The Pixel Ultra and Pixel 3 Lite are not the solution to Google's smartphone problems

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
The Pixel Ultra and Pixel 3 Lite are not the solution to Google's smartphone problems
The latest global smartphone shipment numbers are in, and you know whose name doesn’t come up once in this Q3 2018 Counterpoint Research report? That’s right, Google’s. That’s despite the fact the Mountain View-based search giant has been selling its own mobile devices since 2010, first by merely slapping a logo and ordering a certain Nexus design from a third-party manufacturer.

Then came the Pixel program, which included higher-end smartphones “made by Google”, at least for marketing purposes. The first Pixel generation was (silently) manufactured by HTC, but Google grew more ambitious and independent, bringing in external talent to closely monitor and handle more aspects of the production process in-house.

Unfortunately, the Pixel 3 and 3 XL were stillborn, proving yet again Google doesn’t know how to design and sell a phone for the masses after all these years. That was obvious before the two were formally unveiled, and a mythical Pixel Ultra or curious Pixel 3 Lite wouldn’t have made much of a difference. Here's why.

Google just doesn’t get it


Because there’s clearly no such thing as a perfect phone, it’s pretty impressive Google managed to release three Pixel generations that earned glowing reviews. According to our in-depth reviewers, the Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2, 2 XL, 3, and 3 XL all came within one point of perfection.


What’s interesting is that the hardware prevented all six handsets from getting a perfect score. In the case of the Pixel 3 and 3 XL, for instance, the objectively ill-advised designs were ultimately deemed the number one weakness.

Thus, it would be safe to imagine that a Pixel Ultra could have sold like hotcakes. Never mind that what many people expected from the Pixel Ultra simply cannot be done today. The more important point is a zero-bezel, no-notch third-generation Pixel wouldn't have fixed a darn thing. Maybe it would be rated a 9.5 or even a perfect 10, but when it comes to real-life, long-term usage, Google remains completely clueless as to the “average” user’s wishes and priorities.

“Vanilla” software? That’s something a handful of people care about. A stable software experience putting device performance first, as well as quick, comprehensive bug fixes? That’s the real dream.


So-called Android “purists” and general hardcore Google fans might argue the Pixel 3 and 3 XL issues have been blown out of proportion these past few weeks, getting way more (negative) press coverage than, say, Galaxy Note 9 glitches.

That’s partially true, but there are a couple of reasons why that tends to happen with Google-made phones. These are generally held to a higher standard than other Android devices when it comes to software stability because this particular hardware vendor just so happens to be in charge of the entire ecosystem. No blame can be passed on to a different company, and no one else can mess up a Pixel's OS recipe.
 
Besides, Google is a software (and Internet services) specialist first, so while customers might be inclined to forgive the occasional hardware flaw, there’s no excuse for getting the user interface of the Pixel 3 and 3 XL so terribly wrong that even using the camera can sometimes turn into an adventure. Finally, you’d have thought that some good would come out of all those Pixel 2 bugs, glitches, and controversies last year. Guess not.

At least get the basics right


Before Google can magically create the world’s first bezelless smartphone with no notch, hole, or other type of screen cutout, it’d be nice to deliver the basics of a respectable high-ender today.

Sure, a phenomenal camera is a great start, but that can't be the only truly impressive feature you get for as much as $999. Many people feel a 4GB RAM-packing “premium” Android phone is an insult in this day and age, and until we see exactly what Google can do about those widely reported memory management malfunctions by way of a software update, we shouldn't rule out the problem having something to do with both hardware and software. 


Speaking of that ridiculous $799 - $999 price range, justifying such an extravagant purchase becomes practically impossible when you also consider the absence of a microSD card slot and headphone jack, which the overwhelming majority of Android fans still view as essential features. Oh, and let’s not forget about Verizon exclusivity.

Now picture a Verizon-exclusive Pixel Ultra with razor-thin screen bezels, the same key feature omissions, and a starting price of $1,000 or even more. Still think the notch is Google’s biggest problem? Or let’s assume the Pixel 3 Lite is real and coming soon rather than a canceled prototype or simply a failed mid-range experiment.

 

Realistically speaking, how much do you think Google would charge for a Pixel 3 doppelgänger with a modest (by high-end standards) Snapdragon 670 processor and the headphone jack revived... for some reason? $600? Sounds about right. Of course, you can always get a OnePlus 6T with 6GB RAM, 128GB internal storage, and the same top-notch SoC as the Pixel 3 for 50 bucks less.

What the fudge is Fuchsia?


If we’re talking specifics, we have no idea. As a general concept, it’s something Google has allegedly been floating around as a potential Android replacement. Why would you replace the world’s most popular mobile operating system (by an incredibly wide margin)? 

Maybe because Android fragmentation has gotten completely out of control and there’s no way to contain the issue anytime soon. No, Treble is not it. And it’s not it because users don’t want only faster updates. They want better updates first and foremost.

 

They want software that won't randomly make their ears bleed due to insufferable buzzing and clicking, as well as exhaustive bug fixes delivered within days or weeks, not months, of the discovery of an issue.

If this Fuchsia project can do all that, then by all means load it up on next year’s Pixel 4. But if not (and we think not, as the completion of the experiment might still be several years away), Google may want to reorder its priorities and decide exactly what the purpose of the company’s in-house smartphone program is.


Instead of paying Eminem and Jimmy Kimmel millions for arguably cool ads that however rarely translate into strong sales, how about offering existing users official, timely, and reliable repair options

Instead of producing boring switch-encouraging videos that iPhone owners aren’t even going to watch, maybe hire some engineers from a company that’s not on the brink of extinction to come up with better designs. They don’t have to be particularly original, imaginative, or game-changing. But they definitely need to keep up with modern trends better.

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41 Comments

1. Shazam777

Posts: 40; Member since: Aug 08, 2018

The solution to their smartphone problem is to stop letting us beta test their half broken phones.

6. strategic_developer

Posts: 1627; Member since: Jul 17, 2018

But they all do it. Right?

9. RevolutionA

Posts: 392; Member since: Sep 30, 2017

No. They're trying to copy Apple which in no way they can. It's like going against god.

17. lyndon420

Posts: 6752; Member since: Jul 11, 2012

God?? Now that's a stretch. This 'God' you speak of apparently gave us Adam & Eve, Sodom & Gammorah, the big flood, and liberals...lol. Apple is in no way perfect or worthy of any kind of god status.

2. jodeci888

Posts: 78; Member since: May 14, 2009

They need to buy OnePlus and make the ULTRA.

3. pokharkarsaga

Posts: 547; Member since: Feb 23, 2012

Google is an Apple follower(eg: Notch & price)

34. tuminatr

Posts: 1121; Member since: Feb 23, 2009

Apple was not the first phone with a notch

4. kennybenny

Posts: 212; Member since: Apr 10, 2017

I wish Google reverted to it's Nexus days, and release an "affordable" model and one high end model like the Nexus 5X and the 6P........ I find this model works because you can get a taste of Google without splurging $800+ for the experience. At least Nexus phone prices were a little more reasonable back then....... Not to mention, you have a choice!!!!! I would buy a "affordable" Google phone.

11. roldefol

Posts: 4744; Member since: Jan 28, 2011

Hear, hear. I snatched up the Nexus 6P because it was top notch hardware and software for a mere $550. And I understand that it took them partnering with Huawei to be able to offer it that low, but they did. I would rather buy a OnePlus and feel I've gotten a great value.

18. lyndon420

Posts: 6752; Member since: Jul 11, 2012

My Nexus 6 was close to perfect for me until the battery quit.

5. strategic_developer

Posts: 1627; Member since: Jul 17, 2018

Here is where you are wrong. Just because Google controls the hardware and software, doesn't mean the OEM they choose is Scott free if there are hardware problems. Because the phone is marketed as a Google device, Google suffers the most damage vs the OEM who made it. However. Google designing the phone is not an issue. And the claim that because an OEM controls hardware and software equally, somehow means the device will have less problems or be more perfect. For years Apple has proven that to be completely false. In fact for a company who at the time made significantly less products, they were equally or more problematic than others. And that has not changed. It was also thought if Microsoft made their own hardware along with Windows, that somehow this would make their stuff better too. Well we see again its simply not

37. yalokiy

Posts: 966; Member since: Aug 01, 2016

Google is still to be blamed for being greedy with RAM and battery size.

7. tokuzumi

Posts: 1873; Member since: Aug 27, 2009

This article is all over the place. It starts out about the Pixels, but then starts talking about Fuchsia and all sorts of other things. While Google wants to make money, I don't think the Pixel is all about putting a dent in Galaxy smartphone sales. It's still about pushing Google services to drive ad revenue. That's what Android has been about from the beginning. I can see Google pulling out the Call Screening feature and making it an app in the Play Store. I can also see Google opening up the APIs for the Night Sight to allow for other OEMs to take better night photos. The Pixel line of phones is still about "here's what Android can do". The overall experience is kind of beta, so I wish Google didn't charge users top dollar to test features that may or may not work.

15. TBomb

Posts: 1419; Member since: Dec 28, 2012

You make a solid point... I don't think Google is all about the sales of Pixels as it's main driver for existence. I think the Pixel line's purpose is to set the bar for the OEMs like Samsung. "At minimum, Android is set to offer _______. It's up to you to choose what to do with it." Less Related Part: I think the article brought in Fuchsia to make a point about Google's lack of understanding what the customer wants. However, I think Fuchsia's existence would be to "restart" Android's original goal. I think that Android may have been rushed to compete with iOS, and allowing OEMs to modify it at will, a mess was created. The mess has become to big to clean up. Fuchsia's birth will take all of the lessons learned form Android's decade of life and retry. I think OEMs will have less freedom to manipulate the code as they seem fit and it will be more or less "basic modifications" only. This way updates can be pushed at will like with a pixel device, and any updates from an OEM will be mostly visual.

16. ZEUS.the.thunder.god

Posts: 1096; Member since: Oct 05, 2011

^THIS^ While author does have some valid points, he sounds more like someone on a Google hate train. 1. Global Shipment Numbers - nobody expected Google to show up there. 2. "Made by Google, at least for marketing purpose." - This is one of the stupidiest things I've heard. Google isn't the only one doing that so what's the point? 3. FUCHSIA - Why the hell are you even talking about a rumoured experimental software? How does it even relate to Pixel issues? 4. Android Fragmentation - Really? This isn't 2014, Android isn't iOS and more importantly Google isn't Apple. 5. Google collaborating with EM pisses you off? SMH.

31. FLOGROWN

Posts: 49; Member since: Oct 25, 2018

It isn’t 2014 is 2018 and fragmentation is real and google’s signature......plain and simple

8. ssallen

Posts: 179; Member since: Oct 06, 2017

What a bunch of stupid flamebait. Like Apple hasn't had a slew of hilariously embarrassing bugs over the last year. Bricked watches? BRICKED. Admin accounts left unlocked? ULTIMATE SECURITY FAIL. These Pixel 3 issues are way overblown. The 4GB memory? Its a little dissappointing but my Pixel 2XL has 4GB and I have never felt starved for memory and I am an actual mobile dev. This article is just flamebait fanning another partisan fanboy battle. The author should feel embarrassed but its all they can do with their useless communications degree.

13. vincelongman

Posts: 5677; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

Yea, people have already forgotten how bad iOS 11 was in terms of bugs and performance, so much worse than Pie iPhones have had similar quality control issues but Apple has physical stores which offer great services. Thats a major area Google needs to improve

40. tuminatr

Posts: 1121; Member since: Feb 23, 2009

The difference is if you want a Iphone you don't have a choice you buy an iphone. If you want an android phone you have a choice of many good manufactures. If apple were to license it tech I feel similar debates would go on.

10. ZerosAndOnes

Posts: 84; Member since: Oct 12, 2018

Pixel phones are iPhones of Android world with worse design and terrible bugs that usually dont exist on iPhones. In 2018 with gorgeous phones and tiny bezels Google wants me to pay 1000$ for a phone that has bezels from 2015. Its ridiculous and I hope they don't sell sh*t as they are putting minimal effort besides the camera department.

12. applesnapple93

Posts: 302; Member since: Jan 06, 2016

Android went down hill after Marshmallow. The point of android Kitkat - Marshmallow was to be light yet highly intelligent/functional OS. Nougat screwed that. For example, Nexus 5x was butter on Marshmallow, and Nougat killed it because Android started becoming extremely resource hungry again.

33. rouyal

Posts: 1576; Member since: Jan 05, 2018

I think it went downhill with lollipop. I haven’t seen a release as solid as KitKat yet.

38. yalokiy

Posts: 966; Member since: Aug 01, 2016

I had 5X, it stuttered from the very beginning to the end.

14. Chuck007

Posts: 1410; Member since: Mar 02, 2014

If his writing style doesn’t change (he has a tendency of writing flamebait articles) I say he deserves to be fired. The man has no journalistic whatsoever.

20. CEDEOTB

Posts: 396; Member since: Nov 21, 2016

Still don't know why they went with a huge notch and an easily scratch able back.

27. syntaxlord

Posts: 239; Member since: Oct 01, 2018

Frosted glass is less slippery and fingerprint-prone than normal glass. Also, the back doesn't scratch. What looks like a scratch is actually residue from the abrasive (keys, coins, anything softer than the glass). As for why frosted glass "scratches" but normal glass doesn't - I don't know. The notch is influenced by other companies (primarily Apple), but the V40 does the same job with a smaller one...there's really no justification for it

21. AmashAziz

Posts: 2898; Member since: Jun 30, 2014

I can tell this guy exudes some degree of Apple fanboyism. And I'm not saying it just because of this article. This one is not that bad and makes several valid points about Pixel problems. But rest of his articles really show how much biased he is towards Apple. Who hired him?

22. paeschli

Posts: 35; Member since: Aug 27, 2013

Worldwide availability might help too I still can't buy a Pixel in Europe.

23. MVFJET

Posts: 5; Member since: Nov 05, 2018

I love Android OS but I'd never own a Pixel. I'm good with buying a new year old flagship for half price.

24. aspade

Posts: 5; Member since: Dec 17, 2011

All of these phone nerd reasons are completely missing the point. People in the real world neither know nor care how much memory their phone has, or that Android has versions, or what a OnePlus even is. A premium phone needs to do two things. 1. Look and feel recognizable and expensive. P1: Fail. P2: Fail. P3:Fail. 2. Have a premium customer experience ala Apple store. P1: Fail. P2: Fail. P3: Fail. That's all. Google isn't even close.

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