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Google Pixel Phone: Your Complete Guide to HTC Pixel and Pixel XL

Everything you need to know about the Google Pixel and Pixel XL

Google’s Pixel and Pixel XL phones are nearly here, so here’s everything you need to know about the Google Pixel release date, specs, features, and price.

(Update: 19 September 2016): The Google Pixel phone could come loaded with Qualcomm's new top-end Snapdragon 821 chip, which would technically make it the most powerful Android phone on the market.

The Google Pixel release date is set for October 4, apparently. That’s pretty soon, so we’re fairly confident about most of the hardware details that have leaked out too.

If you’re wondering what the hell a ‘Google Pixel’ is, we don’t blame you. Google has never actually released a ‘Pixel’ phone before (although the name was used for last year’s Pixel C tablet). Usually, Google launches Nexus phones every autumn, but ‘Nexus’ has seemingly been binned this year. Why? We’re not entirely sure.

In any case, we’re expecting two smartphones – the Pixel and Pixel XL – from Google this year. They’re both reportedly built by Taiwan’s HTC, and will feature the brand new Android 7.0 Nougat OS. It’s also guaranteed they’ll feature some of the best components around, so read on to find out more.

Latest Google Pixel news:

When does the Google Pixel come out? October 4, apparently

What’s new about the Google Pixel? Nougat, SD821, Daydream VR

How much will the Google Pixel cost? £349 to £499 (estimate)

Google Pixel Release Date UK & US – When will the new Google Pixel phone come out?

All rumours point to Google launching the new Pixel and Pixel XL on October 4, 2016, at a dedicated press conference. Better still, Google is also expected to put the phone on sale that same day – huzzah!

The timing isn’t surprising; last year’s Google Nexus phones launched just days earlier, on September 29, 2015. It’s likely Google wants to let the dust settle after top-bill launches from Samsung with the Galaxy Note 7 (August 2) and, of course, Apple’s iPhone 7 (September 7).

The most recent release date rumour came courtesy of tech site Ausdroid. The blog claimed that Australian carrier Telstra plans to start offering the Google Pixel phones for pre-order starting on October 4, which a proper release date set for October 20. If Australia gets it then, we’d expect a UK release to follow suit.

Google's Nexus 6P, the flagship for 2015, was built by Huawei

Google Pixel Specs & Features – What’s new about the Google Pixel phone?

It looks like Google is going to launch some seriously powerful smartphones in October, so we can’t wait to see the final products. If you can’t wait either then read on for all the Google Pixel specs and features info you need.

Goodbye Nexus, hello Pixel!

The first order of business is the new name. Google is apparently binning ‘Nexus’ this year, opting for ‘Pixel’ instead.

We first heard of ‘Pixel’ in Google's mobile line-up last year, when Google launched its tablet-hybrid: the Pixel C. But now it seems the company plans to roll out the branding across its smartphone range too, probably in a bid to reduce confusion for consumers.

The two phones launching in 2016 are called ‘Pixel’ and ‘Pixel XL’. But you’re more likely to have heard them called by their codenames: ‘Sailfish’ and ‘Marlin’. The Pixel will be a sequel to the Nexus 5X, and the Pixel XL will follow the more high-end Nexus 6P.

Google's Chromebook Pixel was the first 'Pixel' branded device

Google Pixel Design: Ooh, shiny

Since we’re so close to launch, we’ve already seen a bunch of fairly complete renders for both phones. The two handsets appear to look the same as each other (as rumoured) apart from the size difference.

Here are a couple of supposed renders, courtesy of Android Authority and journalist Steve Hemmerstoffer:

Google Pixel display: HD, QHD, 4K?

While nothing is certain on the display front, it’s rumoured the Google Pixel will feature a 5-inch Full HD display – that’s 1,920 x 1,080 pixels. Meanwhile, the Pixel XL is said to feature a larger 5.5-inch QHD display – that’s 2,560 x 1,440 pixels.

When Google announced its plans for the future of Android phones at the I/O developer conference earlier this year, it lauded “high-density” displays as a must-have for VR. That immediately sparked speculation that the next Google phone may feature a 4K display.

Many have argued that while 4K screens are a worthless upgrade when using a phone normally, an Ultra HD resolution is significantly better when mounting a handset in a VR headset. That’s because a resolution is effectively split in half when you’re using a screen in VR mode. Plus, VR-mounted phones are mere inches from your eyes, which means having a high-resolution screen is much more important.

However, rumours suggest Google is avoiding 4K this time around. We’re guessing the company has settled on QHD as a happy medium for flagship phones, as have many of the company’s rivals – think Samsung Galaxy S7. After all, a 4K display might be great for VR, but it puts a huge drain on battery life, and won’t look much different to a QHD resolution when using a 5.5-inch phone normally.

Google Pixel Specs: Most powerful phone ever?

Both phones are rumoured to be very powerful, which is good news for everyone.

The Google Pixel is rumoured to feature Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820 chip, which is the same processor that features on the Galaxy S7 (in some regions), the LG G5, and the HTC 10. It’s powerful, efficient, and supports super-fast download speeds. It’s also tipped to feature 4GB of RAM and a 2,770mAh battery – that should be fine for a 5-inch phone.

The Pixel XL, meanwhile, is said to be getting a few additional perks. For a start, it’s expected the Pixel XL will ship with Qualcomm’s brand new Snapdragon 821 chip. It’s a spin-off from the 820, and offers a 10% boost to processor performance. It’s also expected to be the first Daydream VR-ready chip – but more on that later. Most of the Snapdragon 821 speculation can be traced back to a tweet by Android Police's David Ruddock, who posted the following:

Other Pixel XL features are rumoured to include 4GB of RAM, a hefty 3,450mAh battery, two cameras (12- and 8-megapixel), and 32GB/128GB storage options. All that marks it as a seriously high-end device that should be able to go toe-to-toe with powerful phones like the Samsung Galaxy Note 7.

Google Daydream: VR-friendly smartphone

Perhaps the most exciting (expected) feature of the Google Pixel phones is Daydream VR.

Daydream is a virtual reality platform announced by Google at its I/O developer conference back in May. We’re expecting the first Daydream-ready phones this autumn, and the Google Pixel looks guaranteed to be the first. However, the following companies have also pledged Daydream-ready phones: Samsung, HTC, LG, Xiaomi, Huawei, ZTE, Asus, and Alcatel.

For users, Daydream entails an Android VR mode in the latest version of Android. Through this mode, you’ll get access to VR apps and improved processor performance – specifically, the mode will give VR apps exclusive access to processor cores.

Google Daydream will arrive on phones this autumn

On the hardware front, Google made it clear that Daydream phones need to meet certain expectations. Handsets will need high-density displays and powerful processors, ruling out every phone already in existence at the time. Google also showed off a reference design for a headset and controller that other manufacturers can mimic.

If the Google Pixel is the first Daydream-ready phone, it’ll be a big step forward for mobile VR.

Google Pixel Software: Mmm, Nougat

Google is also going to include its new Android 7.0 Nougat software on the Google Pixel phones.

Nougat was first released as a beta build back in March, and was officially released late last month. It’s not vastly different to Marshmallow (which wasn’t vastly different to Lollipop), but it does bring a few useful improvements.

Notable changes include the ability to split-screen apps (finally!), and a quick-reply feature for notifications. Marshmallow’s battery-saving ‘Doze’ feature has also been expanded to cover when a phone screen is off for a while, but not stationary. And there’s new support for Vulkan graphics and Daydream VR.

Android Nougat will feature on the new Google Pixel phones

Google Pixel Price – How much does the Google Pixel cost?

Guessing the price of the Google Pixel phones is difficult, because Google’s pricing history doesn’t really have a pattern. Still, it won’t hurt to look at price tags gone by:

  • Nexus 4 – £280
  • Nexus 5 – £299
  • Nexus 6 – £479
  • Nexus 5X – £379
  • Nexus 6P –£499

So as is evident from that list, the Nexus range started life as a value option with mid-range pricing (see Nexus 4), and quickly progressed to a high-end, flagship line that only barely undercut its rivals (see Nexus 6P).

As Google is expected to follow last year’s split-launch model, we wouldn't be surprised if the Google Pixel retails at around £70 to£100 less than the Pixel XL. Considering the specs rumoured to appear in the Pixel XL, a price tag of around £499 seems likely. After all, the ‘Nexus’ brand is out the window, and with it goes the ‘value’ branding too, we’re guessing.

In any case, all things point to Google wanting to seriously flex its hardware muscles this year, and give Android 7.0 Nougat a solid device to debut on. With that in mind, we’re expecting to see the most expensive Google-built phone yet – although you’ll probably still find excellent value from the Pixel.

The only pricing rumour to date comes via Nexus Blog, which puts the Pixel at $449 (about £338) and the Pixel XL at $599 (about £451).

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