In similar fashion to the past several years, Google and Apple have each released new smartphones during the months of September and October. Apple started off first on September 6th with the announcement of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, along with the Apple Watch Series 2, the latest iteration of the Apple Watch. Less than a month later, Google arrived on October 4th with the Pixel and Pixel XL headlining an event, which also brought a host of smart-home devices, including Google Home, Chromecast Ultra, and Google WiFi. While both companies revealed several products at their events, the phones were undoubtedly the highlight of each.
The most controversial announcement at Apple’s event came when it was confirmed that the iPhone 7/Plus would not contain a 3.5mm audio jack, standard on every one of its predecessors. Prior to the announcement, there were rumors circulating that the iPhone 7 wouldn’t include the audio jack. In response to the lack of an audio jack, Apple also announced the AirPods, their wireless headphones which themselves were met with controversy as many found it to be ugly and awkwardly designed.
The Google announcement was met with far less controversy, but it wasn’t entirely a clean slate. The Pixel and Pixel XL are the pioneer smartphones in Google’s Pixel line of devices. Successor to the Nexus line, Pixel represents a shift by Google from the developer-targeted Nexus devices to a more consumer-based audience. Designed with ease-of-use and accessibility in mind, the Pixel smartphones are built to compete more directly with the iPhone than any other currently available Android-based device. The release of the Pixel/XL marks the first time in six years that Google has not made a developer-oriented phone available to the general public.
One of the most widely praised aspects of the Pixel actually had nothing to do with the hardware of the device. The Pixel/XL is the first Android smartphone to feature deep integration with one of Google’s newest services, Google Assistant. Designed to act as a personal assistant to users, Google Assistant is available via a long press on the home button or a verbal “OK Google” and can do just about anything from telling you the weather outside to scheduling appointments to your Google Calendar. As the flagship devices for Google Assistant, the deep integration is currently unavailable for other Android devices (although some of Google Assistant’s functionality is available through Google’s Allo app which is available both Android and iOS devices).
While Google focused primarily on software, Apple continued to innovate on hardware with a redesigned 12 mega-pixel back-facing camera on the regular iPhone and dual 12 mega-pixel cameras on the iPhone Plus, a brighter screen offering improved coloring, and a new processor dubbed the A10 Fusion which Apple promise to be twice as powerful as the processor in the iPhone 6 and more power efficient than any of its predecessors. Additionally, with the lack of an 3.5mm audio jack, the iPhone 7 is the first iPhone to offer stereo speakers with twice the volume capability as the iPhone 6s.
Both phones come in with fairly normal out-of-contract price tags. The Pixel and iPhone 7 both start at $649 with 32 GB of storage. Meanwhile, the Pixel XL and iPhone 7 Plus start at $749, also with 32 GB of storage. While the maximum storage capacity for the Pixel/XL is only 128 GB, the iPhone 7/Plus allows up to 256 GB of storage to be configured. With a contract, the price is the same but it may be distributed over the course of 24 months through regular payments. Although both companies revealed device that bring improvements over the previous generation of smartphones, those who’ve purchased smartphones within the past year or two may not find the improvements enticing enough to upgrade just yet. For those who do believe they are due for an upgrade, the Pixel/XL is currently available only on Verizon while the iPhone 7/Plus is available on AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon.