With the recent launch of the OnePlus 5, I was giving very strong consideration to selling my Pixel XL and picking up the new OnePlus device with the proceeds. The specs on the OnePlus 5 are fantastic, but the more thought I gave the idea, the more I realized one thing – I can’t give up one of the main benefits of being a Pixel owner; that being the automatic and full resolution back up of my photos.
There are many people who say that they want to make the switch from an iPhone to an Android device, but end up not doing it because of one app – iMessage. It’s so much better and easier to use than anything that Android currently has to offer and so omnipresent that it becomes the single reason to keep people “locked into” the Apple ecosystem. This is the “lock-in” effect many people commonly refer to with Apple and their iMessage product. Turns out Pixel owners may also have a lock-in; Google Photos. Let’s explore why.
The Pixel’s camera is well known for being if not the best, one of the top two or three in a mobile device. Taking great pictures is the first step. Mobile phone cameras are the primary picture taking devices for the vast majority of Americans. Knowing that you have a high quality (dare we say near DSLR) camera with you at all times allows people to take better quality photos of more of their lives. Which in turn usually means people are taking more and more pictures than they ever have before. As a parent with small children, most of my free time is spent taking pictures of and with my kids, and I don’t want to lose a single one of them, even the bad ones.
And with no SD card support in Pixel devices, you’ll soon run out of storage unless you have another way to off-load all the images and videos you’ll be taking every day. That’s where the automatic backup feature of Google Photos comes in. Its as simple as connecting your phone to WiFi, and clicking a few buttons and now every time your phone is on a WiFi source, all your pictures and videos will be safely uploaded to the cloud and backed up. This can happen with every Android device, and the pictures and videos are backed up in “high quality” to Google’s servers. But if you are a Pixel owner, your photos are backed up in their native resolution, whether its HD, FHD, or 4k. No thinking about it, no fuss, no muss. Combine the automatic back up with the powerful search features of Google Photos (as well as other nice features like shared albums and “auto awesome” creations) and as long as you have an internet connection, you’ll always be able to sort, search, and find pictures from any point in your past.
Yes – you are relying on Google to keep all your photos safe, and yes, you are agreeing to have Google scan your photos to help make their AI search algorithms better at doing what they already do, but I see this as a small price to pay for what you are getting out of the deal. And most tech sites and enthusiasts will agree; Google Photos is leaps and bounds ahead of all of its competitors when it comes to features, usability, and services. Yes you can get the Photos app for iOS devices (and if you have an iPhone and don’t already have a Google account and the Photos app, you should get it ASAP) but you don’t have the ability to have unlimited, native resolution backups for as long as you own your device. That’s an insane benefit that makes the high price of owning a Pixel almost worth it. And if Google continues to make improvements or refinements to its computational photography algorithm, the benefits of using a Pixel with its Photos app will only get better.
I considering leaving the Pixel for a OnePlus 5 – but I honestly couldn’t do it. What I’d be giving up is the ability to have an unlimited amount of the best pictures taken on a mobile phone automatically backed up, and when or if I choose to download them or even just view them again, they’ll look exactly the same as the day I took them. And while every Android and iOS device has access to Photos, only the Pixel phones get the extra benefits I’ve talked about above. And that’s enough to keep me a Pixel XL owner for the foreseeable future. I may be “locked into” a Google device because of it, but I don’t mind in the slightest.