At this point, there are very few people on the planet who donâ€™t know the word Google. The companyâ€™s web search product is part of daily life now for billions of people, with even the term â€œGoogle itâ€� becoming something we say regularly.
While lots of people know all about Googleâ€™s web presence, the hardware products the company offers might confuse some. Between its line of Pixel smartphones, its smart home offerings under its Nest branding, and its latest entries in the audio space, thereâ€™s a lot to parse through. This article should help clear up any confusion!
Below, youâ€™ll find all the info you need on the current state of Google hardware. We also include a quick primer on each type of product the company offers, giving special consideration to its Pixel phones (this is Android Authority, after all).
Who is Google?
Simply put, Google is one of the biggest and most successful companies in the history of humanity. Starting in 1998, co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin rolled out the Google search engine, a simple way to find things on the internet. It was an immediate sensation.
Over time, Google pushed out more software-based services. These include the worldâ€™s most popular email platform, Gmail; Google Calendar, the gold standard for online scheduling; Google Maps, which is used by a billion people every month; and Google AdSense, the advertising platform that earns the company the bulk of its revenue.
It wouldnâ€™t be until 2010, though, that Google would roll out its first official hardware product: the Nexus One, an Android-powered smartphone. Co-created with HTC, the Nexus One represented the companyâ€™s first big push into the mobile world.
Lots of Nexus-branded phones and tablets would follow, each co-created by Google and another company. It wouldnâ€™t be until 2016, believe it or not, that Google would push out its first bonafide smartphone that it designed and produced itself. This would be known as the Google Pixel, the first entry in the Pixel phone line that still runs today.
Google has produced smartphones for over a decade, but it has many other hardware products as well.
Google has also created laptops that run on its Chrome OS platform, controllers for its cloud gaming service Stadia, home Wi-Fi routers, and media streaming devices. Itâ€™s also created a variety of smart home products that now exist under the Nest branding (Nest being a company that Google acquired in 2014 for $3.2 billion).
Although Google will likely always be thought of as a search engine first, its hardware offerings are becoming more popular than ever.
What does Google offer?
There are a few different categories of Googleâ€™s hardware offerings. Weâ€™ve broken them down for you below and included descriptions of the latest-and-greatest products within each category. In the next section down, youâ€™ll find a separate listing focused solely on Googleâ€™s smartphones.
One thing Google is known for is entering industries with gusto and then exiting shortly thereafter. As such, we are ignoring product categories from the company that are no longer active, such as Daydream (its one and only virtual reality product) and Clips (its short-lived standalone camera device).
Laptops and tablets
Google has released several different laptops and tablets over the years. These devices always run one of the two Google-owned operating systems: Android and Chrome OS. Google has never made a Windows, iOS, or macOS product.
Googleâ€™s most recent laptop is the Google Pixelbook Go from 2019. This iteration of the Pixelbook from 2017 is smaller and cheaper while coming in two new colors: Just Black and Not Pink. Although we suspect there will eventually be a Pixelbook 2, we have no confirmation of when we might see that launch.
Pink is the new black.
The most recent tablet in the family is the Pixel Slate. Similar to the line of Microsoft Surface 2-in-1 PCs, the Pixel Slate is a Chrome OS-powered tablet that is designed to act as a laptop when connected to the optional keyboard. Unfortunately, Google has announced its intentions to exit the tablet market entirely, so the Pixel Slate is expected to be the first and last of its kind.
It has been nearly five years since Google released an Android-powered tablet, and itâ€™s never launched an Android-powered laptop. However, most recent Chrome OS devices â€” including the Pixelbook Go and Pixel Slate â€” support Android applications.
The Google Nest smart home
Nest Labs started in 2010 and quickly released its first product: a Wi-Fi-connected learning thermostat. It eventually launched smart smoke/CO2 detectors as well as its first home security camera.
Related:Â Smart home devices: The best you can buy
Google bought Nest in 2014. Since then, the company has issued updated versions of the companyâ€™s original products while also launching a few new ones. Every Nest product is centered on a few main characteristics: Wi-Fi and internet-connection, integration with Google Assistant, and designed exclusively for in-home use.
Most recently, Google launched the Nest Thermostat, a simpler and cheaper version of the Nest Learning Thermostat. Itâ€™s the perfect entry point for people just putting together their smart home.
A cheaper, better looking thermostat
The Nest Cam IQ is the companyâ€™s most recent security camera. There are indoor and outdoor models, but either one will notify you when the camera captures motion or sound.
A similar product is the Nest Hello, a video doorbell. It also has a motion/sound-activated camera but incorporates a doorbell chime. This device works well in tandem with the Nest x Yale smart lock, which does not feature a camera.
The most famous Nest products, though, are the ones that Google originally released under its own branding. These would be the Google Nest Mini (aka the Home Mini), which is one of the worldâ€™s most popular smart speakers. The Google Nest Hub (aka the Home Hub) is a similar product but features a touchscreen display.
Finally, the company offers a mesh router system called Google Nest Wifi. The latest version of this product incorporates the powers of a Nest Mini in the main base.
Gaming and entertainment
At the end of 2019, Google took the wraps off its very first product designed exclusively for gaming: the Google Stadia controller. The controller is designed to be used with the Stadia gaming service, which allows you to play games on Googleâ€™s cloud servers. This eliminates the need for you to own a high-end gaming PC or expensive home console, as you can stream a small selection of titles on your TV, laptop, or even your phone.
Related:Â What is cloud gaming?
Stadia is designed to work best on a TV with Googleâ€™s media streaming device, known as a Chromecast. The Chromecast is a small dongle that connects to an HDMI port on your television. Once connected to your home network, you can â€œcastâ€� media from your phone, tablet, or laptop to the screen. Early Chromecasts did not have a remote â€” you needed to control it from a separate device, which in most cases is an Android or iOS smartphone.
The latest Chromecast has Android TV built-in…and a remote!
However, in 2020 Google finally launched a Chromecast device that includes a remote: the Chromecast with Google TV. This device is aimed to directly compete with standalone media streamers, such as those from Roku and Amazon Fire TV. Keep in mind that, currently, this new Chromecast does not work with Stadia.
There have been quite a few audio-centric products from Google. Weâ€™ve already mentioned the Google Nest Mini smart speaker, but thatâ€™s hardly a traditional audio speaker. For better-sounding audio, the company offers the Google Nest Audio. This speaker does everything a Nest Mini does, but offers better sound quality.
The latest smart speaker from Google’s Nest brand.
If you need something more robust than even the Nest Audio, thereâ€™s the Google Home Max. This is even larger than the Nest Audio and offers premium sound quality. However, that speaker is quite old and will likely be replaced soon with a Nest-branded alternative.
Google also formerly offered a variant of its Chromecast dongle known as Chromecast Audio. It allowed you to cast audio streams to â€œdumbâ€� speakers you already own. This was a perfect solution for people who wanted a connected home speaker system but didnâ€™t want one of Googleâ€™s speakers. Unfortunately, the company has discontinued Chromecast Audio, although you can still find them if you look hard enough and are willing to pay a premium.
Google’s first true wireless earbuds
Google also makes wearable audio products, the latest of which is the new true wireless earbuds called Pixel Buds. These earbud headphones are meant to compete with Appleâ€™s industry-defining AirPods. Unlike AirPods, though, Pixel Buds incorporate Google Assistant heavily, featuring an easy-to-use touch interface and real-time language translation.
Google Pixel phones: A breakdown of your options
Googleâ€™s line of Pixel phones currently come in two varieties: the main numbered series and the â€œaâ€� series. The numbered series is filled with Googleâ€™s flagship smartphones while the â€œaâ€� series are budget-friendly riffs on the flagship phones with weaker specs and lower prices.
The Pixel line is notable for two major reasons: the camera and Android upgrades. Googleâ€™s camera software is some of the best in the industry, and it helps Pixel phones consistently land as one of the best smartphone cameras of each year. Additionally, every phone in the line receives the latest version of Android on the day of its stable launch.
Unfortunately, flagship Pixel phones tend to have lower-grade specs as compared to competitors. Poor battery life is also a consistent complaint across the entire line (although this was dramatically improved in 2020). That being said, Pixel phones are popular among tech enthusiasts.
Hereâ€™s the info you need on the two lines.
The flagship numbered series
At first, the flagship numbered series of Pixel phones were all Google offered. Each numbered entry would feature two phones: the â€œvanillaâ€� phone as well as the larger â€œXLâ€� variant. This started in 2016 with the Pixel and Pixel XL. Each year since, Google launched a new entry in the series. However, that trend ended last year with the Google Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL.
In 2020, Google only released one â€œflagshipâ€� phone: the Google Pixel 5. This phone doesnâ€™t have the flagship smartphone processor of the year (the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865) â€” it has the mid-range Snapdragon 765 instead. This makes it less powerful than other premium smartphones of 2020, but still enables 5G connections and keeps the phoneâ€™s price down.
Google’s first 5G smartphone
The best part about the Pixel 5, though, is that the company finally included a large-enough battery. While there are other phones that get better battery life still, the Pixel 5 is the first Google phone that actually gets good battery life as opposed to really poor battery life.
The â€œaâ€� series
The first â€œaâ€� series phone from Google was the Google Pixel 3a from 2019. This phone looked similar to the Pixel 3 from 2018 but cut a lot of corners when it comes to specs and design. This allowed the phone to have very similar software and camera experiences as the Pixel 3 but cost half as much.
Google released the second entry in this line with the Google Pixel 4a. Like its predecessor, it looks quite a bit like the Pixel 4 with very similar software and camera experiences. However, this time Google increased the overall specs as compared to the Pixel 3a (better processor, more RAM, more storage, etc.) while simultaneously lowering the price to just $349.
The best of Google for $349
The Pixel 4a is already one of the best-reviewed phones of the year at Android Authority and is a likely candidate. A 5G version of the phone â€” simply called the Pixel 4a 5G â€” launched later in the year for $499. It has better specs that put it right in the middle of the Pixel 4a and the Pixel 5. The two phones took third and second in our 2020 Editorâ€™s Choice Awards, getting just barely edged out by the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE.
Affordable 5G, Google-style
What sets Google apart from competitors?
If youâ€™ve used any Google services (and itâ€™s assured everyone reading this has), you already have an idea of what the companyâ€™s products â€œfeelâ€� like. That feeling â€” simplicity, playfulness, and imagination â€” carries over into the hardware and software designs of all its products. This is something that lots of other companies try to replicate, but Google has mastered.
That being said, there are three specific things that Google incorporates into every hardware product it sells. These are the defining attributes that, when combined, you canâ€™t get from any other brand or product.
Integration with all things Google
Obviously, it makes perfect sense for Google hardware to heavily incorporate its software. For example, when you turn on an Android device for the first time, you enter in your Gmail information. This connects your new phone or tablet to your entire Google life, just like magic.
Google integration could mean making it so all your photos are instantly available on your new smart display, or not needing you to train your new smart speaker on how your voice sounds. This deep connection with the companyâ€™s wider ecosystem is a major aspect of why competitor products come up short.
In a way, this is not unlike Appleâ€™s ecosystem, another â€œaddictiveâ€� aspect to that companyâ€™s products. Once youâ€™re integrated, itâ€™s hard to not be integrated anymore, and this keeps consumers coming back again and again.
Software as a solution
Since Google started as a software company, it shouldnâ€™t be surprising to learn that the company approaches nearly every problem from the software side of things. If Google needs to make a smartphone camera better, it doesnâ€™t introduce a new camera sensor â€” it creates a new algorithm to process photos in better ways. If its Pixel Buds headphones donâ€™t sound as good as they could, it will push out a software update to make them sound clearer.
Google has never met a problem it didn’t think software could fix.
Now, this can come back to bite Google in certain cases. For example, Pixel phones have been historically dinged for having awful battery life. One would assume Google would have seen this problem and put bigger batteries in Pixel phones. Unfortunately, for years it mostly tried to use software to make small batteries work better instead, with dubious results. Thankfully, this was fixed in 2020 with the latest crop of Pixel phones.
Still, Googleâ€™s approach to software being the solution for everything is overall a good thing as it ensures your Google hardware purchase will consistently get better over time.
First-access to new features and updates
As mentioned earlier, one of the defining attributes of Google Pixel phones is that they receive the latest version of Android faster than pretty much every other phone. While this is true, it doesnâ€™t only apply to Pixel phones.
Googleâ€™s line of Chromebooks â€”Â especially the original Pixelbook â€” have received new updates and features much faster and for longer periods of time than some competitors. People who owned the Chromecast Ultra eventually received an update that allowed full integration with Stadia, allowing them to try the service without needing to purchase any additional hardware.
Since Google is making the software that runs its hardware, you donâ€™t need to worry about your device becoming obsolete and forgotten after a year. The company has a pretty good track record of keeping its existing products going (even if it simultaneously has a poor track record of killing off hardware experiments after only a short time).
Google Assistant: The glue holding everything together
By now, youâ€™ve quickly realized that Google has a footprint in a lot of different industries. However, everything is tied together by Google Assistant, the companyâ€™s AI-powered digital assistant.
Although Assistant came out years after Appleâ€™s Siri and Amazonâ€™s Alexa, Googleâ€™s knack for nailing software saved the day. Now, Assistant is frequently heralded as the best digital assistant on the market, with faster, more accurate, and more capable responses and actions than Siri or Alexa.
Pretty much every piece of Google hardware you buy will either come with Assistant onboard or work with Assistant in some capacity. Whatâ€™s more, flagship products from Google â€” especially its line of Pixel phones â€” will often get new updates for Assistant before any other product.
While Search is still the companyâ€™s cash cow, the company is betting big that the future of the internet will revolve around AI and voice commands. Thatâ€™s why Assistant is such a top priority and why youâ€™ll find it in every one of its products.
Competitors you might want to consider
Google is obviously a massive company. One would think it doesnâ€™t have many competitors, and if youâ€™re talking specifically about internet searches, youâ€™d be absolutely right. However, when it comes to hardware, the company has plenty of competition.
Despite its status as one of historyâ€™s most successful companies, Google has never been able to crack the top-ten smartphone manufacturers in the world. This is due to a variety of factors, such as limited worldwide availability, relatively high prices, and so-so reviews.
The two biggest strengths Google has in the smartphone space are its cameras and software. However, other companies are creating some terrific camera systems, including Samsung, Xiaomi, and even OnePlus. Samsung is also issuing Android updates at an incredibly fast pace now, sometimes even beating Google when it comes to the latest Android security patch.
Ultimately, though, Googleâ€™s primary competitor is Apple. Appleâ€™s ecosystem revolves around the iPhone, its star product. Google has been chasing the idea of having Pixels be the iPhone of the Android world, but it hasnâ€™t even come close to replicating Appleâ€™s success, especially here in the United States.
If you are in the market for a new smartphone and donâ€™t want a Pixel (or an iPhone), the next closest thing to a Pixel experience would likely be OnePlus for software and Samsung for cameras. Unfortunately, no company nails both categories quite as well as Google does.
Laptops and tablets
As stated earlier, Google currently only makes Chrome OS-powered laptops and tablets. As such, if you want something with Windows or macOS, you canâ€™t even consider Google.
However, Chromebooks have come a long way. If you had written off Chrome OS years ago, itâ€™s really worth a second look, as it might be able to do everything you need a laptop to do.
Regardless, Googleâ€™s Chrome OS hardware is usually on the high-end scale, so its biggest competitor in that space is Samsung. A Samsung Chromebook will also (usually) have decent specs and premium construction. Obviously, Chrome OS systems from both Google and Samsung end up being pretty expensive.
If you donâ€™t want a premium Chromebook, Asus makes some high-quality budget systems. They wonâ€™t be as nice as a Google machine, but theyâ€™ll get the job done.
By far, Googleâ€™s biggest competitor in the smart home space is Amazon. For every product that Google or Nest releases, Amazon has one or more comparable products that are usually less expensive.
Of course, Amazon-made products wonâ€™t have Google Assistant. Ultimately, your decisions in the smart home space will be totally dependent on the digital assistant with which you are attached. If you love Assistant, then Google- and Nest-branded products are what you want. If you would rather go with Alexa (or donâ€™t have any preference), Amazon products will work well â€” and likely save you some cash.
Gaming and entertainment
Google is very late to the gaming party. Its Stadia service is on the cusp of the supposed cloud gaming revolution, yes, but there are many, many other players that already have a huge stake in the overall industry. As such, you canâ€™t compare Stadia to an Xbox, PlayStation, or Nintendo Switch. Stadia can only be fairly compared to other cloud-based services.
Of course, there are a few of those that go up against Stadia. Xbox Game Streaming (formerly Microsoft xCloud) offers a similar service to Stadia but incorporates everything it offers into one monthly fee under Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. That makes it much more like a â€œNetflix of gamesâ€� than Stadia is. Stadia requires you to buy each game a la carte, just as you would on a platform like Steam.
Nvidia GeForce Now is another competitor to Stadia. GeForce Now allows you to stream games from the cloud that youâ€™ve already purchased on Steam, making it an attractive option for established gamers. There is a free tier, but it limits gameplay to just one hour sessions. Streaming performance is also slightly worse than Stadia.
Finally, Amazon just got into the cloud gaming industry with Luna. Itâ€™s still in beta, but it looks to be another Netflix-for-games option with a smaller library. This is really new so there are not too many reviews for it yet, but anything Amazon does Google needs to take seriously.
Outside of gaming, Googleâ€™s newest Chromecast competes with set-top boxes such as Roku and Amazon Fire TV. Reviews for this new streamer are very positive, but it will be tricky for anyone to overtake the massive market lead Roku has in the US.
The biggest competitor to Pixel Buds (and all true wireless earbuds) is Apple and its line of AirPods. However, some AirPods features donâ€™t work with Android devices, so it becomes a relatively easy buying decision: if you have an iPhone, buy AirPods, and if you have an Android phone, buy Pixel Buds.
Of course, there are literally hundreds of other models of true wireless earbuds out there. Samsung, OnePlus, Huawei, Sony, and many other companies have high-end earbuds that offer many of the same features as Pixel Buds. We have plenty of tips on buying great earbuds here.
The greatest moments in Googleâ€™s hardware history
Google is often swinging for the fences and then coming up short. However, the company has had more than a few solid hits in its time. Below, youâ€™ll find the four times the company has totally nailed a product or hardware-related development.
Launch of the Nexus line
In 2010, Google had only just recently purchased the Android operating system. Several Android-powered phones were already on the market and doing very well, but Google didnâ€™t have anything that was distinctly its own.
Enter the Nexus line, beginning with the first phone in the series, aptly called the Google Nexus One. The phone was designed by Google but manufactured by HTC. Unlike other Android phones, it came with a close-to-stock experience, unburdened by carrier bloatware or software skins designed by manufacturers.
Nexus phones also (mostly) received updates directly from Google, and had unlockable bootloaders to encourage developers to tinker with the phones. The company would go on to create over a dozen Nexus devices, including phones, tablets, and even a media streaming player that was ahead of its time.
The Nexus line is remembered as containing some of Androidâ€™s best-ever phones, including the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, the Nexus 5, and the Nexus 6P. The Nexus 7 is also fondly remembered as one of the first Android tablets to truly rival the Apple iPad Mini and the Amazon Kindle Fire.
Google Home Mini
As mentioned earlier in this post, Google is betting big that AI-powered digital assistants are the future. When it formally launched Google Assistant, it was mostly relegated to specific apps, certain Pixel phones, and the one smart speaker the company had at the time, the $100 Google Home.
As far as mass adoption goes, there probably isn’t a Google hardware product as successful as the Google Home Mini.
In 2017, though, Google launched the Home Mini, an unbelievably inexpensive smart speaker that brought Assistant to pretty much anyone. At certain points, the company was literally giving the device away. The strategy helped Google Assistant gobble up market share. It now accounts for around 30% of the overall market, nearly matching the share of Amazonâ€™s Alexa, which had a multi-year head start.
For a company of its size, Google doesnâ€™t have too many high-profile hardware acquisitions under its belt. Obviously, a few of its software and services acquisitions have been huge â€” YouTube, Android, and Waze being some of the biggest. In the hardware space, though, the best acquisition in its roster would probably be Nest Labs.
Google had intentions of entering the smart home space, and buying Nest for $3.2 billion put them on the map immediately. This helped pave the way for the Google Home Mini mentioned earlier, as well as the Home Hub (which became the Nest Hub).
Granted, there are plenty of things about the acquisition that havenâ€™t gone smoothly. Googleâ€™s slow and clunky transition of Nest-branded products to Google-branded products hasnâ€™t been exemplary, and Googleâ€™s reputation as a data-mining privacy black hole might turn away some buyers. The core purchase, though, has likely been lucrative for the company as the smart home industry has only grown and likely will continue to grow over the next decade.
Google Pixel 3a
It would be hard to have Pixel die-hards agree on the best Pixel phone of all time, but few would argue that the Pixel 3a is likely the most important. Google has proven over the years that it doesnâ€™t really understand the premium smartphone market. High-end Pixels are usually overpriced for what they are and feature uncompetitive specs.
The Pixel 3a was the first time Google understood its strengths â€” and its weaknesses â€” and incorporated that knowledge into the design of the product. There were no flashy features, no crazy future-forward tech gambles, no high-end production costs. The Pixel 3a was a simple phone with great software, a great camera, and a great price. Period.
The Pixel 4a from this year backs up this claim even further. That phone is one of the yearâ€™s most-talked-about devices and is already proving to be incredibly popular. Itâ€™s possible that, in a few years time, weâ€™ll look back at the Pixel 3a as being the first â€œrealâ€� Pixel.
The not-so-great moments in Googleâ€™s hardware history
Once again, Google tends to swing for the fences with its hardware division, and that invariably leads to lots of failures. Below, youâ€™ll find the four saddest parts of Googleâ€™s hardware history.
End of the Nexus line
In 2016, Google revealed the Pixel and Pixel XL, its first two completely self-made smartphones. When Google revealed the phones, the Google Nexus 6P â€” co-created with Huawei â€” was about a year old but still available in stores. Naturally, the question quickly came up of what would happen to the Nexus line now that the Pixel line existed.
At first, Google played coy and issued wishy-washy answers about how it didnâ€™t know what the future held for the Nexus line. However, the Nexus 6P â€” and the Nexus 5X, released at the same time â€” ended up being the last Nexus-branded devices.
Although Googleâ€™s shuttering of the Nexus line makes sense from a branding and marketing perspective, itâ€™s also one of the rare times that Google killed a hardware line that was actually successful. While Nexus products were never top-of-the-line devices, the Pixel line hasnâ€™t improved Googleâ€™s market share much, if at all. Now, with the Pixel 4a looking and feeling a lot like a Nexus device, it almost makes us wonder if Google would have been better off sticking with Nexus the whole time.
With Google, there are always concerns over just how far the company goes in relation to our security and privacy. With that in mind, itâ€™s little wonder that Google Clips didnâ€™t last long.
Clips, as the name implies, is a small camera system that clips onto pretty much anything. It will automatically record video and photos by using a machine-learning algorithm. According to Google, this will help people capture spontaneous moments that they otherwise would miss due to being too slow opening their smartphone.
Almost as soon as Clips landed, critics were fired up over the product. A small LED light on the device would let you know if it was recording or not, but if you couldnâ€™t directly control it, that still left many potential customers uneasy. It also was a hard sell because of how niche the product was â€” it wasnâ€™t a particularly great camera, so pros werenâ€™t interested, and general buyers likely didnâ€™t understand how it could be useful.
Clips ended up being one of the most short-lived hardware lines from the company. Google launched Clips on October 4, 2017, and ended the entire line just two years later. Current Clips owners will receive updates and support until the end of 2021.
Motorola Mobility purchase
If youâ€™ll remember, Google launched the Nexus One in 2010. This was only three years after the launch of the first iPhone, which most agree heralded the beginning of the smartphone industry.
In 2011, Google made a huge acquisition to better position itself in the mobile world: it spent an astonishing $12.5 billion to acquire Motorola Mobility. At the time, Motorola was struggling to get a good foothold in the mobile industry. It seemed like the perfect marriage of Googleâ€™s software skills (and buckets of cash) with Motorolaâ€™s already-established hardware.
Related:Â The best Motorola phones you can get
Unfortunately, Google made a bunch of bad moves. It dumped a ton of cash into something called Project Ara, which promised to make a fully modular smartphone a reality (the phone never launched). It also bet big on producing all its smartphones in the United States, even building a large factory in Texas.
However, none of this panned out. With the division bleeding cash, Google ended up selling Motorola to Lenovo less than three years later for $2.91 billion â€” a multi-billion-dollar loss.
Thankfully, though, Googleâ€™s ownership of Motorola did give us something great: the Moto G line. Moto G phones are consistently some of the best budget Android devices you can get, and the G series represents one of the top-selling lines globally each year. So itâ€™s not all bad.
Google Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL
There have been a lot of problems and critical failures related to Pixel phones over the years. With pretty much every launch, you can point to numerous things and say, â€œNow, why would Google do that?â€� With the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL, though, even Google was asking that question.
According to behind-the-scenes reports, the development of the Pixel 4 was fraught with difficulties. Top members of the hardware team were disappointed with the design and specs even before the phone launched. Whatâ€™s more, one of the most important people on the Pixel team (who was one of the main contributors to the success of Pixel cameras) left for Adobe after the Pixel landed in stores.
The Pixel 4 will probably go down in history as the weakest Pixel device.
Eventually, after dismal sales and tepid reviews, the company laid the Pixel 4 line to rest. The phone was available for barely ten months.
It would be hard to give just one reason for the demise of the Pixel 4 (although the horrifyingly bad battery life is likely the biggest culprit), but it will inevitably go down as the turnaround moment for Google. Now, with the Pixel 4a, Pixel 4a 5G, and Pixel 5, Google appears to be moving away from the failures of the Pixel 4 to focus on its strengths.
A few other Google details to keep in mind
Youâ€™ve probably learned everything youâ€™ve ever wanted to know about Google hardware already. However, there are still a few miscellaneous things we want to make sure you know about!
- Support:Â Youâ€™d think that with a company as rich as Google that their customer support for hardware would be exemplary. Unfortunately, many buyers would disagree. A quick perusal of Google-related subreddits or the companyâ€™s own official forums will show you case after case of people very upset with its poor service. If you are thinking about buying Google hardware, keep this trend in mind and consider a third-party reseller.
- Feature drops:Â It used to be that Google would issue updates to its Pixel phones each month. While the company still delivers the latest Android security patch at the beginning of every month, it no longer delivers monthly feature updates. Instead, it has â€œfeature drops,â€� which happen quarterly. All this means is that every three months, your Pixel phone will receive a huge update with multiple new features and/or updates.
- Old products: Youâ€™ve probably figured this out already, but we wanted to make sure itâ€™s clear: Google is selling many products that are years old. The Home Max is a first-generation product, and the only one available in its class, for example. As such, if you buy a â€œnewâ€� Home Max, youâ€™re actually buying a pretty old model. Itâ€™s very helpful to consult product reviews of the companyâ€™s hardware before you buy so you can determine when the product actually launched.
- Early adoption:Â One of the more disappointing Google hardware trends is the company â€œpunishingâ€� early adopters. For example, when pre-orders opened for the Pixel 4, it was for the full cost of the phone. However, only weeks later, the company offered the phones with hundreds of dollars slashed from the price. It did the same thing with the Pixel 3 launch. As such, itâ€™s almost more beneficial to wait to buy a Google hardware product than it is to pre-order or buy on day one.
- Global availability:Â Google also has a poor track record of launching its devices â€” especially its smartphones â€” all around the world. The Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G will never land in India, for example. Google will also stagger phone releases. For example, the Pixel 4a launched in August here in the US, but didnâ€™t hit India or the UK until October. It gets very confusing (not to mention frustrating).
Frequently asked questions about Google hardware
Q: How can I protect my privacy with Google products?
A: Over the past few years, bad press has really changed Googleâ€™s approach to privacy. Itâ€™s now easier than ever to access all your data, stop the company from tracking certain aspects of your life, or even delete your data entirely. Many hardware products also have privacy features built-in. The Nest Mini, for example, has a simple hardware switch that turns off the microphone entirely whenever you want it off.
Q: What kinds of warranties come with Google products?
A: Most Google hardware products come with the usual one-year warranty against factory defects. You can buy third-party insurance on the companyâ€™s hardware that will extend that time limit, but the company itself does not offer those programs.
Q: Does Google offer free cloud backups for all my photos and videos?
A: Yes, but with a caveat. It used to be that Pixel phones would have all photos and videos back up in original quality to Google Photos for several years without cost. However, the company recently did away with this perk. Now, new Pixel phones will auto-backup photos and videos to Google Photos for free but at a reduced quality.
Q: How long does Google issue Android upgrades to its phones?
A: Technically, the company only commits to two Android upgrades and then three years of monthly security updates. However, it has gone above and beyond this in the past. The original Pixel, for example, received Android 10 when it should only have received upgrades up to Android 9 Pie.
Q: Can a Chromebook do anything a Windows laptop can do?
A: No. Since the two operating systems are different, there are many popular Windows programs that wonâ€™t be available on Chrome OS. However, Chromebooks have come a long way, and there are usually many different alternative programs available that work similarly to their Windows-based counterparts. If you are looking to buy a Chromebook and are worried about which programs youâ€™ll need to leave behind, we advise checking out the Google Play Store for apps similar to what you need.
Q: Do Googleâ€™s smart displays run Android and have access to Android apps?
A: No. Googleâ€™s smart displays use a Fuchsia-based operating system, which is different from Android. Smart displays do not have access to the Google Play Store and have a limited selection of features.
Q: Do I need to own a Pixel phone to use the Pixel Buds as headphones?
A: No, Pixel Buds do not need to be paired with a Pixel phone. Granted, there are some features of Pixel Buds that will not be available to non-Pixel phones, but the basics will work on all Android phones.