Don’t Buy the Google Pixel from Anyone But Google

My thoughts on the Google Pixel are…complicated. I like what Google is doing with Android, and the Pixel is the ultimate expression of their software that you can buy in 2016. On the other hand, I don’t like the look of the hardware, which at best is uninspiring.

But I’d be hard pressed to suggest most people get anything besides this phone. If your budget is $600+, then I think you should get an iPhone or a Pixel. There are a bunch of options if you want to spend less, but those two are on the top of the heap (barring any disasters uncovered once reviewers get their hands on the Pixel).

For all that I like Google is doing with the Pixel, I think they are blowing it with it’s release strategy. The phone is on sale through Google’s web store (where people don’t buy phones) and from Verizon. Now real people actually buy phones from Verizon, but I don’t see how a phone sold on one carrier making a mainstream play in the market. Does the iPhone do carrier exclusives? The Galaxy S7? No, these phone are available on every major carrier immediately. This means when the new iPhone comes out, you don’t just get ads from Apple advertising the phone, you get them from Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint. It makes the phone an event. It plants the idea that the iPhone is new and exciting and you need to have it now.

My worry is that Google is not going to put enough money into a distinctive ad campaign on their own, and Verizon is not going to make up the difference on its own.

Not only is Verizon the only carrier selling the phone, but they’re also locking the bootloader, will be in charge of OS updates (really!?), and are installing their own crapware on the phone too. Because the core audience for these phones doesn’t want any of that, they’re not going to get the phone from Verizon even if they use Verizon as their provider.

Maybe Google’s move to let Verizon be the exclusive carrier to sell the Pixel came with some strings. Maybe Verizon is going to advertise the hell out of this thing and make it a hot commodity this holiday season. With Samsung phones literally lighting themselves on fire, Verizon may be looking for another brand phone to push right now, and Google may have wedged themselves in there at just the right time.

Maybe.

We’ll know soon enough how this shakes out, but I’m very apprehensive that this is going to be just another phone that sells like every Nexus that came before it, and that is not a compliment.