone, you can never fully avoid the possibility of subjecting it to an unexpected bath. Thankfully, most modern smartphones are built with this in mind, which is why you see many touting their IP rating as a prominent feature. Google took quite a bit of criticism for the IP53 rating of the original Pixel, as this only protected the phone against spraying water. Thankfully, it rectified this with the Pixel 2, upgrading the rating to IP67 which promises protection even when submerged in up to 1m of water.
Given their premium pricing, it's no surprise that Google's Pixel handsets are among the top performers in their respective markets. Performance can mean a great many things, however, so be sure to read reviews (including our own) and look to benchmark tests for an indication of how a particular model will perform under real-life conditions.
Which Google phone is best?
"Best" is always a tricky term to nail down, as it often means different things to different people. Admittedly, choosing a "best" Google phone is easier than it is for many handsets simply because there are only four different Pixel models to compare. Nevertheless, our choice below is based on our own experience and expertise reviewing and testing phones. Be sure to weigh up your own needs and budget before deciding whether it's the right choice for you.
Google Pixel 3
Top-notch performance for Android enthusiasts
The Google Pixel 3 provides the best of Android and Google's own vision of a premium smartphone that's uniquely Google-centric.
Since most of us don't have a spare $1,000 in our wallets, purchasing a new Google Pixel phone outright is a lot to ask. Paying the handset off in instalments over two years or more is far more palatable, which is why contract phone plans are so popular. You can compare these plans for the 64GB models of the Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL in the table below. If you want to fine-tune the results, just click the "Filter Results" button.
Matt Sayer is a writer for Finder, covering all things technology and telecommunications. Along with reporting on events like CES and Mobile World Congress, he has produced comprehensive guides for popular products like smart speakers and graphics cards. He has a Bachelor of Computer Science from RMIT University and is passionate about helping Aussies leverage technology to better their lives.
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