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The Google Pixel and Pixel XL were released in late 2016 with the camera experience being the central focus of marketing for this Android smartphone launched by Google. The camera experience is central to the Pixel phones, largely due to the advanced software and algorithms and not directly related to having the best camera hardware.
In addition to imaging performance, Google Pixel phones are similar to the Apple iPhone with regular software updates and Android security updates. Nearly every software update brings enhancements, new features, and performance improvements. Unlike some other Android phones, you can rest assured that your Pixel phone will be supported for at least five years too.
Google is also following in Apple's footsteps in establishing an ecosystem of connected products.
With fantastic Chromebooks, new watches, and the release of the Pixel 7 series phones, Google offers compelling alternatives to Apple and Samsung.
With top-of-the-line camera features, long-lasting batteries, and a sleek redesign, see why some of the best Pixel phones are worthy options to consider.
Also: The best Android phones
Tech specs: Processor: Google Tensor with Titan M2 security coprocessor | Display: 6.4-in, QHD+ (1440 x 3120) LTPO OLED at 512 PPI | RAM/storage: 128GB / 256GB / 512GB UFS 3.1 storage | Rear cameras: 50MP Octa PD Quad Bayer wide camera | Front camera: 10.8MP | Battery capacity: Typical 5000mAh | Dimensions: 162.9 height x 76.6 width x 8.9 depth (mm) | Price: Starting at $749
The Pixel 7 Pro features a fresh design with some exceptional camera improvements. A new feature is the metal wraparound camera bar, whereas, in previous models, the camera bar stopped at the edge of the phone. Differentiating the 7 Pro further is the extra cutout for the phone's third camera.
Also: Google's best Pixel phones zoom past Samsung on this one camera feature
Speaking of the camera… my goodness, Google upped its game. The new 30x Super Res Zoom allows you to snap vivid details from a distance. You'll also enjoy the fine attention to smaller details thanks to Macro Focus–only found on the Pixel 7 Pro. And, for aspiring filmmakers, the Cinematic Blur allows you to focus on the foreground or background objects while blurring out the rest to maximize impact.
Tying it all together is the sleek design, made with recycled materials. Reporters note how surprisingly light the phone feels. Overall, this phone is an absolute powerhouse of refined style and camera improvements.
Tech specs: Processor: Google Tensor with Titan M2 security coprocessor | Display: 6.4-inch 1080 x 2400 pixels resolution OLED | RAM/storage: 8GB with 128/256GB internal options | Rear cameras: 50MP wide, 12MP ultrawide | Front camera: 8MP | Battery capacity: 4,614mAh | Dimensions: 163 x 74.8 x 8.9 mm and 207 grams | Price: Starting at $417
In the past, Google offered two variants with one being considerably smaller than the other. This year, the size difference is minor, but there are some differences to consider. The Pixel 6 does not have the third telephoto camera on the back, it has a flat display rather than a curved one (this is a benefit IMHO), it has less RAM, and it has a smaller capacity battery. However, it is also significantly cheaper than the Pixel 6 Pro.
Camera performance has always been a pillar of the Pixel experience and Google delivers yet again with the Pixel 6 and its unique and distinct camera bar that sits proudly near the top of the back of the phone. There is plenty of RAM to keep things running quickly on the Pixel 6 while the latest Android software is optimized for the Pixel phone experience.
There are some unique Google experiences contained in the Pixel 6 that are not found in Android smartphones from Samsung, OnePlus, TCL, and others. These include the Magic Eraser tool that helps you quickly remove unwanted subjects from your photos, Google Assistant calling features, and the core Material You customization options.
Review: Google Pixel 6 is the new workhorse to the Pixel 6 Pro thoroughbred
Tech specs : Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G | Display: 6.34-inch 1080 x 2400 pixels resolution OLED | RAM/storage: 6GB with 128GB internal storage | Rear cameras: 12.2MP wide, 16MP ultrawide | Front camera: 8MP | Battery capacity: 4,680mAh | Dimensions: 161 x 73.2 x 8.8 mm and 183 grams | Price: $299
The Pixel 5a with 5G may appear to be a rather boring phone with an unassuming design harkening back to the Pixel 4a, but it offers a lot of power in a package priced at just under $300.
It comes in one color, but the black looks like a very dark green in most lighting conditions, and in one RAM/storage configuration. While the specifications are not as high-end as a flagship phone priced at two times the cost, the power of the Pixel 5a with 5G is in the Google software experience. It is powered by the latest version of Android and continues to receive regular updates along with Google's flagship Pixel phones.
Camera performance and results also continue to be a staple of the Pixel phones here with outstanding results. Given the mid-level processor and lower-resolution display, the phone also lasts a long time on the high-capacity battery so you can use it for one or two days in most situations.
Review: Google Pixel 5a with 5G
Tech specs: Processor: Google Tensor G2Titan M2 security coprocessor | Display: 6.1-inch FHD+ (1080 x 2400) OLED at 416 PPI | RAM/storage: 128GB / 256GB UFS 3.1 storage | Rear camera: 50MP Octa PD Quad Bayer wide camera | Front camera: 10.8MP | Battery capacity: Typical 4355mAh | Dimensions: 155.6 height x 73.2 width x 8.7 depth (mm) | Price: $449
The Pixel 7 does many things well. It literally has battery life for days. Use its Extreme Battery Saver to get up to 72 hours of use on a full charge. And its Adaptive Battery lasts over 24 hours, giving you more time to enjoy the phone's abundant features.
Further, if you're an avid photographer or videographer, the new camera features are fantastic. The front camera features a 92.8 degree ultrawide view, giving you space to wiggle more people or scenery into your shot. Should you need to touch up photos, the Pixel 7 has Photo Unblur and Magic Eraser to sharpen pictures and remove distractions. The phone also has Cinematic Blur, allowing you to bring the subjects you want into focus, while blurring out the rest for a dramatic impact that a fisheye lens does.
Also: Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro hands-on: The start of Google's walled garden
Speaking of visually appealing, the phone's sleek redesign enhances its appeal and its durability. Google constructed the phone from 100% recycled aluminum, giving it a durable, yet lightweight grip. Ultimately, this phone shows you don't have to spend handfuls of Benjamins to receive flagship features.
The Google Pixel 7 Pro elevates photography. Along with the ample photo and video editing features the phone contains, it's also sleek, lightweight, and has enough battery life for 24 hours of use. All told, it's one of the most dynamic phones on the market. See how the best Google Pixel phones compare based on price, processing speed, and display size:
Google Pixel phone
Pixel 7 Pro
Pixel 5a with 5G
If you are interested in a Google Pixel phone, it's nice to know there are not many options available to confuse you or overwhelm your decision-making process. The first consideration is price and if you have a maximum amount you are willing to spend on a phone then the price dictates which is right for you.
Thankfully, when it comes to the software experience Google provides the same experience across all of the actively supported Pixel phones. Here is a look at some of the unique purposes the best Google phones serve:
Choose this Google Pixel phone
If you want...
Google Pixel 7 Pro
A sleek, picture-taking machine with 30x Super Res zoom, all-day battery life, and face unlock features
Google Pixel 6
An affordable Pixel phone with outstanding camera performance, enhanced software, and colorful body choices
Google Pixel 5a with 5G
An IP67 water and dust-rated Pixel phone with long battery life and exceptional cameras
Google Pixel 7
The affordable new kid on the block with a battery that lasts longer than 24 hours and an ultrawide view camera setting to capture more of your surroundings
This article only includes Google Pixel phones that are actively sold by Google on the Google Store. There are older model Pixel phones that continue to receive software and firmware updates, but these are only available as used or refurbished phones from retailers such as Amazon and some wireless carriers.
ZDNET reviewers tested each of these Pixel phones and we used their hands-on experiences to determine the pros and cons of each model.
When examining the pros and cons, we inspected the device's battery life, processing speed, design, camera capabilities, and more to choose the best options.
Display refresh rates are a consideration today since Android phones now support refresh rates up to 120Hz. For displays with high refresh rates, the default is 60Hz, allowing you to scroll up and down the display faster with smoother performance. It is primarily noticeable when you swipe up and down side-by-side with devices that have different rates, but once you use a phone with a 120Hz refresh rate, it is tough to go backwards.
Also: Google's first Pixel feature drop of 2023 is official. Here's what's new
The Pixel 7 Pro supports a refresh rate of up to 90Hz, the Pixel 6 up to 90Hz, and both the Pixel 5a and 6a remain at the default 60Hz rate. 90Hz is a decent compromise between the two.
People use their smartphones everywhere today and having some level of dust and water resistance is important. You should not swim or intentionally submerge your phone for extended periods in water without a waterproof case and warranties generally do not cover water damage. However, if you are outside in the rain, accidentally drop your phone in a puddle, or spill something on your phone it should be able to survive such an incident.
Thankfully, all of the current Pixel phones have a fairly high level of dust and water resistance. The Pixel 5a and 6a are both certified for IP67 while the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro are rated for IP68.
Wireless charging is a convenient way to charge your phone without having to plug in a USB-C cord directly into the phone. Wireless charging is also now rated as fast wireless charging in many cases, but even with this "fast" rating, it is still faster to charge up your phone with a direct USB-C cable.
Also: Is your Pixel battery draining faster than it should? This feature can help
Both the Pixel 7 Pro and Pixel 7 support fast wireless charging, but neither the Pixel 5a or Pixel 6a support this capability.
To begin exploring comparable phones, check out some of ZDNET's other buyer's guides:
Meanwhile, consider another capable Google phone below:
An affordable Google Pixel phone featuring Adaptive Battery (for 24+ hour use), Face Unblur, and a water-resistant body.