If you buy a Google Pixel or Pixel XL from Verizon Wireless, you'll be at the mercy of the carrier when it comes to future Android updates. Google has apparently confirmed to 9to5Google that Verizon will be in charge of delivering Android software updates to all Pixel phones that it sells. That includes units purchased from Best Buy, since the popular electronics store is carrying Verizon's Pixel models and not an unlocked version of the "phone by Google." For Pixels purchased from the Google Store, Google will handle updates itself — just as it did with Nexus devices. Here's the statement a spokesperson gave 9to5Mac:
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.
That's probably bad news for Verizon buyers who want the latest Android features as soon as they're available. Any middleman between Google and its users could result in delays. The Pixel that Google sells directly is fully compatible with Verizon's network, so you can just purchase that way to avoid potential headaches entirely. That also means you won't have to deal with any Verizon-branded applications that the carrier preloads onto its Pixel devices.
But most people buy smartphones from carrier stores, and Google knows that. There are already full-page newspaper and magazine ads touting Verizon's "exclusivity."
USA TODAY, Wall Street Journal and New York Times today. Google's going to be everywhere advertising Pixel pic.twitter.com/y766m8QLGX— Eli Blumenthal (@eliblumenthal) October 5, 2016
So Google is taking control in one key area: security. The company will deliver monthly security updates for the Pixel — both the unlocked and Verizon variants. At least when it comes to defending against the latest Android exploits, they'll be on equal footing.
Now once the Pixel is actually released, hopefully some resourceful Android nerds will find a way to just make the Verizon-sold hardware behave like it came straight from Google. But most average consumers will be depending the carrier for updates. If you want to be absolutely certain you'll keep current with Android, just buy the thing from Google. The monthly financing works out roughly the same, and either method gets you a free Daydream View.