It's official folks, the Nexus line is no more, instead we now have the Google Pixel phone. Of course, the Pixel name had appeared already via Google's Pixel C convertible device and the Chromebook Pixel, but this is the first time it's been applied to phones, and this coincides with the official retirement of the existing Nexus lineup; Google says it has "no plans" for any more Nexus branded devices and has discontinued sales of the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P.
Spiritually, however, the Nexus line is still alive and well within the Pixel brand. The Pixel phones seem to embody the same ethos of carefully curated hardware and optimised Android software, with a few additional tweaks unique to these particular devices, all produced under a partnership between Google and its chosen Android OEM (in this case HTC) where Google is involved very closely in deciding what's what.
Google's biggest competitor in the Android space is the same OEM who takes sales from everyone else; Samsung. While the Korean manufacturer might be currently experiencing a PR disaster (and some considerable financial damage to boot) with the Galaxy Note 7 explosion fiasco, the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 EDGE have already secured a reputation as fantastic Android smartphones. Indeed, to date they are in our view the best handsets produced this year, Android or otherwise, and that's quite impressive considering they came out the gate first in February 2016.
So how does the Pixel phone compare to Samsung's best? We aim to find out. Oh, and as a side note, we're talking about the Galaxy S7 EDGE here, but aside from the curvy display edges the Galaxy S7 is exactly the same spec-for-spec, so we're effectively comparing them both to the Pixel at the same time.
Samsung Galaxy S7 EDGE vs Google Pixel: Specs
Dimensions: 143.8 x 69.5 x 8.6 mm
Display: 5in AMOLED capacitive touchscreen 1920 x 1080 pixels (441ppi)
Processor: MSM8996 Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 quad-core CPU "Kryo" 2.1GHz
Other Harware: Fingerprint scanner, IP68 water resistant
Broadly speaking the Pixel and Galaxy S7 phones are quite evenly matched as far as processing power, graphics, and RAM are concerned. Depending on where you buy it, the Galaxy S7 series has either Samsung's own Exynos 8890 chip or Qualcomm's Snapdragon 820, but the performance between these chips is so close that it really doesn't matter either way. Meanwhile, Google's Pixel phone runs the slightly updated Qualcomm Snapdragon 821, but although this is a powerful chip, it is an incremental update on the 820 and is not a next-gen chip as the 830 will be. All Galaxy S7 variants and the Pixel phone have 4GB of RAM.
Samsung has made big improvements in recent years as far as optimising Android to its hardware and streamlining its UI overlays is concerned and the Galaxy S7 is a gem of a performer. But with that said, it's pretty much impossible to beat an official Google phone on the Android experience and smooth performance side of things. Come close? Absolutely, I'd say if you use an S7 then a Pixel phone or vice versa it's quite likely you'll be impressed with each.
The Galaxy S7 has a much bigger battery cell and some incredible battery performance, but it remains to be seen if Google has managed to optimise its smaller cell to deliver something that can compete - we wouldn't rule it out!
Both phones boats very impressive camera setups and Google talked up the Pixel's carefully honed hardware quite a bit at its launch event. We've had quite a bit of experience with Samsung's camera arrangement and not only is the image quality superb it is consistently ridiculously easy and fun to use and get good results from. We'll have to wait and see how the Pixel stacks up, but the good news is we're getting one in for review soon, so stay tuned for that.
Samsung Galaxy S7 EDGE vs Google Pixel: Design & Display
This is probably the area where Google loses the most ground to Samsung. Sure, Google's Pixel handsets will be unsurpassed in terms of the optimised software experience and streamlined performance, there's no doubting that, but that's the thing - Google concentrates so much on the engine bay, the software, and the interface, that although it has made the exterior stylish it is also somewhat spartan and utilitarian.
Google describes its combined metal and glass design as "industrial" and I'd agree that's a fairly accurate moniker; industrial design usually looks objectively good, but it often appeals to a specific taste and it's not everyone's cup of tea, being highly understated and prioritising function over anything else. The half-and-half, dual-tone, glass and metal back panel, while unique looking, is also quite bold and I've already seen some hotly divided opinion online; some people absolutely hate it while others adore it. I'm not exactly keen myself, but I doubt it would stop me buying the phone if everything else lined up nicely.
The Samsung Galaxy S7 EDGE, on the other hand (and more so the EDGE than the regular edition) is a thing of beauty with its streamlined chassis, sweeping curves, and a generally more "premium" aesthetic. It just oozes class.
Aside from the aesthetic, the Galaxy S7 series also has a major advantage in the form of IP68 water resistance, meaning it's safe to drop in a pool, puddle, or sink, while such an aquatic adventure will be fatal for the Pixel.
Samsung is also the grand master at the moment when it comes to display technology, particularly OLED. It's great to see Google using AMOLED on the Pixel phone and it does seem to be a highly capable display with great contrast, colour, and brightness. I'll reserve final judgement until I actually get one in my hands, but considering just how impressive Samsung's Super AMOLED on the S7 series is (and I have seen this first hand, and against numerous other displays released this year) I'm not expecting it to be beaten.