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In late 2016 and early 2017, Google Pixel and its bigger variant Pixel XL have been much-admired phones in the flagship market.
No doubt, Google’s first #madebygoogle phones are excellent devices and can easily be laced near the top of the pile at the time of writing this article.
But how do they feel like from the design and build quality perspective?
If you are a design-enthusiast, it is the time to explore this key area of the Pixel flagship phone. For many (including me), design is important in a flagship phone. It shows our personality and it demonstrates what we care about and our standards.
I have had a Google Pixel for nearly three weeks now. The Quite Black version. At present it is only available in two other colour variants, the Very Silver and the Really Blue. Great phone, no doubt about it, but when it comes to the design and how it looks like, I am a critic and like to explore the things to the “nth” degree.
This time, I have my Google Pixel (the 5 inch version) under the microscope.
Can it beat an elegant design of the OnePlus 3 and 3T from the last year?
Or stand shoulder to shoulder with more established designs from the 2016 such as S7 Edge and HTC 10 etc.?
And how will it compare to the new breed of flagships in 2017 such as LG G6 and Galaxy S8 etc.?
Pixel is a typical rectangular slab-look from the front with well rounded corners.
It looks decent and sober. No nonsense and straight to the point. The 5 inch full HD screen sits nicely in the center with small bezels however, at the top and bottom, the bezels are a decent size, but still acceptable. The glass is slightly curved at the edges (not flat) as it touches the sides. So choose your screen protectors carefully, the glass is not flat all the way to the edges.
Google claims to use the 2.5D Corning Gorilla Glass 4 in the Pixel range devices. 2.5D is just a name given to the slight curve around the edges as explained above.
It is hard to call it a stunning design from the front. There is not much wow. It looks mainstream. It resembles a lot with the iPhone 6, 6S and 7 from the front.
However, there is not much to criticise here either. Except a bit boring, technically, it is a sound look from the front.
Google Pixel’s back is split into two main parts. The top glass shade and the bottom metal part.
Let us talk about the ugly part first – I mean the glass top.
According to this article on Forbes, Google said that “the rear glass creates a bold iconic element that gives Pixel personality and character.”
Sorry, I beg to differ.
In my opinion it is a sore eye. It does not fit with the overall premium feel of the device and appears to be something which is there as a need. Perhaps it is required to boost the antenna performance.
My point is that other phones have managed to do it with thin bands of plastic only. What made Google to have a glass section that big?
Coming to the bottom part which is metal, it is premium-feel, well made and looks elegant. Google calls it an aerospace-grade metal. It is mostly flat but rounds off nicely around the edges. Towards the bottom part, there is a thin plastic band again which is perhaps for the same purpose – antenna performance.
I have been using the Pixel for a month now without any case or protective cover at the back. The metal body and the glass shade did not attract any marks or scratches at all from the day to day use. So I am assuming that HTC (under Google’s umbrella) has given us the same or better standard of materials here as their reputation from their M8, M9 and M10 range devices.
Overall, a decent design again from the back view but I won’t call it stunning.
There is no separate frame or band around the sides of the device. It is all one piece of metal which extends from the back and rolls over the edges.
The cut-lines (two contour lines joining the curved parts to the middle flat bit) are distinct and create a visually appealing design from the sides. These lines and contours help to grip the phone better. Although occasionally, I found the phone to be a touch difficult to handle. With the constant use, I am getting better at it and there are no concerns over handling or slipperiness of the phone.
The button placement is excellent. The volume rocker and power button are on the right, audio jack on the top, sim card tray on the left and two speaker grilles and USB type C on the bottom. This is perhaps my favourite combination of buttons and controls on the sides of any smartphone.
With the overall dimensions of 143.8 x 69.5 x 8.5 mm, Pixel is a comfortable size to sit on your palm (remember this is the normal version not the XL variant)
The 143 grams don’t feel heavy or awkward to handle on a day to day basis considering it is metal and not plastic.
There is no SD card expansion slot but frankly speaking, I don’t feel the need for one anyway. Most of my stuff is stored on cloud and I am normally connected to the internet most of the times, so never feel a deep need for memory expansion.
The IP rating for dust and water could have been better in comparison to the rest of the competition but again, IP53 is good enough for me.
I have got no major complaints against the design of the Pixel or Pixel XL devices.
The design is not stunning.
It is good but not great.
“It will get my 7.5 out of 10 for design – feels good”
It was the first all #madebygoogle device and should have been a stunner on the design and look. While the material quality used in construction and finishing is superb, it is the purely the finesse and visual aesthetics, where it perhaps lacks.
At this level of competition and with a hefty price tag against its name, I am not hesitant to call it a boring design.
It could have been better.
A great phone but weak on design and aesthetics.
What do you think?
If you are paying premium price for a flagship device, should you not expect a bit more on the design and feel?