It’s coming any day now. Google’s first foray into creating its own chipset for its own device, is on the way with the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. And while a lot is riding on these devices from a market share standpoint, there’s also a lot riding on them for Android enthusiasts.
LG is gone, HTC is hanging on by a literal thread, and Motorola is just different now. But if you jump back five years, the story was very different. Then, Samsung was still largely leading the charge, but it had much more competition from other phone makers. Meanwhile, Google was just working on its first Google Pixel release, and the OnePlus 3T was making big waves.
Source: Andrew Martonik / Android Central
But OnePlus also offered something that almost none of the other smartphone makers would. And that’s a phone primed for tinkering, and beloved by loads of Android enthusiasts. Of course, you wouldn’t get the best camera system, but the combination of sleek hardware with arguably the best software skin in OxygenOS helped push the company to the next level.
This trend continued for the next few years, until it was apparent that OnePlus had its eyes set on bigger fish. Mainly Samsung. To the company’s credit, OnePlus is still out here and competing with Samsung, despite everything that has taken place over just the last few months. But because of decisions made in those months, the door is open for Google to usurp OnePlus’s enthusiast following.
A world once dominated by OnePlus…
Source: Android Central
Google attempted to make sure to “take care” of its enthusiast users with the whole “Google Play Edition” series of phones. This provided flagship specs with stock Android, but what made it interesting was that you could get different phones from different manufacturers while still using stock software. The list included the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S4, Moto G, and my favorite, the HTC One M7.
Source: Android Central
But the GPE program was dissolved and just disappeared back in 2015, leaving us to compromise with Google’s hardware to enjoy the stock Android experience. Rooting and installing custom ROMs could remedy that, but even then, the options for the best rooting phones are slim-pickings. So, users were left with either using Google’s Pixel lineup or a OnePlus phone, as there really aren’t many other options.
Source: Andrew Myrick / Android Central
OnePlus wasn’t exactly manipulating benchmarks as we’ve seen from certain companies in the past. However, it did not let users know what was going on behind the scenes on your device. And that doesn’t even take into account the fact that OnePlus has been positioning itself more as a competitor to the best Samsung phones. Instead, it feels as though the whole concept of “Never Settle” has been relegated to the Nord series of devices.
While this is fine for many, the problem is that the best OnePlus Nord phones aren’t even available in all of the most popular regions. The latest OnePlus Nord 2 is limited to specific regions, just like the original Nord, so we really aren’t getting that “flagship” experience on a budget here in the States.
It’s time for Google to fill the Android enthusiast void
And that’s just one facet. Another is that Google is bucking its trend of conservative and muted phone designs in favor of something much more robotic and exciting. Then, there’s the whole aspect of Android 12 and everything that will bring with it thanks to Material You and its system-wide dynamic theming engine.
Source: Nick Sutrich / Android Central
Simply apply a wallpaper that tickles your fancy, and just start using your phone. The interface changes color to match the wallpaper, along with many of the best Android apps out there. This will need to be adopted by more developers, but that will come in due time. Google still hasn’t finished updating all of its own apps, but the ones updated so far look stunning. Having your phone using a matching theme across the interface creates an experience that you can’t find elsewhere.
But at its core, it’s essentially a flagship smartphone running stock Android. Plus, if the rumors about the Pixel 6’s powerful specs come to fruition, Google is “righting” the ship after a lackluster couple of years in the smartphone market.
After OnePlus essentially outgrew itself and was forced into relying on Oppo and ColorOS for OxygenOS 12, it’s just not the same company anymore. Google’s Android 12 and the openness of Android in general is where the enthusiasts are likely to flock. Even if you don’t want to swing for the fences with the Pixel 6, which is already confirmed as coming in on the pricier side, it allows Google to also focus on its value tier phones like the Pixel 5a.
Source: Michael Fisher / Android Central
If Google plays its cards right and announces sweeping changes to how long it will support its devices, this could be a huge game-changer. As it stands, rumors point to Google making some type of announcement along with the Pixel 6. We could end up with five years of major OS updates moving forward, which is even more than what Samsung offers.
Between its A-series of phones and the flagship-tier Pixel 6, paired with the recent downtrend in reliability and the lost trust for OnePlus, Google is ready to take the reins. Now, we just need to await the arrival of what is likely to end up as the best Android phone of the year. And it can’t get here soon enough.