the evolution of Google Pixel phones

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Google has a long history of developing software for Nexus-branded devices, but it was always one of those odd companies we never saw enter the hardware field. That was, until we started hearing rumors that Google might finally enter the market with its own design, and custom hardware and software. The day is Tuesday, October 4, 2016, when Google finally unwrapped the original Google Pixel smartphones. It consisted of the 5-inch Google Pixel device, and a 5.5-inch Google Pixel XL model.

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In this post, we’ll take a closer look at all the Google Pixel smartphones the software giant has ever released. We’ll mention the unique features, design, and, generally, how the software and the hardware have evolved into the flagship Pixel series we have today. With the Google Pixel 7, Pixel 7 Pro, and Pixel Watch launching in just a matter of days, at the time of writing this article, we’ll also include those devices at the end of this list.


Google Pixel & Pixel XL

The original Google Pixel and Pixel XL were unveiled on October 4, 2016, during the first “Made By Google” Event in San Francisco. The first Pixel phones had a flashy new design language with a metal and glass frame on the back, and while there were mixed opinions about the looks, it was refreshing to see everyone’s favorite company enter the smartphone race.

Google immediately started advertising its newly launched business, and it was heavily marketed against the iPhones, offering a headphone jack, and unlimited storage for photos and other media. Although the year was 2016, the Pixel devices were considered to have very large bezels. They were equipped with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 chipsets, and had 4GB of RAM and 32/128GB of storage.

The first Google Pixel devices took the world by storm, and quickly overtook all smartphones in the camera department. The Pixel had an iconic look and took some of the best photos. Manufacturers took many more years until they could catch up with Google and offer similarly impressive photo quality in both broad daylight and very dark environments.

The Pixels weren’t exactly known for their high quality and long battery life, but they were excellent all-around devices for the money, which was, even then, considered a premium.

In case you want some nostalgia, here’s the official Google Pixel announcement:

Google Pixel 2 & Pixel 2 XL

The Google Pixel 2 series was unveiled on October 4, 2017. The new devices featured smaller bezels, especially the XL model, and a slightly different design. The glass panel was now smaller, and the dual-tone colors were better highlighted to create more contrast between the metal frame and the glass panel.

The Google Pixel 2 series were equipped with the Snapdragon 835 SoC, with 4GB of RAM and 64/128GB of storage. Google switched over to the 12MP Sony IMX362 f/1.8 cameras, which significantly improved the quality of the images. The battery was also slightly larger in both devices and was often praised for providing the best-in-class experience in the Android world.

The Pixel 2 was also the first in the lineup to feature the IP67 water and dust resistance certificate, which was a big upgrade, compared to the IP53 certificate that could be found on the original Pixel series.

Google Pixel 3 & Pixel 3 XL

The Google Pixel 3 series was officially announced on October 9, 2018, alongside several other products, including the Google Home Hub, Google Pixel Slate, and the Chromecast that is still being sold today. The Pixel 3 series featured a nearly identical design language to the Pixel 2 series, although there were a lot of differences on the inside, and on the front of the devices. The Pixel 3 had thinner bezels, while the Pixel 3 XL opted for a notch with a dual selfie camera setup.

The notch was often ridiculed for its large size, and it didn’t help that the Pixel 3 series were leaked in full, months and weeks before the event. Google tried to create some hype by publicly acknowledging the leaks, but that later backfired slightly.

The Pixel 3 series launched with the Snapdragon 845 chipset with 4GB of RAM and 64/128GB of storage. The devices used the Sony IMX 363 12MP f/1.8 sensors, which were practically the same sensors as the ones found in last year’s Pixel 2 flagships. That being said, Google managed to improve the photo quality, resulting in better low-light photography.

The Pixel 3 series were also the first devices to come equipped with wireless charging, and the entire back of the device was made out of glass, with a dual-toned look.

Google Pixel 3a & Pixel 3a XL

The Google Pixel 3a series were the first A-series smartphones in the lineup. They were created as a budget series, offering excellent flagship features at a more affordable price range. The Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL were announced on May 7, 2019, at Google I/O. The affordable duo featured a 5.6-inch and a 6-inch OLED displays, respectively, and were powered by the Snapdragon 670 mid-range chipset with 4GB of memory and 64GB of on-board storage.

Despite the Pixel 2 and Pixel 3 series lacking the 3.5mm headphone jack, the Pixel 3a series returned the beloved port. The budget duo also came with the same camera sensors as the Pixel 3 series, and they were hands down the best camera smartphones at their respective prices.

The Pixel 3a devices were many people’s first Google Pixel smartphone, due to their attractive design, low price, and feature-rich hardware and fluid software. Google promised that the A-series of devices would receive the same software treatment as the flagships, encouraging even more people to pick them up instead of other competing midrangers. There wasn’t a lot that could go wrong with the price of $400 and $480, respectively.

Google Pixel 4 & Pixel 4 XL

The Google Pixel 4 series promised many new features, hardware, and a massive redesign. The Pixel 4 series had relatively small batteries, which made them unpopular among a lot of technology enthusiasts. While these were the first Pixel phones to have 90Hz high-refresh rate displays, they were often not as smooth as the competition’s screens.

The Google Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL were announced on October 15, 2019. The Pixel 4 had a large 4.7-inch OLED panel, while the Pixel 4 XL came with a 6.3-inch OLED panel. Both devices had a 90Hz refresh rate display and Gorilla Glass 5. They were powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chipset, and had 6GB of RAM and 64/128GB of storage. At the time, 6GB was still considered enough, although most OEMs included 8GB to futureproof their devices better.

Google also took a step back, including a telephoto sensor, instead of an ultrawide, which was ultimately more popular at the time. The Pixel 4 series also introduced a new camera feature called Astrophotography. It took larger exposure images, resulting in breathtaking images, equivalent to some DSLR-captured pictures.

The company also experimented with the Soli sensor. This resulted in a sizeable top bezel on the front of the device, which was often considered a controversial move. The Soli (also known as Motion Sense) sensor promised intuitive hand gestures and additional features; however, they were a hit-and-miss and never entirely worked properly. Many people – including myself – turned the feature off after just a few days.

The Pixel 4 series were also the first in the Pixel lineup to feature dedicated hardware to recognize faces. The technology was impressive and worked from all angles, but once again, there were a lot of problems with this, as the feature was often outright disabled for some users, rendering their devices useless. Google later released multiple updates to help address the issues, but it never quite got it fully resolved.

Google Pixel 4a & Pixel 4a 5G

Google announced the Pixel 4a on August 3, 2020, and the Pixel 4a (5G) on September 30, 2020. The two devices were the successors of the Pixel 3a series, and arrived with better hardware, software, and camera sensors. Although we don’t have any official numbers to confirm, we expect the Pixel 4a series to be one of the most popular A-series devices in the Pixel’s history to this date.

The Pixel 4a was powered by the Snapdragon 730G, while the Pixel 4a (5G) was equipped with the Snapdragon 765G, the same chip later found in the Google Pixel 5. The difference between the two devices was minimal, and both phones came with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. The 4a had a 5.81-inch OLED display, while the 4a 5G arrived with a slightly larger, 6.2-inch OLED screen. The 4a had a single 12MP f/1.7 primary camera, whereas the 4a 5G also had a 16MP f/2.2 ultrawide sensor. Both devices provided about a day’s worth of use from a single charge, and supported 18W fast charging.

  • Google Pixel 4a
    Pixel 4a black friday deal

    It’s the cheapest Google Pixel device that comes with a flagship camera, and a long lasting battery life.

  • Google Pixel 4a 5G

    Google finally tasted success with the Pixel portfolio when it launched the Pixel 3a, and has now replicated the formula with the Pixel 4a 5G. This phone packs a lot of punch in terms of processing power, rocks a minimalist design, and of course, terrific cameras.

Google Pixel 5

The Google Pixel 5 was announced the same day as the Pixel 4a (5G), on September 30, 2020. As the pandemic was still in full swing, Google had reportedly struggled to get hold of a lot of components and hardware, and it had to result in developing a mid-range smartphone. The increased costs and delay to flagship components meant that the company had to shift its interests, and create a more affordable device at a time when most people were trying to save up. The end result was the Google Pixel 5, powered by the Snapdragon 765G chipset, 6GB of memory, and 128GB of storage.

The smartphone was more compact than the previous Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL flagships, and it also did away with the Soli motion sensor, and 3D face unlock mechanism. Instead, it returned the beloved fingerprint sensor on the back of the device and introduced a hole-punch cutout for the selfie camera for a more seamless and modern look.

The device was also made out of aluminium, and despite the material, Google also managed to include wireless charging, and for the first time, support for reverse wireless charging. This was especially useful for charging the Google Pixel Buds, and other accessories. The device kept the IP68 water resistance level, and it retailed for only $599.00 in the US.

Google Pixel 5

The Google Pixel 5 might have slightly outdated hardware and design compared to the Pixel 6 series, but it’s one of the most compact Android devices, and it features an excellent 5G SoC, large display, great camera setup, and a battery that can easily last for a full day on a single charge. It also supports wireless charging, which is rare at this price point.

Google Pixel 5a 5G

The Google Pixel 5a 5G was announced on August 17, 2021. It was essentially the same device with the same hardware as the Pixel 4a 5G and the Pixel 5, except, it had a larger 6.34-inch OLED display. The phone was still powered by the same Snapdragon 765 5G chipset, and it had the same 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, but the display was slightly larger at 6.34-inches. Unfortunately, the screen was only a 60Hz panel OLED panel, but it was the first A-series device to feature an IP67 water and dust resistance certificate.

The phone also had the same camera layout as the Pixel 4a 5G, and it had a 12MP f/1.7 primary sensor, a 16MP f/2.2 ultrawide, and an 8MP f/2.0 selfie camera. It had a 4,680 mAh battery and 18W fast wired charging. The device was only available in the United States and Japan for $449.

Pixel 5a
Google Pixel 5a front and back

The Google Pixel 5a is an alternative to the Pixel 6 that’s perfect to get if your budget doesn’t extend any further. It grants access to the competitive Google camera algorithm and efficient plus reliable performance due to its Snapdragon 765G.

Google Pixel 6 & Pixel 6 Pro

The Google Pixel 6 series was announced on October 19, 2021. They marked the return of the premium tier smartphones and featured a brand-new design reminiscent of the Pixel 2 series. The Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro featured a brand new glass rear panel and a bold new design, and for the first time, Google had equipped its flagships with its own custom-made chipset, the Google Tensor SoC.

The Pixel 6 series sport not only a new design and a new chipset on the inside but also features a brand new camera setup. Google has used the same camera sensor since 2017; this was the first time the company made some rather drastic changes. Both devices had the same 50MP f/1.9 primary sensor, and the 12MP f/2.2 ultrawide, while the Pro model also arrived with a 48MP f/3.5 telephoto sensor, capable of 4x optical zoom.

Google Tensor was also the first SoC to make it into a Pixel-branded smartphone, but this turned out to be less impressive, as users faced slowdowns, and it continuously underperformed when compared to other high-end devices. The in-display fingerprint sensor was also first found on the Pixel 6 series, but this, too, faced a lot of criticism due to its slow mechanism. Google has resolved most issues over time, but it had a rocky start at the beginning.

The Pixel 6 arrived with a 6.4-inch AMOLED display with 90Hz refresh rate, while the Pixel 6 Pro had a 6.71-inch LTPO AMOLED display with a 120Hz panel. Both devices are powered by the Google Tensor 5nm SoC, and the Pixel 6 arrived with 128/256GB of storage and 8GB of RAM. The Pixel 6 Pro had 12GB of RAM and 128/256/512GB of storage. The Pixel 6 series was also the first device to support 30W fast wired charging, which promised a 50% charge in just 30 minutes.

  • Google Pixel 6
    Google Pixel 6 in Kinda Coral

    The Google Pixel 6 is the more compact and affordable variant from the new flagship series. It features most of the same features and comes with the same primary and ultrawide camera as the Pixel 6 Pro.

  • Google Pixel 6 Pro
    Google Pixel 6 in Kinda Coral

    The Google Pixel 6 Pro is the first flagship-level offering from Google after it spent a year away with mid-ranged devices. It features a 120Hz 1440p display and a triple camera system with all-new optics.

Google Pixel 6a

The Google Pixel 6a was announced on May 11, 2022. The device was unveiled at Google I/O and followed the same design language as the flagship Pixel 6 series. The device had a metal frame and a plastic back, which helped Google keep the costs down. This was also the first A-series device to come equipped with the flagship Google Tensor SoC, the same chip that could be found in the high-end Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. The memory also received a minor bump, up to 6GB, and the phone had 128GB of storage.

On the back, the phone had a 12.2MP f/1.7 primary sensor, and a 12MP ultrawide camera. The front punch hole cutout had an 8MP f/2.0 sensor, excellent for taking selfies and videos. The device also had night mode photography features and could take flagship-level photos and videos in all environments. Although the sensors were not as good as in the flagship devices, it was still respectable, and one of the best camera smartphones in its price segment.

The Pixel 6a had IP67 water and dust certification, a relatively large 4,410 mAh battery, and it even supported 18W fast wired charging. Unfortunately, the 6.1-inch OLED display was locked to 60Hz, and there wasn’t any sign of wireless charging. The Pixel 6a made up for the missing features with its low price, as it cost only $449.

Google Pixel 6a
PBI-Pixel-6a-2-1

If you don’t care about high refresh rate, wireless charging, a glass back and a few other tidbits, this should be your phone. It’s a Pixel, but less expensive. Check out all the deals on the device using the links given below.

Google Pixel 7 & Pixel 7 Pro

The Google Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro will be unveiled on October 6, 2022. The new devices will be equipped with the second generation of Google Tensor G2 SoC, and they will likely keep the 8GB and 12GB of memory options, respectively. The design of the Pixel 7 series will largely remain intact, and it will feature mostly the same aesthetics. Google has already confirmed that it has made some changes to the bar running across the back of the device, and it will now match the color of the frame. The device will look undeniably still like a Pixel flagship.

The camera in the new flagships is rumored to be nearly identical to the one found in the Pixel 6 series, though, we could see some slight improvements to the hardware. We’re also expecting a lot of under-the-hood changes, and seeing what the new Tensor G2 chipset might be capable of processing. If history is anything to go by, we should expect a lot of improvements to the quality of the images and video.

Google has already confirmed that the Pixel 7 will be available in three colors, including Obsidian (Black), Lemongrass (Yellow), and Snow (White). The Pixel 7 Pro will also become available in three colors, including Obsidian (Black), Hazel (Gold frame with Olive Green back), and Snow (White). The price for the two devices is expected to be similar to last year’s Google Pixel 6 series, retailing at $599 for the Pixel 7, and $899 for the Pixel 7 Pro. However, it’s worth noting that the current inflation could change the pricing significantly.

At the event, Google is also expected to unveil the new Google Pixel Watch, and we have already seen the released Pixel Buds Pro. The company has also confirmed that it’s working on a Pixel Tablet, which is scheduled to arrive sometime in 2023.

  • Google Pixel 7
    Google Pixel 7

    The Google Pixel 7 will reportedly feature the new Google Tensor sensor, a new camera setup, improved hardware, and a new modern design. The Pixel 7 will be available in Obsidian, Lemongrass, and Snow colors. 

  • Google Pixel 7 Pro
    Google Pixel 7 Pro

    The Google Pixel 7 Pro will be powered by the new Google Pixel Tensor sensor, providing even more powerful graphics and computing power to let you play all of your favorite games. The device will also have a powerful new camera setup, and it’ll be available in Obsidian, Hazel, and Snow colors. 

  • Google Pixel Watch
    Google Pixel Watch

    The Google Pixel Watch is the first smartwatch from the software giant, and it has reportedly been in the works for multiple years. The watch will be powered by Wear OS 3 and reportedly have Google Assistant, Fitbit health tracking features, and more. 

Google has also experimented with tablets in the past, and it has released multiple Nexus tablets, smartphones, and Chromebooks. The company unveiled the Google Pixel C on September 29, 2015. The device had a 10.2-inch display and was powered by the NVIDIA Tegra X1 chip, and it had 3GB of memory and 32/64GB of storage. The device launched alongside the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P devices, but these devices likely deserve their own post.

Let us know if you’d be interested in the history of other Google-made projects and devices in the comments below! Which of the Google Pixel phones was your favorite, and which one do you still own? Let us know in the comments below!