Make no mistake, Pixel Pass is here to lock you into Pixel ownership forever

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Google’s new Pixel Pass plan, which adds many additional subscription benefits to your purchase of a Pixel 6, is a very tempting deal. But before you prepare yourself to spend $45 each month for the next couple of years, do consider what it means after you’re ready to part with your device.

The Pixel Pass will introduce you to an ad-free world of gaming and video and no-consequence damage protection, and you’re going to enjoy every minute of it. So much so, that leaving Google and a Pixel phone in the future may not be an easy decision to make, and of course, that’s exactly what Google wants.

What do you get?

Pixel Pass gives you the Pixel 6 or Pixel 6 Pro, plus a subscription to YouTube Premium and YouTube Music Premium for ad-free music and videos, Google Play Pass for games without ads or in-app purchases, 200GB of Google’s cloud storage for photos and phone backups, and the Preferred Care accidental damage protection plan. There’s also $5 off a monthly Google Fi plan if you have one.

It costs $45 per month for the Pixel 6, or $55 per month for the Pixel 6 Pro, and Google claims buying the phone on the Pixel Pass plan will save you $294 over two years compared to buying it all separately. Interestingly, you’re not locked in for those two years either, as it’s possible to cancel Pixel Pass and pay off the remaining amount owed on your new Pixel at any time.

Is Pixel Pass a good value?

Pixel Pass is great value, and as you’ll see, that’s the really cunning part on Google’s side. I really like YouTube Premium. Removing ads without messing around with ad blockers or different browsers, plus playing videos in the background suits my use of the video service. YouTube Music also covers everything I want, including the same ability to play music with my device locked. Whether the service represents the same value for you will depend on how much you use YouTube and whether you already pay for a streaming music service — I have no wish to go without it.

Google One is similarly essential. It’ll depend on your personal circumstances, but the Pixel Pass’s 200GB of storage space should be enough for most people, provided you don’t intend to add family members to the plan, after which space quickly gets eaten up. Despite using Drive and Gmail, and the large amount of photos I take across multiple devices, I haven’t come close to using up a 100GB Google One plan yet, provided I do some housekeeping and delete unwanted items regularly.

Google Play Pass is a great benefit if you play mobile games, but if you have no interest or time, then it’ll likely sit unused. It doesn’t appear you can gift the Pixel Pass’s Play Pass to a family member either. The Preferred Care plan covers accidental damage, including water damage and cracked screens, for two years. Looking at the fine print, you can make two claims per year on the Preferred Care plan, so it’s not a license to treat your new Pixel 6 badly, but like the 200GB Google One plan, it should be comprehensive enough for most.

That’s a lot of very useful extra features to go with your new Pixel 6, and for a relatively modest monthly outlay. Once you’re on board with any or all of these, you’re almost certainly in for the long haul.

Once you start, Google’s got you

I know you’re tempted. But before signing up for any long-term plan, it’s important to understand the ramifications, and in the case of the Pixel Pass, you should also think about whether you’re happy to commit to Google in the real long term.

Why? Don’t underestimate the convenience of the Pixel Pass’s additional benefits. Each of these services is nice to have, and you will quickly get used to them. I wouldn’t want to cancel my YouTube Premium subscription and go back to having ads, and I expect it’ll be the same situation if you make good use of the Play Pass. The free 15GB of Google Photos storage space will quickly fill up if you start from scratch as a new Pixel owner without Google One’s additional space, and that’s before the horror of not saving the Pixel 6’s inevitably excellent photos at full resolution.

What I’m saying is that after two years these services will have become the norm and living without them won’t be particularly attractive. At that time, your Pixel Pass will be about to expire, and it’ll be time to get a new phone. While you could just pay for the Google services you want and get a smartphone from another brand, that’s the point where you may shrug and say, “why not just get the Pixel 8?” And right there, Google’s got you.

Let me be clear, this isn’t a bad thing or an unusual practice, but you should know the Pixel Pass is a concerted effort to lock you into Google’s ecosystem, and it’s really the first time it has done so in such a blatant way. If you are familiar with Apple’s practices, it’ll all look familiar, but perhaps not so if all you know is Android phones.

The future’s not written

Mobile companies, whether it’s a device maker or carrier, are always working hard to gain you as a loyal customer. The Pixel Pass is an easy way to acquire the latest hardware and get some good benefits in with the bargain, but getting away from it may require some effort and wrangling on your part. Not only does it all work together so well, the services quickly become indispensable.

If you don’t need to buy the Pixel this way, it’ll make switching to another phone later a little easier, in the same way as buying the phone outright and not committing to a two-year plan with a carrier does. Keeping your options open and not being swayed by non-exclusive benefits on a plan like Pixel Pass today, will remove one extra consideration come upgrade time. Pixel Pass will likely be popular — and rightly so, it’s a good deal — but just remember to see it for what it is: a cunning way to try and keep you in the Google family for years to come.

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