You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Google Pixel: 5 Big Mysteries About The New Phones

Forbes logo Forbes 10-10-2016 Shelby Carpenter, Forbes Staff

Google has finally unveiled its new flagship smartphones, the Google Pixel and the Pixel XL. But its product launch on October 4 created as many questions as it answered.

By and large, Google’s announcement confirmed leaks that had circulated beforehand: we got two new phones, the 5-inch Pixel and the 5.5-inch XL, and they have better screens, improved battery life and fast charging, and a best-in-class 12.3-megapixel rear camera. We also got Google Assistant, an AI assistant that’s an improved version of the previous Google bot, a built-in tab for users to talk to Google customer service, and unlimited, full-resolution storage in Google Photos. All of this came wrapped up in a device that looks a whole lot like an Apple iPhone.

But until we actually get our hands on these phones, a lot of questions remain about how they will work, and and if any of these new features could have unexpected downsides. Here are five big questions that still remain on the Google Pixel and Pixel XL:

1. How will Google protect your privacy with Google Assistant?

Google CEO Sundar Pichai spent as much time talking about Google’s new software as he did about hardware when he announced the new phones. One of the most notable new features in Pixel is Google Assistant, which is supposed to be more interactive than Google’s previous AI and integrate seamlessly with Google Home and other smart devices.

The way that Google Assistant works is by tapping your questions into the billions of points in Google’s knowledge graph, and by learning your habits and preferences over time. The whole design encourages you to share as much as possible about yourself and your day to build your own, personal Google. Here’s Google’s video pitch for it:

In the middle of the video, the voiceover says, “Naturally, anything you share with it is safe and secure.” But Google has yet to drill down into the specifics of how it will keep your data safe from prying eyes, and did not respond to an emailed request for comment on this issue.

2. How powerful are the speakers?

Google claims the camera on Pixel is the best camera on any smartphone ever. But what about audio? Despite the trend toward stereo speakers in top-of-the-line phones–including Google’s own Nexus 6 and 6P devices–the Pixel phones come with just a single, bottom-firing speaker. Will this one speaker be good enough for the Pixel to hold its own against competitors like the iPhone 7?

3. When will we see Andromeda OS?

One big rumor swirling around before Google’s press event was that we might finally get the word on Andromeda OS, which is speculated to be a hybrid of the Chrome and Android operating systems. It looks like we’re not getting this on the Pixel phones, which will ship with Android 7.1 Nougat out of the box. But could we see Andromeda rolled out as an update within the next year?

4. Why will all Google apps have round icons in the Pixel Launcher?

Let’s face it: the Pixel and Pixel XL sure look a lot like the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. Instead of sticking with a more typical Android look like we see in Motorola and Samsung phones, Google went for the sleek, camera-bump free aluminum body in classic Apple style. While Apple has been known for its perfectionism and tight control over its operating systems, Google’s Android ecosystem has historically been more open. Google has even run ads promoting how different its partners can be:

Once upon a time, Google’s icons came in all shapes and size. Now, with the Pixel Launcher, they look more and more alike. It’s unclear why Google made this choice, but it does appear to be echoing Apple in software as well as hardware by pushing for greater design uniformity.

5. Is the Pixel Imprint and back glass a step forward or a gimmick?

The Google Pixel comes with a fresh take on the fingerprint sensor on the back–dubbed Pixel Imprint. Now, the circular imprint for your fingertip on the back is surrounded by glass on the upper half of the phone. In addition to unlocking your phone using Imprint you can also swipe down with your fingertip to immediately pull up notifications.

While the Imprint is one small step forward in Google’s fingerprint reader, the back glass around it is mystery. While I suspect Google was going for elegance, overall it seems like a strained move to separate Pixel from the Apple iPhone.

More From Forbes

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon