5 Landmark Smartphones That Paved the Way for Google’s 10TH Anniversary
The iOS phone came last year with huge revamp on hardware. This year's duo of Pixel 3 phones, on the other hand, has gone the software route with A.I. improvements. Hardware-wise, it doesn't inspire much excitement.
In a way, Apple and Google look like they've met in the middle and decided to use each other's strategies. There was a long stretch of time that Apple went on a more conservative route with uninspired designs from the iPhone 6 to the iPhone 8. Back then they focused on software refinements to iOS. Google was the more adventurous one in terms of hardware design. They only rendered a few cosmetic changes to the software.
What seems to be the case this year is that Google has reached maturity. It has found what it wants to do with its life and that seems to be pushing the world of mobile deeper into A.I.
But before we get to a place where we can have full intelligent conversations with our smartphones, it's important to look back at how we got to this point. With this list, we celebrate each of the landmark smartphones that somehow served as the inspiration for what Android is right now.
The Droid, as it is popularly known, is not the first Android phone. But, it's the first Android phone on the mind of the general public because of the heavy marketing of Motorola and Verizon in 2009.
It had a futuristic fingerprint scanner even before the iPhone popularized it with the iPhone 5s four years after. It was one of the first Android phones to have a full touchscreen. Although it did still have a physical keyboard hidden underneath it accessible through a slider.
In a way, the Nexus one started it all off for Google's hardware business. It didn't manufacture it. But, it closely monitored the hardware design to fit what the company thought featured the best of their OS.
HTC, the phone's manufacturer, worked closely with Google's Android team. The result was one of the best-optimized phones during its release in 2010. As such, the software was an absolute pioneer. The Android 2.1 update that it shipped with came with what was, back then, the cutting edge speech input.
Samsung Galaxy Phones
As one of the largest companies in the world, Samsung was in the best position to design and manufacture an iPhone rival. Samsung's rich R&D department churned out smartphones that were every bit as premium as the iPhone.
Although, the company wouldn't produce premium phones that rival the iPhone until the Galaxy S6. They were the only ones big enough to go toe to toe with Apple in spending for product development and advertising.
The Galaxy Note even pioneered the big screened smartphones back at a time when phone screens were limited to 4.7-inches. The 5.3-inch screen was massive at the time but today, it's average at best.
Even today, only a few smartphones can claim to rival the iPhone's aspirational quality. Samsung Galaxy flagships like the Note 9 are part of that elite group.
Android phones were rarely as expensive as iPhones. Flagships that aimed for it never veered too far from the iPhone pricing. So, when the OnePlus launched with a build-quality and specs that rivalled other flagships but had a price tag dramatically cheaper than others, it quickly became a notable Android device. In a way, OnePlus gave way to the modern smartphone industry's most exciting segment - the budget flagship.
It was also one of the first phones that have somewhat of a stock Android experience besides the Nexus phones. In fact, its launch made the Nexus somewhat irrelevant because Cyanogen Mod has become such a great stock Android alternative that the OnePlus has chipped away at the Nexus’ customers.
Eventually, Google relented on this segment by dropping the Nexus line and starting the Pixel.
Google is, first and foremost, a software company. From Chrome to YouTube to other applications, its main focus has, and it seems, always shall be, on software.
This is perhaps the difference between Google's Nexus devices and Pixel phones. Nexus devices were kind of like the OnePlus One. It was an inexpensive version of the flagships of the time.
Pixel phones are software-heavy devices that do not give one bit of care about being called a hardware copycat. The very first Pixel, for example, was an absolute dead-ringer to the iPhone except for the partial glass back.
This year is an even bigger blunder. It took one of the most controversial hardware features of the new iPhone and made it even worse. The notch, at least on the XL version of the Pixel 3, is almost universally panned.
Where it differs from the iPhone and, for that matter, other Android phones are in the software. It has an Android version that's fully its own. It's not quite stock but it's pretty close.
A.I. features are built-in. The camera app gets the most of this A.I. integration as the image processing is absolutely head and shoulders above the rest. This fact has continued from the first Pixel phone to its current iteration. The new Pixel 3s even have camera features that won’t be available to any other Android phones such as the Night Sight and the Super Pixel technologies.
There are also other exciting A.I. features that even other Android phones aren’t getting. The Google Duplex is probably one of the most thrilling of these as it brings a human-like interaction with callers on your phone.
Google has also made it easier to access Google’s A.I. Assistant by including the squeeze to wake function. It’s a gimmicky feature that can be made simpler through a button but squeezing just makes accessing it a bit more fun.