Thinking about buying one of the new Pixel smartphones from Google? If you want the latest and best Android has to offer, they’re a good bet. But you may be better off buying the device from Google, rather than Verizon.
Google’s Pixel smartphones are more expensive than previous Google Nexus devices, but they feature strong software and hardware integration, a promise of fast updates, and the artificially intelligent Google Assistant. They’re priced almost exactly the same as the iPhone and Samsung’s flagship devices, and it’s clear Google is vying to steal some of the pair’s customers.
It’s fairly easy to pre-order Google’s smartphones. All you need to do is head over to Google’s website, choose your model, and pay off the device in one payment, or 24 monthly ones. You’ll get the Pixel or Pixel XL unlocked — that means you can use it on a wide variety of carriers.
You may have seen advertisements from Verizon “introducing” the Pixel and the Pixel XL. The ads typically end with the tagline “Only on Verizon” — this is simply not true. When purchased through Google, the phone works on Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint. Verizon is the only carrier Google has partnered with to sell the device online and in stores.
If you’re considering purchasing one of Google’s new phones from Verizon, here’s why going through the Google Store may be better.
Do you trust Verizon for fast updates?
One of the main reasons for buying a Nexus smartphone is that updates — both security and Android versions — come straight from Google. That’s still one of the top features of the Pixel line, except that if you buy it through Verizon, Big Red will be in charge of issuing version updates.
Initially, a Google representative told 9to5Google that, “Monthly security updates will come from Google (for all models), and system updates will be managed by Verizon for Verizon models, and Google for unlocked models bought from Google Store.”
But Verizon and Google have since confirmed that Pixel devices, whether bought through the Google Store or from Verizon, will receive updates from Google “simultaneously.”
“Security and version updates will roll out at the same time across phones purchased through Verizon and through Google,” a Verizon spokesperson told Digital Trends.
This marks a big shift in how Android devices have traditionally been updated on carrier products. For example, the Verizon variant of the Samsung Galaxy S6 received Android 6.0 Marshmallow nearly 7 months after Google released the Android version.
“Verizon will not stand in the way of any major updates and users will get all updates at the same time as Google,” a representative told Ars Technica.
A Google representative followed up with the site and said, “OS updates and monthly security patches will be updated on all Pixel devices (Verizon and non-Verizon versions) simultaneously.”
Earlier, we spotted a Verizon representative in the FAQ section for the Google Pixel saying the carrier isn’t “able to guarantee every single update the Google offers, but we definitely do offer updates for all of our smartphones.”
It seems as though Google has been able to gain tighter control of its devices, even if they are sold via carriers. Still, given Verizon’s history we can’t ensure you’ll consistently get updates on time. We’ll have to wait and see if this new update process rings true.
Fast updates are important because each update brings security patches and new features to your phone. If you don’t want to run the risk of not receiving the latest, greatest, and safest Android software, buy a Pixel from Google.
Beware the bloatware
There will be three pre-installed non-Google apps on the smartphone: Verizon Messages, Go90, and My Verizon. All three apps should be uninstallable, but you could always purchase the device from Google and have it free of all bloatware.
If you want these apps, they’re still available on the Play Store for download.
The average consumer may not care about this point as much as the others, but the Verizon variant of the Google Pixel smartphones will feature an encrypted, or locked bootloader. That means users will not be able to unlock it to root their smartphone — the Android equivalent of jailbreaking your iPhone.
Tech enthusiasts and tinkerers will care about this more, but it’s important to know in case you ever want to resell the device, or have thoughts about rooting your smartphone.
You may be able to get a cheaper price from Verizon
A Verizon representative has confirmed with Digital Trends that Wi-Fi Calling and HD Voice will be available on the Pixel smartphones when bought through the Google Store.
Constant updates, the option to root or have the bootloader unlocked, and the lack of bloatware are enough reasons to choose the Google Store over Verizon. You can even get interest-free device financing options for the Pixels from Google, just like Verizon offers. What’s neat is that if you purchase the device from Google, you’re still able to use it on all carriers including Verizon.
A Verizon representative says the devices are carrier unlocked, meaning they should work on other major carriers such as AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint.
Having the Pixel phones available at Verizon is a good thing for Google because it gets the search giant’s new devices into more peoples hands. Even better, you might be able to get a better price on the Pixel — especially with trade-in deals. That alone may be enough for people to buy the device from Big Red.
We still recommend you buy the Pixel unlocked from Google, and wait for it to come back in stock. So far Verizon models have been getting Google updates just as fast as other Pixel models, but we’ll still need to see as it has hardly been more than two months since the devices have been available.
Updated on 12-13-2016 by Julian Chokkattu: Removed old information that said the Best Buy model only worked on Verizon.
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