Google's Pixel Phone Is Taking All the Fun Out of Android, and That's the Point
It seems that fans of the Android open-source operating system are a bit peeved by some of the choices Google has made regarding the new #MadeByGoogle Pixel phones. And with good reason. The new phones are expensive, the Nexus line is dead, and some Redditors are speculating on whether or not the Pixel bootloaders may not be unlockable at all.
On that last point, I reached out to Google and we've got some good news for the community. Google spokesperson Iska Saric has confirmed for us that "Pixel phones purchased from the Google store will ship with an unlockable bootloader," so no fear on that front.
It's less likely your Pixel will be open if you preordered from a carrier, though. We already knew that Pixel phones purchased from Verizon will not have unlockable bootloaders, but it's great to hear that the Google Store version will not suffer from this same issue.
Here's the deal, though. The Pixel phones aren't meant for the Android-loving modders and tinkerers out there. The fact that some disgruntled owners of Samsung's ill-fated (and now dead) Galaxy Note7 are jumping the Android ship altogether and buying iPhones should make it perfectly clear: Loyalty in the mobile world—at least for most people—is about brand, not operating system.
Android users love to share tips and tricks with each other, but the truth is that only 1 in 20 Android devices are rooted. That's only 5% of all Android phones. Not even 5% of users—the phones themselves, which means the number of users who root is likely to be less. If you've ever met somebody who has rooted their device, you know that they've rooted a least two devices, if not more.
Messing around with the ins and outs of your OS may be a great way to get the experience that you want, but the whole point of Pixel is to give people the experience that Google wants. Giving people their own "personal Google" as Google CEO Sundar Pichai phrased it during the Pixel launch earlier this month.
For the majority of consumers, a smartphone and its OS are a package deal. The reason why Google spent $3.2 million on television ads for the Pixel in just two days (Apple spent $2.4 million and Samsung spent $1.4 million over the same period)—and is reported to have budgeted $50 million for Pixel marketing in the UK alone—is because they need Pixel to be more than just an Android device. It needs to be a Google phone above all else.
If they're going to succeed in that goal, the loss of the small but thriving community of hardcore Android enthusiasts may just be a price they're willing to pay.