A history of The Google Pixel phone.
Reimagining an Android phone that’s still stronger than ever.
It all started with a photo. Or rather a new phone with a camera system that took the world by storm. All of a sudden, phone photos were clearer than ever. And while that’s not the entire Google Pixel phone story, its early camera was a huge part of what made this device such a sensation. Soon, the brand introduced other advances like Night Sight mode, Super Res Zoom and Portrait mode, forever changing how we capture photos on our phones, especially in the dark. Since then, a series of other developments have come to define the Google Pixel, including Active Edge, allowing users to squeeze the phone’s sides to trigger actions and the introduction of the Google Assistant, allowing for seamless voice commands through Google. All of this, plus some other major advances, has produced what many consider to be one of the best Android phones on the market today.
Before Google called its smartphone line the Pixel, Google smartphones were actually called the Nexus series. They were initially designed for developers. Eventually Google decided to make its smartphone more accessible, adding a premium phone to the Android experience and, in 2016, the Google Pixel phone was born. Read up on some of the key moments in the Google Pixel story to date.
Google Pixel (2016): Unmatched Camera and Pure Android Experience.
The first-ever Google Pixel phone was introduced in October 2016. It marked Google's departure from the Nexus line and represented the company's full control over both hardware and software. This device had a 5-inch display, a powerful Snapdragon 821 processor, and the latest version of Android (Android 7.1 Nougat). It was praised for its exceptional camera performance, its direct from Google software updates and the introduction of the Google Assistant.
Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL (2017): A picture-perfect Pixel phone evolution.
The Pixel 2 series continued to focus on camera excellence and timely software updates. The Pixel 2 XL featured a larger 6-inch OLED display with minimal bezels, while the Pixel 2 had a 5-inch OLED display. Both devices showcased an improved camera algorithm, achieving stunning photography results, even in low-light. The devices also introduced an Active Edge feature, allowing users to trigger certain actions by squeezing the phone's frame.
Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL (2018): Night Sight redefines low-light photography.
As if the photos weren’t already amazing enough, Google decided it was time to change how we take pictures in the dark. Night Sight allowed users to capture remarkable photos in extremely low-light settings. Beyond that, Top Shot utilized AI to recommend the best shot from a burst of images. Wireless charging was also introduced in these models.
Google Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL (2019): Pixel photo perfection on a budget.
In May 2019, to help even more people enjoy the Pixel phone, Google introduced the more budget-friendly Pixel 3a series, including the Pixel 3a and 3a XL. These phones featured mid-range hardware but retained the same excellent camera capabilities as their flagship counterparts.
Google Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL (2019): Unlocking the future with face recognition.
The Pixel 4 series brought a renewed design with a square camera module and a 90Hz smooth display on the XL. The phones introduced Motion Sense technology, which allowed for gesture control, and Face Unlock as a secure biometric authentication method (so users could unlock their phones with their faces). The cameras received further enhancements, and the devices featured the latest Android 10 with improved Google Assistant integration.
Google Pixel 4a and Pixel 4a 5G (2020): Affordable Pixels without compromise.
Once again, Google chose to help even more people get in on the fun. In August 2020, the company released the Pixel 4a. It offered a more affordable single-camera setup while maintaining the impressive camera performance that made the Google Pixel phone famous. It also featured a 5.81-inch OLED display. A few months later, the tech giant unveiled the Pixel 4a 5G (alongside the Pixel 5 in October 2020), providing a larger display and 5G support.
Google Pixel 5 (2020): Pixel brilliance with flagship features at a mid-range price.
To complement its more cost-conscious offerings, the Pixel 5 focused on providing a great user experience at a competitive price. It featured a 6-inch 90Hz OLED display, a Snapdragon 765G processor, and a dual-camera system. As expected this phone maintained the top notch camera quality that had become a hallmark of the Pixel series.
Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro (2022): Reimagined and redesigned, inside and out.
With the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro design became the focus of Google’s game. This phone had a clearly distinct style compared to previous generations of Pixel phones. It offered a large camera bar and two-tone color scheme on the back. Powered by Tensor, Google's first-ever processor, it was also equipped with an all-day adaptive battery. The Pixel 6 Pro featured an even more advanced camera, able to capture brilliant color and vivid detail. It also boasted a more powerful performance with faster apps and pages, an all-day battery and proactive help.
The Pixel 6 series was also the first to feature Magic Eraser. This could detect distractions in photos like background photobombers, power lines and more. It could also suggest what users might want to remove. Then, people could choose whether to erase them all at once or tap to remove them one by one.
Both phones received generally positive reviews, and both Wired and The Verge praised the devices’ performance, cameras, and battery life.
Google Pixel 6a (2022): A mid-range variant of its predecessors.
The Google Pixel 6a served as a mid-range variant of the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. Built with an aluminum frame, a plastic back and Gorilla Glass 3 for the screen. The design included a camera bar and two-tone color scheme on the back similar to the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. It garnered overwhelming praise upon its release, with particular accolades for its value, sustainability, design, cameras, and "flagship-level" performance through Google's proprietary Tensor system-on-chip.
Google Pixel 7 & 7 Pro (2022): New photo featured on affordable flagship Pixel phones.
With lower prices than the competition, the smaller Google Pixel 7 and the bigger Pixel 7 Pro, (6.3-inch Full HD+ and 6.7-inch displays respectively) revealed an even more refined phone. Both phones featured the second-gen Tensor chip for faster performance. The cameras also featured updates to Night Sight, and they could snap better photos than the previous model, even faster at night.
Google Pixel 7a (2023): A flagship grade experience with a smaller phone.
The Google Pixel 7a was also a huge moment for the company’s A-series. The 7a had the same Tensor G2 chip as the flagship models, and for the first time this level of tech was made available on a less expensive Pixel. It also came equipped with a fast screen refresh rate. The screen itself was much smaller compared to its predecessors, with 6.1-inch Full HD OLED display. All in all, users could access a better phone with better photos for even more to enjoy.
Google Pixel Fold (2023): Phone on the outside, tablet on the inside.
Next up, the team at Google introduced a phone made for multitasking. The Google Pixel Fold brought Google’s first foldable phone ever to market. It had all the power of the Google Tensor G2 chip in a thin, pocket-size design. But this was much more than just a phone. While it’s a Pixel phone on the outside, one could fold out a big, immersive display that felt like more of a tablet. It’s great for movies, photos, work, and multitasking. So you could do even more, then fold it up and put it in your pocket.
This new series of Pixel phones takes the Pixel even further with added features like a Magic Eraser so you can get the video you want by removing what you dont want with a tap. Distracting audio removal lets users eradicate unwanted noise. And a next gen call screen made being “on hold” an experience of the past. This is truly the Google Pixel phone amplified.
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