What is a Google Phone?! Reviewing Every Pixel/Nexus Ever!

so we've come a long way with smartphones and you could definitely see that when i reviewed every single iphone in a row that's ever been made 1 through 13. but this this should be very different because the question of what exactly defines a google phone has changed quite a bit over the years they've been all over the place but they've also come a long way in a different way [Music] so what is a google phone first of all well today the correct answer would be a pixel of course right but if you ask the same question anywhere from around 2010 to 2015 the correct answer would have been a nexus a nexus is a google phone or maybe any number of google play editions but if we're going all the way back to the beginning which we are it started with this the g1 so the g1 was manufactured by htc and this is going to be a key thing to pay attention to throughout this whole timeline because until the year 2016 google has never been the manufacturer the hardware company that builds the google phone google makes great software and great services but absolutely has never been a hardware company they've just been out here making android so before the g1 android was originally built to be an alternate operating system for digital cameras still a great idea by the way uh but eventually google bought android in 2005.

I think andy rubin at some point called it literally the best deal ever but there was briefly a prototype called the sooner that was never sold but was manufactured also by htc based on their excalibur and used to demonstrate and test this new version of an open source mobile operating system and then by 2008 we had the t-mobile g1 i remember really wanting this phone but i was on verizon and i was 15 so i couldn't just switch for a phone that looked cool but it did it looked so cool it was really a different design from so many of the other phones out at that time it had a trackball in addition to the touchscreen which wasn't that weird because blackberries had those too but there was also the end call sleep wake button there was a dedicated camera button with a state-of-the-art 3 megapixel camera on the back but also there were these buttons down here on a chin that's bent in at the bottom which is very different and that sliding mechanism for the keyboard which is still super springy and very satisfying was always pretty unique even at a time where lots of phones had springs and hinges and of course on top of all of that it was running android version one on 192 megabytes of ram and a 320 by 480 display now being different isn't always necessarily good right this phone definitely got mixed reviews when it dropped you know the low contrast screen wasn't amazing there was no headphone jack so you needed an adapter for this proprietary mini usb port to plug in headphones but this google phone was all about android it was all about the software and that's what made it different from the blackberries or palm trios or even the original iphone that was out at this time that's what the g1 was all about so this phone had to come out for the rest of what we're talking about today to even exist but what most people think of when they think of the first ever google phone is this the nexus one so right off the bat this phone was a flagship i remember it was a huge deal that it launched with a one gigahertz processor that was a barrier we were approaching at the time it had a relatively large 3.7 inch display and a higher 800 by 480 resolution and beyond all the new power in the big screen there is now multi-touch capability so the most memorable feature you might remember about this phone was the live wallpaper behind all your icons and new widgets i feel like every video on this phone had the live wallpaper with the moving colors and you could just touch a bunch of different spots and they'd pop up oh and it had a trackball again so clearly google liked that as much as i did there were some other things too like the back popped off battery removable this phone also launched back this early with google goggles which let you id things through the camera that's a long time to be doing that and also it launched with the android market which was an early first version of what we now know as google play store so a lot of things happening on the nexus one but i think really this is the phone that set the tone for me from what i expect a google phone to be which is a flagship a very capable flagship phone but asterisk this phone is again built by htc you can see the little badge at the bottom here and so at this point htc is building plenty of other great phones but they've also collaborated with google on this one so we get an htc build it's pretty dense it's made of metal it also has a spot for a micro sd card slot to expand memory alongside that removable battery there is some resemblance to some other htc phones that came out around the time and chief among them was the htc desire but with some google specific adjustments like the capacitive button layout below the screen was just for nexus one and the trackball which also lit up as a notification light was just for nexus one so this one was sick weird fact though it was discontinued completely after six months you know didn't really get any promo from carriers was kind of trying to be sold online only and it was just over after half a year so then we moved on so what did we get after nexus one we got nexus s and this one was made by samsung so this launched right around the same time as their first ever samsung galaxy s hence the name so those phones were built similarly but again this one was customized a bit for the google experience and so now that we have a sequel this is the first time we're really thinking about the question what is a nexus what is a google phone supposed to be there were also some curious things about this phone like it had a slightly curved four inch display that wrapped a little bit i guess around your face or felt more natural in the hand sort of sure it was also one of the first ever phones with nfc which would of course be the foundation later to android pay and it's the first google phone with a selfie camera it was a vga resolution selfie camera but it was still a selfie camera this phone launched with android gingerbread which was one of the first versions it was the first version to have a darker aesthetic not quite hollow but definitely shades of the night mode we have today and a screen off animation also one of the coolest most memorable things about this phone look like a crt tv turning off it's the little things but really at this point nexus is the phone with the most google software it's the pure android phone so it doesn't have any bloatware it doesn't have any modifications doesn't have any skin like you might find on the samsung version or an htc or motorola phone it's the google software phone so the next year in 2011 we got the galaxy nexus so there's an even more obvious collab between google and samsung we all know about galaxy s this was a nexus again made by samsung so it's the galaxy nexus and as a verizon customer this was the first nexus i was able to get and it was also the first and only phone i've ever lined up outside of a store and waited for then i proceeded to make eight videos on it but again this was a really interesting phone as a google phone so it had a much larger 4.65 inch still curved 720p hd oled display and it had a better 5 megapixel rear camera on the back with instant shutter it still had a headphone jack and it still had an easily removable battery remember those days when you could just pop out the battery and drop in another one two seconds later and be at 100 but now as a nexus this phone launches with stock android 4.0 ice cream sandwich the holo os the physical buttons are gone long before the iphone dropped their home button and android is now entirely doing on-screen navigation and like i mentioned this phone is in stores so i got it out of verizon store now it still wasn't a huge seller nexuses were still for android enthusiasts but yeah i was in the thick of it i remember i had custom roms custom kernels on this phone i overclocked this phone i was having a good time the galaxy nexus but things were about to change so i'm going to skip the beloved nexus 7 tablet and the not so beloved nexus q media player that technically came up next they were nexuses but they weren't google phones there was also a motorola zoom tablet that i loved back in the day that was succeeded by a nexus 10 but the next nexus phone was the nexus 4.

So now we've moved on to a google phone made by lg so this phone was interesting it sort of took a step back from being a flagship on the shelf of a carrier store and went back to being a great deal that you could get online so we have this unique flat glass design with no camera bump and a super unique dot pattern underneath that you could see when the light hit it a certain way it had a slot speaker around the back which is an interesting choice but at least you could cup your hand around it and hear it better at the front but of course now with this glass design it becomes the first nexus that supports wireless charging but the back is no longer removable this phone dropped for 299 which in 2012 yep was a good deal although that was the base 8 gig model so you could spring for the upgraded 16 roomy 16 gigs of memory for 349 bucks um it was lacking lte at the time which was a bit much but overall the phone was pretty well liked so now what's a google phone uh a well-specced competitive stock android phone for enthusiasts i guess well nexus 5 was built by lg again this time loosely based off of the lg g2 but this was a design i really liked it was understated had some contrasting black and white hardware i called it the panda phone because who else did a white earpiece like this nobody but honestly the rest of the phone was pretty forgettable they got up to a flagship spec again snapdragon 800 with two gigs of ram 1080p display but i was pretty unimpressed by the camera it did make hangouts the default text messaging app but if you know anything about google messaging apps yeah that wouldn't last long i think probably the most significant thing that came from the nexus 5 was a little extra focus on the stock google now launcher so these phones have always shipped with aosp which is android open source project it's basically just a version of android that you get when you download it straight from google stock blank nothing extra added but now google's actually starting to add a little bit of its own special sauce on top of android when it ships it with a nexus phone so this shipped with android 4.4 kitkat one of the two candy themed collabs but the launcher had google now built in where you could swipe over from the home screen and it would give you these cards and the google assistant would show you this information on the cards that it predicted would be useful to you before you would even ask for it so stuff like the weather at a destination you're about to fly to or the traffic on your way to work before you leave in the morning really smart stuff so nexus 5 was an uninspiring piece of hardware pretty simple and basic definitely was the beginning of seeing some of google leaning into being a smarter phone than your typical smartphone also shout out to the red version of this guy that came out a few months after launch that was so bright that it literally over saturated pretty much everyone's camera i remember it was impossible to make this phone look the actual red that it shipped on video but it completed the trifecta of the mkbhd edition smartphone colors so that was very nice okay here comes 2014 and here comes shamu the most unnecessarily massive nexus of all time now made by motorola so okay at this point is there any theme to who makes the nexus phone each year i mean it feels like they just offer up a two-year contract every time and see who wants to sign allegedly they were really close to working with huawei on this year's phone but had to scrap it at the last second so okay we got nexus 6 just based loosely around the 2nd gen moto x but just way bigger and it is huge it's got a massive nearly 6 inch 1440p display flanked by stereo front-facing speakers and the bezels and you know we have big screens nowadays but this was also in the days of the 16×9 aspect ratio so it's super wide too just huge in the hand not to jump ahead too much but nexus 6 is actually bigger and wider than the pixel 6.

So huge display huge 3200 milliamp hour battery with motorola's turbo charging huge new 13 megapixel camera with a huge new ring flash around it and huge new flagship specs snapdragon 805 three gigs of ram and up to 64 gigs of storage and android 5.0 lollipop but along with all these insane specs was an insane price for the time so nexus 6 cost 649 for the base 32 gig version and a whopping 700 bucks for the 64.

So it was not only big but it had the biggest price tag of any google phone yet especially coming off the back of the more competitive nexus 4 and 5. fun fact the internal code name of this phone when they were developing it shamu the orca the whale see everyone knew it was big but maybe the most sneaky important feature of the nexus 6 came in the camera so this was the first ever google phone to launch with hdr plus didn't seem like a huge deal at the time it was just maybe one more feature in the camera but it was combining multiple frames all together in a quick shot to bring in more dynamic range and notoriously took a lot of processing power so hdr plus was just an option that you had to turn on to get that extra latitude but that right there that was an inflection point for smartphone cameras in general i mean nowadays if you don't have hdr you're not really doing it right but just the fact that we take for granted now one single shutter press information from several different frames all get processed and smartly blended together big moment there so then nexus 9 you were great nexus player definitely not great but then in 2015 we got two new nexus phones at once we got the 5x made by lg and the nexus 6p made by huawei okay so the nexus 5x as the name suggests was a bit of an upgrade from the nexus 5.

It added a fingerprint reader on the back updated specs bigger battery switched to usb type c all the classics it did also have boot loop issues that thankfully never affected mine but that phone was 379 then at the same time we get this all metal jacket nexus 6p p for premium probably but this was an all metal build with a camera visor at the top it had the flat sides which we still know today as premium the ridged power button the front-facing speakers and the highest end chip and hdr got even better this one had a stellar camera 6p was pretty universally praised as literally one of the best if not the best android phones on the planet this one sold for 4.99 so google you just made two different nexuses at the same time nexuses nexi you made two of them at once right one of them cheaper one of them more expensive one of them budget one of them contender for phone of the year very premium and so this is usually what you see from companies that are trying to offer two different options for two different customers it's what you get while you're trying to appeal to a broader variety of the masses which is an interesting move and then that's the last we ever saw of nexus so enter google pixel i just want to say as a video enthusiast i love the word pixel as a name for a phone but that is a new name so we've had nexus and nexus up until this point we could think of as the google software phone right we had all the samsungs and htc's and motorolas and huawei's of the world making all their own phones but the google version with the nexus name would be stock android quick updates straight from google there was also a brief stint of google play edition phones in 2013 to 2014 that combined the hardware of the best phones in the world with google's stock software does anyone else remember these i love these phones there was a google play edition samsung galaxy s4 it was amazing there was a sony xperia z ultra there was a google play edition htc one m8 honestly some of the best phones ever but this is a brand new thing this is pixel it's not nexus so why the rebrand why the new name well there's a bunch of different correct answers i think to this but basically this is the first phone that's designed and built by google so there's your google logo down there it's the first iteration of this new two-tone design i mean internally they still had some help but this would be considered the first real google phone but also a big part of what makes pixel next level is how they really started leaning into it being a particularly smart smartphone so it already had that google launcher and the clean look but we're drifting further away from aosp this is not the exact version of android you'd get straight from google this is now like the google skin on top of android so it's the first android phone with the google assistant built in and it's got the camera again taking pretty big leaps forward thanks to hdr plus continuing to get better and i just remember seeing this announcement and getting really optimistic about the future of competition because surely if we have the iphones of the world where apple controls the hardware the software the chip the whole everything was made by apple to work perfectly together then surely this is the beginning of google doing their best version of the same thing you know so google pixel 2 i think was peak pixel and that's at least in two ways right with that camera and with that two-tone design i love a good panda phone already or stormtrooper whatever you want to call it we saw hints of this with the nexus 6p but google is now just full-on embracing the two different finishes on the back by contrasting them with black and white and then the colored power button wow what a great idea for just a little splash of color a little accent on the side but there were a few other notable things here they got rid of the headphone jack they did have some blue shift display controversy on the xl version which used the new lg p led and i even made a video a few months after launch about why i don't use the pixel anymore because of slowing down issues with the software over time but what the pixel 2 was really famous for was this single camera so it had a new 12.2 megapixel sensor in there and featured the latest and greatest from google's camera app their hdr plus and their multi-fame processing and this phone just kicked out incredible photos it leapfrogged over everything else out it had excellent detail sharpness dynamic range shutter speed focus everything and the videos it took weren't even that good but the photos were just so good that this was basically universally praised when it came out as the best smartphone camera of all time but also at this point i think it's worth talking about sales so this one comes out google's selling three to five million pixels per year which is nice right but at the same time you know apple selling 200 million phones a year samsung selling 300 million phones a year so even with this incredible world-class camera great reviews enthusiasts loving it great software it's not a lot of people buying it so pixel 3 comes out in 2018 and every bit of it feels just like a refinement on the pixel 2 which is great for people who love the pixel 2 but the minor improvement alone probably isn't going to spike sales as you can imagine and there's also regular and an xl version of every pixel since the first one but this one's xl came with a super duper alpha omega bathtub notch up at the top at this point i think we can say it's the deepest notch we've ever seen in a phone it did have both a regular and ultra wide selfie camera up at the front on either side of the earpiece front-facing speaker so honestly i loved that extra ultra wide selfie camera on the xl but nobody really loved the notch there was an old google tweet basically trying to justify it by saying oh don't worry the notch to display ratio is actually less than many of our top competitors it's like yeah that's probably true but also so would this notch but that doesn't make it good either way aside from that minor tweaks overall refinement of the build materials ip68 water resistance finally up from ip67 wireless charging gets added here night sight is added to the camera app but basically the same revolutionary camera as last year and overall pretty solid update doesn't really move the needle you know it did move the needle though the pixel 3 a this phone shifted things for google so halfway through 2019 at google i o they announced a budget version of the pixel it's a 3a and a 3a xl starting at 399 which is half the price that the pixel 3 started at so it has all the same software smarts all the stuff that made pixel enthusiasts love the phones but made a budget version with a lower powered internals polycarbonate instead of metal and glass still has great battery life in the same world-class camera that put the pixel on the map for so many people and it was a hit basically from the moment this phone was released it was most of the pixel sales and so there's some upside and some downside to this level of visibility the upside obviously is there's now more people seeing and using these phones and google assistant and all this great stuff and the camera but now the most successful version of this product is the cheap one which means that when people think of what is a google phone what is a pixel they think of it as the cheap phone that takes good pictures they're not thinking of the fast one or the high-end one it's the cheap phone with the good pictures pixel 4 came out after that and honestly felt like a slight misstep it launched again starting at 800 bucks they're trying the flagship thing again but there were a bunch of quirky weird features that either didn't really make sense or didn't pan out the way google was probably hoping now again it had the same a plus camera as the pixel 2 but it's been two years now so the rest of the world is starting to catch up and it's not so unanimous anymore and it was a bit short on battery life and with the addition of a second rear camera for the first time they chose a telephoto instead of a much more popular and useful ultra wide even though they talked a lot about the software super res zoom and not needing a telephoto anyway it was the solely radar array up front that was an interesting idea with a ton of cool demos and other products but really turned out to draw a lot of power and ultimately not have the functionality in a phone that people were looking for and it would get mixed in a year so pixel 4 stepped back from being one of the best phones out period to being genuinely pretty hard to recommend i mean not a lot of people bought this phone the sales figures say there was about 2 million sales of pixel 4 in the first six months interestingly my review of the pixel 4 got 4.8 million views in the first six months so a lot of attention just not a lot of people buying the phone and that's until pixel 4a came out so naturally google followed up the successful pixel 3a budget king with a pixel 4a and they followed the same formula with a lot of the same stuff that people liked about the 3a same camera again polycarbonate two-tone design but this year the materials were even better a little more textured polycarbonate the screen was fantastic especially for the price they crushed it plus they even lowered the price to start at 349 so to no one's surprise following the same formula got them a lot of people to really love pixel 4a so okay at this point it feels like google sort of settled into something with the pixel right got pixel 3 pixel 3a pixel 4 pixel 4a disappointing flagship smash hit budget phone disappointing flagship smash hit budget phone and so if you keep going down this path you continue to cement pixel as a budget phone maybe the rest of it kind of fades into obscurity and it even kind of felt like the design was slowly getting more generic and plain the two-tone is kind of gone even the colored power button is a bit more muted it's succumbed to the pressures of the industry the back fingerprint reader is gone the headphone jack is gone so this google phone this this pixel has basically just become uh not that impressive hardware wise but really incredible like silo for google to demonstrate all of their machine learning and their software and ai and that's not something that's going to sell a whole ton i mean enthusiasts will love it but it doesn't even let them reach their max potential with that either they're a little limited by whatever the latest off-the-shelf qualcomm chip is capable of or designed for so this spoiler alert is right around when they started making some serious progress on something new in the background so this is why pixel 5 and 5a felt kind of like placeholder phones pixel 5 here is a 700 flagship so relatively normal price but there's no xl version just one size there's no higher capacity storage versions just a single 128 gig non-expandable spec snapdragon 765 g just an off-the-shelf upper mid-range chip that's it it's just it's here it's a phone it's like the it's like the blank canvas 2020 of phones like oh you've got a corner cut out for the selfie camera so does everybody else it's got wireless charging it's got no headphone jack it's like we've seen this shell before well maybe not with the soft touch on top of metal but inside is where all that software magic is still happening that all the enthusiasts who love the pixel still care deeply about all that's still in there so that's how most reviews including my own looked at the pixel 5.

Decent if underwhelming hardware but android 11 is better than ever google assistant is improving on these incredibly useful pixel exclusive features on top of aosp like assistant screening spam calls and it's once again basically the same camera stack as the pixel 2 but computational photography still brings out the best of this hardware and it is still one of the best photo takers in the industry then pixel 5a drops almost a year later again with one spec and one size and it is very very very very very similar to the pixel 4a 5g from the year before but predictably people like a big screen and a big battery and a big camera performer for a low price so this was again the winner but this whole time kind of in the background some of it because there's always rumors of things in the tech industry but some of it because it was truly new was rumors of google working on a phone that is even more of a google phone than before and google's pretty bad at containing leaks so a lot of that stuff got out and they just straight up confirmed it and so after many teasers and pre-released information and leaks it finally arrived 2021's pixel 6.

This is now the apex of being the most google phone ever finally i actually remember being in some meetings and briefings with some google employees before this phone came out they're showing it to me and they all kind of have this smirk on their face like yeah we finally did it we really made a google phone this time because now this one has a google design google software and a google designed chip called tensor and so kind of like how the name changed from nexus to pixel when they finally started doing the design themselves they've definitely changed up the design here with this camera bar at this beginning of them designing their own silicon and the benefits of the new silicon with the dedicated machine learning accelerators has been very real both with the photo and video processing now and speech to text things like that the rest of the phone is also now pretty high end across the board mostly not quite bleeding edge but you add the larger higher resolution high refresh rate displays faster charging more ram and a suite of all new much larger camera sensors featuring a massive main sensor so then it does start to feel like a pretty big upgrade the most impressive thing about this phone though might just be how much effort google now is putting in to making sure the world knows that this is a flagship i mean all the advertising spend all the effort getting this in front of people's eyes this is a flagship and it's a google flagship and it's a good one that's what they want us all to think now from some conversations i've had with people at google they were working on tensor for a long time and they actually wanted to have this out earlier they're actually planning on pixel 5 being the first phone with tensor but then with covid and supply chain issues and a bunch of things getting in the way at the last second they kind of had to bail on that but they still wanted to drop a new phone so they just put a snapdragon 765 g in it shipped it called it a day and kept putting their heads down for pixel 6.

So it is out now and while they're definitely trying to be flagship flagship flagship they're also definitely not going to shy away from the proven formula of making a pixel 6a i would totally expect to see that sometime soon probably going to look a lot like this but cheaper materials it'll come out it'll probably also do really well but i think now if you revisit the question one last time of what is a google phone we see google trying to push an answer on us which is it's a flagship phone it's genuine option and it's got a lot of good stuff and that's where we stand today 13 years of google trying to make a smartphone and going from the g1 to the nexus one to the pixel one and the merging from uh from defining a google phone as the phone made by another manufacturer with the google software on it alongside another version that has some skin to being a google play editions to being the nexus designed by google all the way up now to the pixel where all the way top to bottom you pretty much have google stuff so the tensor phone is the beginning of the new definition looking forward for what is a google phone and we'll continue to see that evolve over time from here either way that's pretty much it definitely let me know what other lines of phones should i look at there's a lot of other options there's the galaxy s line there's the oneplus line a bunch of others leave it in the comments section below under that like button thanks for watching thanks for subscribing catch you in the next one peace

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