Though the vast majority of features in Android are common to all Android devices, there are a select few optimizations and features implemented by specific vendors, touted as “exclusive features” to differentiate certain flagship products from the rest of the pack. Consumer-facing features are not directly representative of how professionals use phones, however.
Google’s Pixel series and Samsung’s Galaxy Note series are popular options for business users due to the inclusion of several hardware and security features. Here, TechRepublic compares the two to help you decide what’s best for you.
The business case for the Google Pixel series
Google’s Pixel line of phones represents their premium replacement for the Nexus series, which showcased the manufacturing capabilities of various Android device makers, including HTC, Samsung, LG, ASUS, Motorola, and Huawei. Unlike the Nexus series, Pixel phones are not co-branded devices, though they are designed by former HTC staff by way of Google’s 2017 acquisition of part of the once-giant Taiwanese firm.
Primarily, the exclusive features on Pixel devices are limited to hardware-specific functionality–as Google is the platform owner of Android, limiting functionality to their own phones to the detriment of third-party Android OEMs is unlikely to make Google’s Android licensees (or government regulators) happy. The Pixel series is renowned for high-quality cameras, though this provides limited practical benefit for most business use cases. Insurance adjusters are likely to find it useful for taking quick photos of damage while in the field, likewise, private investigators will likely find the Google Lens feature helpful.
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The Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL, like all Pixel devices, are part of Google’s Android Enterprise Partners initiative, allowing for enterprise deployment with QR codes and zero-touch enrollment. All of the Android Enterprise labeled phones have guaranteed security updates (within 90 days) for 3 years, and at least one major version upgrade in that time as well. The Pixel 4 and 4 XL go several steps further, guaranteeing monthly security updates and version updates for three years, ending in October 2022. Practically speaking, this is the most generous and timely update guarantee for any Android phone.
Google added a 90Hz OLED display panel to the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL, offering better performance and aesthetics than the displays used on the Pixel 3–the generous screen cutout of the Pixel 3 XL was eliminated with the Pixel 4 XL, with both phones using traditional bezels to house cameras and sensors. The Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL also include on-device voice recognition, improving performance of Google Assistant. Google is also including a voice recorder app which utilizes the technology, offering searchable transcriptions of recorded conversations.
The Pixel 4 and 4 XL offer a somewhat better value for money, starting at $799 and $899, respectively, with the Pixel 3 and 3 XL now available starting at $499 and $599, respectively. The budget-focused Pixel 3a and 3a XL are available for $399 and $479.
The business case for the Samsung Galaxy series
The flagship Samsung Galaxy S and Galaxy Note series phones are the best models that the Korean electronics giant has to offer, though Samsung devices still suffer from an inexplicably poor user interface. The One UI receives essentially identical criticism around the blogosphere as the TouchWiz and Samsung Experience before it, as the new UI retains the same usability issues, and phones retain unnecessary feature duplication, as prior generations.
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Samsung does have the Samsung Knox enterprise security feature, however. Knox is used to separate business and personal data on Samsung phones, preventing the need for users to carry two devices with them. This is fundamentally a feature that is available in Android Enterprise on Pixel and other smartphones, though Samsung’s implementation of the concept is one of the few feature duplications that has a vocal following.
Likewise, Samsung DeX is a feature that allows users to extend their Galaxy smartphones to an external monitor. When paired with a keyboard and mouse, DeX-compatible phones can be used as a desktop computer. While other vendors such as ASUS and Motorola have tried this modality in the past, Samsung DeX is widely regarded as the best implementation of this smartphone-to-desktop transformation. DeX can also be used to run Linux distributions from the phone itself.
The Galaxy Note 10 series is aggressively positioned as a phone for professionals, considering Samsung’s partnership with Microsoft, given the preload bundle of Office apps, and the ability to export handwritten notes in the Samsung Notes app to Microsoft Word as a marquee feature of the new phones. Variants of the Galaxy Note 10 Plus with 5G support are available in the US from Verizon, with support for AT&amp;T and T-Mobile to follow.
Both Samsung and Google have seen lower than expected phone sales, according to their Q1 earnings, as competition from mid-market phones have made the increasing price of the premium flagships a relatively difficult sale. Google’s Pixel 3a &amp; 3a XL are likely to help in that regard. Samsung’s mid-range Galaxy smartphones do sell, though are often indistinct from each other considering the volume of different models (often carrier-locked) that are released.
Google’s control of Android does put the company in a good position to offer a longer lifespan of version and security updates, though Samsung’s Knox and DeX are worthwhile features. DeX may not be as useful if you need to carry around a keyboard and mouse, though this does make for one less thing to carry around for business users in airports. Additionally, the conceit does rely on the prospect of having access to a spare monitor. It works for hotdesking environments, though “fear of the unknown” is likely to keep many business users tied to their laptops.
Overall, the Pixel series is an easy choice for developers and security-minded professionals needing the most up-to-date software, while the Galaxy series is well suited for those who want one device to do everything.