Google announced this week that its Pixel phones would be a Verizon exclusive in the US — meaning that the only carrier-locked model of the phones that would be sold would be through Big Red. This doesn’t please everyone, though AT&T and T-Mobile customers can still get and use an unlocked Pixel phone through the Google Play Store. As is always the case with Google phones, though, customers want to know how the Google Pixel updates Verizon situation will play itself out since Google issues the updates but Verizon, as the carrier, would have to approve them. Since Google has decided to brand its phones with a “G” on the back and make itself responsible for everything about them, some assumed that Google would push system updates to its Pixel phones (with Verizon having a hands-off approach).
Unfortunately, that is not the case. According to a Verizon representative:
Monthly security updates will come from Google (for all models), and system updates will be managed by Verizon for Verizon models, and Google for unlocked models bought from Google Store.
In other words, Pixel buyers who go through Verizon to pay for their phones will find that the answer to the Google Pixel updates Verizon question is that Big Red is in charge of the system updates (say, from Android Nougat to the next version of Android). Those who purchase their phones straight from Google will find that not only will the unlocked models work on Verizon’s network, but that Google will take care of both security patches and system updates. It seems to be a win-win for all parties involved to “go through Google.”
And yet, the Google Pixel updates Verizon question isn’t entirely solved with just this statement because of what it means for Verizon users. Verizon customers would have to go through Google with an installment plan. Of course, Google has said it would provide finance options for customers, but there was little discussion of how installment plans would work through the Google Store (if they’re certain to come). Verizon customers would either have to go buy the Pixel phone of choice through Google, then get a new line on their account through Verizon, or use an existing account via a SIM card in the new Pixel phones.
These adjustments seem small for those who want the Google Pixel updates Verizon question to land in favor of Google and updates without the long Verizon wait or the Verizon bloatware, but the Verizon sale of the Pixel and Pixel XL will land in favor of Verizon because many consumers interested in the Pixel smartphones will want to see, touch, and test the phones out before buying them. In other words, few average consumers will make a bet on a smartphone they’ve never seen, touched, or held in person. Even in 2016, as “juicy” as the Google Pixel updates Verizon question can be when going through Google, consumers still want to have a personal encounter with phones before buying them.
With that said, the idea to get the Verizon-enabled Pixels through Google is great, but there’s some benefit for the customer who buys a Verizon-locked model as well. The choice is yours, but I think it’s fair to argue the benefits of both venues instead of just saying “go through Google.”