Will Android ever have a perfect phone? This question came to mind last week, as I was pondering the imponderables. (I use the term perfect relatively, as we all know perfect only exists in the vacuum of space–and even there, no one can hear you brag about it.)
To be fair, there have been some instances when Google’s mobile platform came close:
Google Pixel 5: Brilliant design, stellar battery life, but slightly underpowered, and the camera is starting to feel outdated. (Check out my TechRepublic article, The only Google Pixel 5 review you need to read.)
Samsung Galaxy S7: A break-out design, but suffered from bloatware and still used a Micro USB connector.
Essential PH1: Gorgeous design and build, but woefully underpowered.
OnePlus 9 Pro: Gorgeous device with lightning-fast charge, but photos in dim light were iffy at best.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra: Dynamic photos, outstanding battery life, but an insane price, and no microSD card expansion.
The list is short and certainly not complete.
With every release of Apple’s iPhone, you can see why so many in certain markets prefer to side with that camp—designs are consistent, thoughtful and well-executed. It’s rare that Apple releases a phone that’s just bad, although it has happened (e.g. the iPhone 5c).
However, with Android, phones are all over the spectrum. We’ve experienced abysmal devices (remember the Amazon Fire Phone?), at every price point. It seems, with each passing year, Android continues to miss the mark of perfection. What’s the problem?
SEE: Hiring kit: Android Developer (TechRepublic Premium)
The nature of the Android platform
Part of the problem is the nature of the Android platform. Google develops an operating system and releases for OEM usage, at which point those manufacturers can pretty much do what they want. To that end, we see Android devices with horrible bloatware, misguided interfaces and poor performance. To add to this, it’s a very rare occasion that an OEM adds its own UI overlay to improve on-stock Android. We’ve seen One UI (Samsung) and Sense UI (HTC), both of which are a step backward from stock Android.
In other words, Google relinquishes a considerable amount of control, which prevents the platform from reaching any semblance of nirvana.
If you want stock Android, you’re limited in the devices you can purchase. There’s the Google Pixel line, as well as the Nokia 2.4, 5.3 and 8.3, the Moto One 5G, the Xiaomi Mi A3 and the Motorola One Action. The closest to perfection in that lineup is the Google Pixel 5.
The very nature of the Android platform has, to date, precluded it from reaching that coveted perfect status.
There’s hope for a perfect Android phone
As you’ve probably guessed, my hope for the perfect Android phone lies in the Pixel lineup. The Pixels are simply the best devices for stock Android. On top of that, the Pixel launcher is one of the simplest, cleanest, most performant Android launchers on the market. Plus, outside of the Pixel 5’s camera being a bit long in the tooth, Google does know its way around mobile photography. The camera in the Pixel 5 was stellar, but used the same hardware that was found in the Pixel 4. The big difference was that the Pixel 5 CPU was underpowered enough that it took longer to render photos after they were taken. To date, the Pixel devices have always offered stellar cameras.
Yesterday, Google I/O kicked off, and the rumored darling of the event will most likely be the Pixel 6. If the leaks hold true, the Pixel 6 might well be the phone we’ve all been waiting for. Again, all things being rumor, the Pixel 6 will finally up the Pixel camera game, and the developers have teased through the developer release program that plenty of features that could very well land Google’s new device at the top of the mobile phone class. We’ve yet to hear anything specific on the Pixel 6 camera, other than the speculation that the Pixel 6 will include two rear-facing cameras, whereas the Pixel 6 Pro will have three. This is still speculation at this point.
Because of everything I’ve seen coming from the Android 12 developer preview combined with the Pixel 6 leaks, I’m calling it now: the Pixel 6 will be the closest to perfect a mobile phone has ever reached.
Those are bold words, but I believe Google will be making bold steps with the Pixel 6. Not only will the company be adding much-needed improvements to the camera (rumor), but Google is also rumored to be using its own, in-house, CPU chip (Whitechapel) for the device, also still rumor at this point. Couple those much-anticipated improvements with even better battery life (rumor), some game-changing Android tweaks (which have been noted in the Android 12 developer preview), and a display that will dazzle users of all types—which was confirmed with Google announcing the Material You UI—and the Pixel 6 will be the phone to have in 2021-2022.
To answer the question, “Will Android ever have a perfect phone?” I will say, “Yes. And it will be the Google Pixel 6.”
You heard it here first.
Subscribe to TechRepublic’s How To Make Tech Work on YouTube for all the latest tech advice for business pros from Jack Wallen.