The Pixel line is Google’s series of in-house Android phones. There’s been at least one new model released annually since 2016, but what are the newest phones that have been released in the line, and how has the Pixel brand changed over time? We’ll take a look at all of that and more.
Before we get into the modern-day stuff, let’s see how the Pixel line got to where it is today. While the first Pixel was announced back in 2016, the Google Nexus phones are a also key part of the history to look at, as they were Google’s original line of Android phones.
This line started in 2010 as a developer platform with the Nexus One and continued with that trend until 2015 with the Nexus 6P. Despite originally being designed as a platform for developers to build Android apps, the Nexus line was well regarded among reviewers and is remembered as some of the best Android phones on the market by enthusiasts. This is in no small part due to the low entry price for the phones, at least until the Nexus 6 when the price jumped significantly over the preceding models.
Here are all the phones Google released under the Nexus name:
- Nexus One (2010)
- Nexus S (2010)
- Galaxy Nexus (2011)
- Nexus 4 (2012)
- Nexus 5 (2013)
- Nexus 6 (2014)
- Nexus 5X (2015)
- Nexus 6P (2015)
The important thing to note about the Nexus line is all the phones were either co-developed or manufactured by other companies, such as HTC, LG, and Samsung. This is why when the first Pixel phone was announced in 2016, it was a big deal that it would be handled entirely in-house by Google.
The Pixel phones have been mostly well regarded but not without issues. Hardware problems in both quality control and things like battery life plagued most Pixel phones, holding back their excellent software and cameras. There’s plenty to love about the line, but it doesn’t manage to stick the landing consistently. More recent Pixel phones have corrected many of the issues that plagued previous models, making the current generation of Pixels the best yet.
In 2019, we saw the release of a new line of Pixel phone with the “a” series. The $400 Pixel 3a came with the same great camera and software as 2018’s Pixel 3 but in a cheaper package. While the price led to some obvious performance and hardware downgrades, those were understandable, and the phone was extremely well received. The 3a allowed Google to stake a name for itself in the budget phone market, with the “a” series continuing to be some of the best phones for the money.
Another change came this year with the Pixel 6. Instead of one high-end phone like the Pixel 5, we got two: the more mid-range Pixel 6 and the flagship Pixel 6 Pro. We can only assume a 6a will still be released sometime next year, so it seems like Google is looking for the line to cover the budget, mid-range, and premium price brackets. This is more similar to how things worked before the Pixel 5, as typically each generation would receive two phones: a standard model and an XL model.
Here are all of the Pixel phones that have been released to date:
- Google Pixel (2016)
- Google Pixel XL (2016)
- Google Pixel 2 (2017)
- Google Pixel 2 XL (2017)
- Google Pixel 3 (2018)
- Google Pixel 3 XL (2018)
- Google Pixel 3a (2019)
- Google Pixel 4 (2019)
- Google Pixel 4 XL (2019)
- Google Pixel 4a (2020)
- Google Pixel 4a 5G (2020)
- Google Pixel 5 (2020)
- Google Pixel 5a with 5G (2021)
- Google Pixel 6 (2021)
- Google Pixel 6 Pro (2021)
The Pixel 6 and 6 Pro continues the main flagship line of Pixel phones. The standard Pixel 6 has a lot of the strengths that previous Pixel phones were known for. The rear camera array, however, has changed drastically in design, gaining a higher-specced 50MP wide-angle lens along with a 12MP ultra-wide. The Pixel 6 also has a higher-capacity battery, better software with Android 12, and even manages a lower starting price than the Pixel 5, coming in at $599. There’s still no face unlock, a la the Pixel 5, though.
Perhaps the most notable feature of the phone’s internals is the processor. The Pixel 6 (and 6 Pro for that matter) are powered by the Tensor system-on-a-chip—Google’s first mobile chip. Previous Pixel phones relied on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processors, and while the Tensor SoC doesn’t massively outpace those in performance tests, it’s still quite good at either price point.
You can also expect 30W wireless charging and water resistance in both phones, but now’s a good time to start talking about the differences. The 6 Pro has a few key advantages over the standard 6, but whether or not that’s worth the asking price of $899 is up to you. The Pro has a bigger screen measuring at 6.7-inches versus the 6’s 6.4-inch display, and sports a 120Hz refresh rate (higher than the 6’s 90Hz cap). There’s also an even larger 5,003 mAh battery, 48MP telephoto lens added to the rear camera array, and 12GB of RAM as opposed to the 6’s 8GB.
These are great upgrades, and while it may not compete with the top of the line, $1000+ phones out there, it absolutely dominates the upper midrange and is one of the best Android phones on the market. Meanwhile, the standard 6 comfortably rules over the lower midrange and is one of the best values in the smartphone market. Either phone would be a good purchase—it just depends on which features you value.
Google Pixel 6
One of the best Android phones on the market and the latest entry in the Pixel line.
Google Pixel 6 Pro
Google’s new high-end phone with a few notable upgrades over the standard Pixel 6.
While the 6 is great, the 5a 5G has caught many people’s eyes as well. This phone is incredibly impressive for the price ($449) and makes a competitive play for the budget Android market.
The 5a 5G is arguably the best budget phone you can buy today. It’s got the same great software and camera from the Pixel 5. The specs, while not mind-blowing, keep up with the current version of Android well. It’s hard to think of a better phone in the price bracket and is an excellent option for any Android user looking for a phone on a budget.
Google Pixel 5a with 5G
An excellent budget option for Android users.