Google Phones: A Look at the Pixel Line

History and details about each release

Pixel phones are the official flagship Android devices from Google. Unlike other Android phones, which are designed by a variety of manufacturers, Pixels are designed by Google and run stock Android. Here's what you need to know about these phones.

Google Pixel 5

Google Pixel 5 side angle.

Manufacturer: Foxconn (designed in-house at Google)
Display: Flexible OLED capacitive touchscreen, 6.0 inches, 90Hz refresh rate
Resolution: FHD+ (1080x2340) Flexible OLED at 432 ppi
Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G
Front camera: 8 MP
Rear camera: 12.2 MP dual-pixel, 16 MP ultrawide
Colors: Just Black, Sorta Sage
Audio: Stereo speakers
Wireless: Wi-Fi 2.4 GHz + 5 GHz 802.11a/b/g/n/ac 2x2 MIMO Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, Google Cast
Battery: 4,080 mAh
Charging: 18W fast charging, Qi-certified wireless charging
Ports: USB C 3.1 Generation 1 (no audio jack)
Initial Android version: Android 11

The Pixel 5 launched during the Launch Night In event in September 2020, alongside the Pixel 4a 5G. Body-wise, it resembles the Pixel 4a. It has the same punch-hole camera at the top and a square camera module on the back. However, unlike the 4a, it has a larger 6-inch screen and some beefed-up specs.

The Pixel 5 loses some of the features its predecessor offers, like Face Unlock and gesture-sensing, but it gains some new tricks. The camera adds Night Sight to Portrait Mode and a Portrait Light to illuminate subjects. The phone also gets an extreme battery saver mode and a Hold Me feature for Google Assistant that notifies you when someone comes on the line.

Also, music fans will be sad to note the Pixel 5 doesn't have an audio jack.

Pixel 4a with 5G

Google Pixel 5 and 4a 5G

Google

Manufacturer: Foxconn (designed in-house at Google)
Display: Full-screen 6.2-inch (158 mm) display, 19.5:9 aspect ratio
Resolution: FHD+ (1080x2340) OLED at 413 ppi
Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G
Front camera: 8 MP
Rear camera: 12.2 MP dual-pixel, 16 MP ultrawide
Colors: Just Black, Clearly White
Audio: Stereo speakers
Wireless: Wi-Fi 2.4 GHz + 5 GHz 802.11a/b/g/n/ac 2x2 MIMO Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, Google Cast
Battery: 3800 mAh
Charging: 18W fast charging
Ports: USB C 3.1 Generation 1, 3.5 mm headset jack
Initial Android version: Android 11

The Pixel 4a 5G launched during the Launch Night In event in September 2020, alongside the Pixel 5. What's unusual about it is it's a less expensive device that offers 5G but doesn't compromise on other features, notably the camera. It sports two rear cameras—a standard 12.2 MP sensor and a 16 MP ultrawide lens—along with an 8 MP front-facing lens. It's the same setup found in the more expensive Pixel 5.

Another slight advantage the 4a 5G has over the Pixel 5 is a bigger 6.2-inch screen. Still, the Pixel 5 has a higher resolution and faster refresh rate. The 4a 5G also comes with a headphone jack.

If you're looking for fun colors, you need to look elsewhere. Your only options here are black and white. That aside, the 4a 5G is a good choice if you're looking for a solid Android device without breaking the bank.

Google Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL

Pixel 4 and Pixel 4XL phones in each available color.
Google

Manufacturer: Foxconn (designed in-house at Google)
Display: 5.7-inch FHD+ flexible OLED (Pixel 4), 6.3-inch QHD+ flexible OLED (Pixel 4 XL)
Resolution: 19:9 FHD+ at 444 ppi (Pixel 4), 19:9 QHD+ at 537 ppi (Pixel 4 XL)
Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 855
Front camera: 8 MP
Rear camera: 16 MP
Colors: Just Black, Clearly White, Oh So Orange
Audio: Stereo speakers
Wireless: 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz 2x2 MIMO Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, Google Cast
Battery: 2,800 mAh (Pixel 4), 3,700 mAh (Pixel 4 XL)
Charging: 18W fast charging, Qi-certified wireless charging
Ports: USB C 3.1 Generation 1 (no audio jack)
Initial Android version: Android 10

The Pixel 4 and Pixel 4XL iterate on the venerated Pixel 3 series, leaving the budget-level Pixel 3a series in the dust. This latest series in the Pixel line retains a lot of what worked about the Pixel 3 series, including the glass-and-metal sandwich body, best-in-class photography abilities, and still-absent headphone jack.

Since the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4XL have glass backs like the Pixel 3 series, the wireless Qi charging that was absent in the 3a and 3a XL is back. The relatively small batteries are also back.

If the Pixel 4 feels lighter in the hand than some of the competitors, it's because it uses a smaller battery than either the Pixel 3 or Pixel 3a.

The Pixel 4XL ditches its massive notch this time around, opting instead for a thick upper bezel to house the front-facing camera and face unlock sensor.

Other than that, the most notable design change comes on the rear of the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL, where you'll find a chunky square camera bump that's more than a little reminiscent of the iPhone 11.

Also of note is that the Pixel 4 replaced the fingerprint reader with Google's newly-implemented face unlock technology.

Google Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL

Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL phones.

Google

Manufacturer: Foxconn (designed in-house at Google)
Display: 5.6-inch FHD+ flexible FHD+ OLED (Pixel 3a), 6.0-inch FHD+ OLED (Pixel 3a XL)
Resolution: 2220x1080 at 441 ppi (Pixel 3a), 2160x1080 at 402 ppi (Pixel 3a XL)
Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 670
Front camera: 8 MP
Rear camera: 12.2 MP dual-pixel
Colors: Clearly White, Just Black, Purple-ish
Audio: Stereo speakers (one front speaker, one on the bottom)
Wireless: 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, Google Cast
Battery: 3,000 mAh (Pixel 3a), 3,700 mAh (Pixel 3a XL)
Charging: 18W fast charging (no wireless charging)
Ports: USB C 3.1, 3.5 mm audio jack
Initial Android version: 9.0 Pie plus Google Assistant

The Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL mark a return to form for Google. These fill the void that was left when the Nexus line was discontinued. These phones share many of the same basic hardware found in the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL. However, some of the bells and whistles are cut out, and some of the costly design choices have been modified to offer an affordable alternative.

While the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL share a lot in common with their more expensive counterparts, there are some important differences. Instead of using Gorilla Glass, the 3a uses a polycarbonate unibody with a Dragontrail glass screen.

The Pixel 3a and 3a XL also miss a handful of features found in the more expensive versions. These phones don't have wireless charging, lack the Pixel Visual Core, and aren't water resistant.

While most of the differences between these phones involve things that were removed from the 3a and 3a XL, there is one notable exception. The 3.5 mm audio jack that has been long absent from the Pixel line makes a return here.

In terms of the camera, which has always been an important feature of any Pixel phone, little has changed. The Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL still have the same rear camera, and you still get access to features like Night Sight, Super Res Zoom, and Top Shot that were introduced with the Pixel 3.

Overall, the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL offer an attractive alternative if you have missed the affordable Nexus line. These phones lack the premium touches of the more expensive versions but pack a lot of functionality compared to other mid-range phones.

Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL

The front and back of Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL phones side by side.

Google

Manufacturer: Foxconn (designed in-house at Google)
Display: 5.5-inch FHD+ flexible OLED (Pixel 3), 6.3-inch QHD+ OLED (Pixel 3 XL)
Resolution: 2160x1080 at 443 ppi (Pixel 3), 2960x1440 at 523 ppi (Pixel 3 XL)
Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
Front camera: 8 MP x2 (one wide-angle and one normal field of view camera)
Rear camera: 12.2 MP dual-pixel
Colors: Clearly White, Just Black, Not Pink
Audio: Dual front speakers
Wireless: 5.0GHz Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, Google Cast
Battery: 2,915 mAh (Pixel 3), 3,430 mAh (Pixel 3 XL)
Charging: Built-in Qi wireless charging and 18W fast charging
Ports: USB C 3.1
Initial Android version: 9.0 Pie plus Google Assistant

The third iteration of Google's flagship Pixel phone line retains many of the same design cues seen in earlier versions. Both handsets feature a similar two-tone color scheme, although the specific colors are different this time around.

The Pixel 3 feels different in the hand from its predecessors, despite the similar looks, as the entire back of the phone is made of the same soft-touch Corning Gorilla Glass 5 that protects the screen. The rest of the body is made of aluminum.

With the switch to a glass back, both versions of the Pixel 3 come with built-in wireless charging made by Qi technology.

The regular Pixel 3 retains the fairly chunky bezel seen in earlier versions of the Pixel line. The bigger Pixel 3 XL has a big notch up top in addition to a noticeable chin bezel.

The notch stands out when the screen is on. It houses the phone's two front-facing cameras that Google expects to revolutionize the art of the selfie.

The rear camera doesn't represent an upgrade over the Pixel 2 in terms of megapixels. Still, the Pixel 3 has some built-in learning tricks that elevate its capabilities beyond what you would normally expect out of its bare hardware specifications.

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel XL
Google

Manufacturer: HTC (Pixel 2), LG (Pixel 2 XL)
Display: 5-inch AMOLED (Pixel 2), 6-inch pOLED (Pixel 2 XL)
Resolution: 1920x1080 at 441 ppi (Pixel 2), 2880x1440 at 538 ppi (Pixel 2 XL)
Front camera: 8 MP
Rear camera: 12.2 MP
Initial Android version: 8.0 Oreo

Like the original Pixel, the Pixel 2 features metal unibody construction with a glass panel on the rear. Unlike the originals, the Pixel 2 has IP67 dust and water resistance, which means that it can survive being submerged in up to three feet of water for 30 minutes.

The Pixel 2 processor, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, is 27 percent faster and consumes 40 percent less energy than the processor in the original Pixel.

Unlike the original Pixel, Google went with two manufacturers for the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. That led to rumors that the Pixel 2 XL, manufactured by LG, may feature a bezel-less design.

That didn't happen. Despite being manufactured by different companies (HTC and LG), the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL look similar, and both continue to sport fairly chunky bezels.

Like the original phones in the line, the Pixel 2 XL differs from the Pixel 2 only in terms of screen size and battery capacity. The Pixel 2 has a 5-inch screen and a 2,700 mAH battery. The Pixel 2 XL has a 6-inch screen and a 3,520 mAH battery.

The only real cosmetic difference between the two, other than size, is the color. The Pixel 2 comes in blue, white, and black. The Pixel 2 XL is available in black and a two-tone black and white scheme.

The Pixel 2 includes a USB-C port but doesn't have a headphone jack. The USB port supports compatible headphones, and a USB-to-3.5 mm adapter is available.

Google Pixel and Pixel XL

Google Pixel phone
Spencer Platt / Staff / Getty Images News

Manufacturer: HTC
Display: 5-inch FHD AMOLED (Pixel), 5.5-inch (140 mm) QHD AMOLED (Pixel XL)​
Resolution: 1920x1080 at 441 ppi (Pixel), 2560×1440 at 534 ppi (Pixel XL)​​
Front camera: 8 MP
Rear camera: 12 MP
Initial Android version: 7.1 Nougat
Current Android version: 8.0 Oreo
Manufacturing Status: No longer being made. The Pixel and Pixel XL were available from October 2016 to October 2017.

The Pixel marked a sharp deviation in Google's previous smartphone hardware strategy. Earlier phones in the Nexus line were meant to serve as flagship reference devices for other manufacturers and were branded with the name of the manufacturer that built the phone.

For instance, the Nexus 5X was manufactured by LG, and it had an LG badge alongside the Nexus name. The Pixel, although manufactured by HTC, does not bear the HTC name. Huawei lost the contract to manufacture the Pixel and Pixel XL when it insisted on dual-branding the Pixel in the same manner as earlier Nexus phones.

Google also moved away from the budget market with the introduction of its new flagship Pixel phones. Whereas the Nexus 5X was a budget-priced phone, in comparison to the premium Nexus 6P, the Pixel and Pixel XL came with premium price tags.

The display of the Pixel XL was larger and a higher resolution than the Pixel, resulting in a higher pixel density. The Pixel featured a density of 441 ppi, while the Pixel XL featured a density of 534 ppi. These numbers were better than the Apple Retina HD Display and are comparable to the Super Retina HD Display introduced with the iPhone X.

The Pixel XL came with a 3,450 mAH battery, which offered a larger capacity than the 2,770 mAH battery of the smaller Pixel phone.

Both the Pixel and Pixel XL featured aluminum construction, glass panels on the rear, 3.5 mm audio jacks, and USB C ports with support for USB 3.0.