Google Pixel Hot Take (72 Hours)

TL;DR after the jump.

The Pixel is a good phone with flaws, but that shouldn’t stop anyone because there are no perfect phones. Every phone has some flaws, and any claim of “best” is to be taken not just with a grain of salt but a confirmation of bias in the opinion. After all, there are only ‘better’ phones, and no perfect phone yet. I got the Pixel on a Monday (but didn’t open it till Tuesday) and I like it a lot, as I have no regret changing from a Nexus 6P. But you need to be cognizant of your own requirements and preferences before going into any high end smartphone purchase decision.

If that sounded a defensive way to open up a phone review, it’s because ultimately I feel the Pixel is a flawed phone. The ideal Google Phone probably won’t emerge until next year. Reason why here. But compared to other phones on the market, the Pixel is still the best or almost the best Android phone you can get.

The only real concern about the Pixel is the cost versus the value you get. I think at some level it’s hard to justify any phone over, say, $500, just because alternatively you can get a Nexus 5X or 6P or OnePlus 3 or something, and get on with your life. The extra $200-400 go pretty far and it’s up to each person to figure out if that distance covers the difference between the newest Pure Google experience and their best alternatives.

To help with that fundamental calculus, let me offer another delta-value, which is the difference of having a Nexus 6P when it was the newest Pure Google experience a ¬†year ago, and the Pixel today. I can’t really speak from a place of who may be coming from a more “mundane” device, like someone who wants to upgrade from an iPhone 6 or your garden variety Android phone of 2 years+ vintage. I can speak to that this shiny New Google Device experience is better than the last one. How much better?

  • The 6P has good hardware, but it’s not Huawei’s best bet, just one of their better ones. The Pixel might be HTC’s best phone.
  • Software-wise, the biggest advantage to Android 6/7 was the power management. The Pixel takes it up a notch (FWIW Pixel XL owners were reporting 1+ day batt life across the board).
  • Arguably the best camera although what really shines is the HDR+, much like Nexus 6P but better compared to rival phone cameras.
  • The new on-board features, such as live help and unlimited Google Photo storage @ full size, are of some value. I don’t even count the assistant integration, although that’s nice.

The real driving reason to buy a Pixel is because this is Google’s first start-to-finish product. That allows them to innovate in the software in a way that has only been possible to see in iPhone and the Microsoft Surface (and the Surface Studio is a prime example of it), because they can control both the hardware and software in the minute. I can say that Google delivered a little of that in this first iteration. A lot of the above bullets are more “business” reasons in that some of Google’s strengths are their ecosystem/services, and it would be more kosher to embrace a phone that didn’t belong to an Android OEM. For that, you have to look at the camera–i is the crown jewel of Android integration and Google engineering.

Which is to say, it’s kind of like a Nexus phone in that the Pixel has some breakthroughs, but it also has some rough edges. It’s just that, by far, the Pixel is the most polished Nexus phone if it was one. Which is good, because you expect that given the price gap.

As for the nitty and gritty:

The battery life on the small Pixel is a little worse than the 6P, but it’s probably better than you’d expect. I was able to grind ML on the train fine. The main source of drain, relative to battery size, is the radio. On wifi it performed just as well as the 6P if not better.

It looks just like an iPhone. I mean, yeah, the detailing are different but when that’s the only thing separating the phone from an iPhone, then it looks just like an iPhone.

The best, best, best thing about the Pixel lineup is how the 5″ has the same features as the XL. This let me drops from the 6P to the Pixel with no reservation. Battery life already is taken cared of as one of the Google Integration perks, so I just need to live with the size change. Admittedly it takes some getting used to, seeing the same graphics at a smaller size. Also this is made possible because I don’t Deresute much at all these days. I haven’t given the game a good run on the PIxel, so I’ll report on that sometime later if something is out of the ordinary, and measure the audio stack lag.

I mean, a small, handy phone (probably still a hair too big for my ideal size) that has the best guts, the best camera, a still very good screen (unfortunately¬†it does not have the same PPI, as the Pixel isn’t as dense as the XL), and OK battery life? I’m okay with this. (Until my complementary Daydream goggles ship, maybe?)

I used the Assistant some. It works fine. I don’t like to talk to my phone so it’s weird to use it to trigger, say, IFTTT. I can always talk to it using Allo I suppose.

The port process from old phone to new is not much better than before when I used the various transfer assistants (wi-fi based). Now it has a cable, whoop. Still have to re-sign-in on all my apps, move all my 2FA keys (I have like 8 of these now…this is going to be a major pain in the rear in a couple more years), etc. I don’t think it was troublesome but there was definitely some pain points.

I bought the default transparent case from Google store. it is nice and thin and works well. Textured plastic on the bottom part, transparent and smooth where it covers the glass back.

The camera is as good as they say, so I won’t belabor it any more than that if you used Auto HDR on the 5X or 6P, this is familiar territory. It’s better than the 6P of course, both the speed HDR processes the photo as well as just the overall quality.

I haven’t taken a speakerphone call yet but the normal phone part is fine. The cloth earpiece cover will get dirty over time I think. It’s a minor thing anyway.

No app drawer button is easy to get used to. I tried using the fingerprint scanner gesture, it takes more getting used to but it is kind of neat. More neat than double-pressing power to get the camera app going but less useful.

Wish there was an easier way to scale up the app icons in your launcher home screens. At least there is an option to have different wallpaper between lock screen and home screen now! Thanks android 7.1.

I guess in conclusion this is definitely the best Android phone on the market if you think the 6P was that. Or at least the Pixel XL and not the normal Pixel. But both phones are pretty similar except the battery life and size. I guess this is the one trade off that will take some time to overcome…