To a lot of Android enthusiasts, today marks a special anniversary. It was five years ago today that the Pixel range was announced to the public, marking the next step in Google’s smartphone journey. I still remember the first advert for the Google Pixel back in October of 2016, along with all the hype surrounding the launch. At the center of it all was the news that Google would be making its own hardware to integrate with their own software, fondly known to enthusiasts as the “Pixel experience.” This also indicated the death of the Nexus range, and while some people mourned the death of the Nexus brand, there was no denying the build-up of excitement surrounding Google’s first proper step into smartphone hardware.
Fast-forward to today – over the past five years we’ve seen a lot of things that changed in the smartphone game. We are seeing multiple cameras with crazy zoom capabilities, 120hz refresh rate displays, and let’s not forget the current trend of foldable smartphones.
I want to take a look back and a deep dive at the original Pixel, and see what it had to offer at the time in 2016. Back then we were blessed to have a flagship Snapdragon 821 SoC (which was Qualcomm’s top end processor at the time) with 4GB of RAM and a QHD Amoled display – these were both seen on the regular Pixel and the larger XL model. At the time Google was competing with the likes of Samsung’s Galaxy S7, the Apple iPhone 7 and a line of impressive smartphones from OnePlus which back then, featured killer specs.
All these seemed like intimidating competition – a lot of these companies of course had tons of experience in the smartphone market. But there was one thing that Google did (and continues to do so) better than any of these phones, and that was the impressive camera capabilities on the Pixels. This was one of the best smartphone cameras at the time and It was easily just as good as the iPhone 7 and Samsung Galaxy S7 back in 2016, if not better in most situations.
Taking a look back at the camera hardware the original pixel was using a Sony IMX378 sensor with a f2.0 lens aperture. In 2016, this was top-notch hardware and when combined with Google’s amazing software, HDR processing, resulted in impressive camera performance. Even to this day, this is why I still use a Pixel for my smartphone photography. I’m actually still using the Pixel 4XL, although I think it’s fair to say that over the years Google kinda slacked off with its camera hardware, but always managed to back it up with their computational photography.
With all that said, I think it’s exciting that for the first time in four generations we are going to see some brand new camera hardware in the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, which I can honestly say I am excited to see and in theory should make the Pixel camera king once again.
It’s fair to say the original Pixel was one of Google’s most premium phones to date with the best hardware at launch. This year, all our eyes now turn to the new flagship Pixel 6 Pro where we finally get to see a real high-end Google phone with the latest hardware, and their highly-anticipated Tensor chip.