Google took the wraps off its new Pixel phones on Tuesday, and while the company touted its digital assistant and souped-up cameras as big name features, their biggest selling point might be that they’re actually available through a major mobile carrier.
Though they’ll only be sold through one carrier, Verizon, that’s still a step up from last year’s Nexus devices, which could not be bought through any service provider.
But be warned: Just because you can buy the Pixel through Verizon doesn’t necessarily mean you should.
One of the usual downsides of these kind of exclusive phones is that the carrier often pre-loads the device with its own software, which customers don’t really need. This is what phone enthusiasts sometimes call “bloatware.”
Verizon has been particularly notorious for this, but in this case it shouldn’t be too bad. Verizon says it’ll only pre-load three apps on the Pixels by default – My Verizon, go90, and Verizon Messages – and that all of those will be fully deletable if you don’t want them.
- REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach
Nevertheless, I’d still recommend buying the unlocked version if possible. Although Verizon said its Pixels will receive Google’s security updates at the same time as the unlocked models, it couldn’t confirm whether it will provide full Android updates at the same time Google will with the non-carrier version.
So there’s reason to doubt.
Given that the promise of fast Android updates is the biggest benefit of buying a Google phone in the first place, it’s hard to justify putting that at risk. And since the unlocked model supports CDMA networks like Verizon’s in the first place, buying the Nexus way should prove more convenient in the long run.
Also, Verizon confirmed you won’t be able to unlock the Pixel’s bootloader, meaning you won’t be able to root the device and install custom software (or different versions of Android).
Unlocked phones always offer more freedom. There’s no reason to assume things will be different with the Pixel.
A week after this story was published, Verizon and Google confirmed that the carrier will issue full Android updates to its version of the Google Pixel at the same time as the unlocked model. This should make Verizon’s Pixels much more appealing than they’d be otherwise, though you still won’t have to deal with preloaded software and a locked bootloader, if those are concerns.