It’s been three weeks since I published my original review of the Google Pixel XL. Here’s a quick follow-up.
To recap, while I feel that the Google Pixel XL is a great Android phone, that’s a low bar. And where this handset under-delivers is for potential upgraders: The Pixel isn’t demonstrably better than the Nexus 6P it replaces, at least not in ways that are important to me. And it is still handily beaten by Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus, despite the issues I have with that device’s camera.
That sounds overly negative, I know. But I really feel that we, collectively, often fall for the “new is always better” trap, and that looked at objectively, the Pixel XL, while quite nice, isn’t necessarily “better.” Especially given the price.
But when a friend inquired over Thanksgiving about replacing his aging Lumia Icon on Verizon, he noted that he wasn’t sure where to turn. He had, he said, read my review of the Pixel XL and realized I wasn’t too impressed.
Actually, in the context of “user coming from Windows phone and looking for the best new Android phone to buy,” the Pixel XL is a compelling option, thanks to the fact that it will get updates regularly going forward, including first access to new Android features. The only stumbling point, I told him, was the price: The Pixel handsets are not priced any lower than expensive iPhone or Samsung Galaxy flagships.
His response was interesting. He told me that he viewed a smartphone as a two-year commitment and that spreading the price $750 price tag he’d be paying for a 128 GB XL over that time frame wasn’t onerous. (It’s a bit over $30 per month.) Too, he’d be joining Project Fi, which I’ve been promoting. Because it’s awesome.
Selling this friend on an iPhone was a non-starter: For reasons that are largely emotional, he’s not interested in anything Cupertino has to offer. (My wife, usually cold and logical when it comes to such things, feels the same way.) So I didn’t even bother trying to explain that the iPhone 7 Plus offered superior performance, reliability, consistency, and battery life.
So this conversation brought together a few things that had been coalescing in my mind. I had written in the Pixel XL review that I intended to return the device and thus save the roughly $800 I had spent on it. (This is money I don’t have, and I’d be paying it off over some several months.) But I procrastinated on this return because I had until the end of November to follow-through on it.
So when I visited The Netherlands a few weeks back, I used the year-old Nexus 6P, and not the Pixel XL, because I feel that the Nexus camera takes better photos. To be fair, it’s a subtle distinction—the Pixels take fantastic photos too—and is tied to an HDR+ default on the Nexus that some people may not like as much as I do. I brought the Pixel to Europe just in case, but never took it out of the bag.
However, over this time, I was reminded of some reasons why it may make sense for me to keep the Pixel kicking around. These are reasons that only make sense because of what I do for a living: If I were a “normal” person, I’d have returned this thing weeks ago (or never purchased it in the first place). But I am very interested in testing the DayDream View virtual reality solution, which currently only works with Pixel devices. Pixels get new Android features first, and Pixels include some unique features of their own. Indeed, Google is already fixing some of the issues I have with this phone in adding “double-tap to wake” and “life to check phone” gestures in a recent update.
Put simply, yes, the Pixel XL is probably the best new Android phone available today. It’s expensive. Too expensive. And with Google ceding the price wars, there’s an opening now for great phones in the $400-$450 range. I’m open to ideas about reviewing some.
And I very much prefer the iPhone overall: In going back and forth between the two over the past few days, picking up the iPhone and feeling the curiously excellent but simulated home button click under my thumb, is just comforting. But the Pixel, while, uninspiring, is solid too. And it offers great performance and early access to new features and updates. And very high prices. Which, ultimately, is why I have a hard time recommending it.
Some, of course, are unconcerned about such things. It must be nice.
<blockquote><em><a href="#27544">In reply to </a><a href="../../../users/IronCondor">IronCondor</a><a href="#27544">:</a></em></blockquote>
<p>Modern versions of iOS works across a broad range of devices, spanning several years. This has been the case for nearly a decade.</p>
<p>it looks like you ended up upgrading every year on Android regardless…</p>
<p>If, according to you, the Pixel is the best Android phone in the market, why should it be priced lower than the iPhone, or the Galaxy S7?</p>
<p>I have both the 6P and the Pixel XL. There’s only one thing the 6P does better than the Pixel. The 6p has front-facing stereo speakers. That’s it.</p>
<p>In every other objective measure, from camera, to display, to performance, to battery life, to look and feel, the Pixel is just a better phone.</p>
<p>My 6P will begin to choke and stutter anytime I do anything moderately intensive due to the well known inefficiencies of the SD810 chip and its resulting poor heat management and dissipation. There’s a limit to the number of pictures I can take with its camera before performance goes to shit. So it’s surprising to me that you think the 6P has a better camera.</p>
<p>In contrast, my Pixel flies through every single task I through at it and never gets hot. Even when I play processor intensive games, that would have the 6P overheating and choking withing 10 – 15 mins, the Pixel just sings and dances along for hours. The better and sustained heat management and performance also means better battery life for the Pixel.</p>
<p>Now, lets talk about the camera. The Pixel camera is that best camera I’ve used on any phone. Period.</p>
<p>The pictures the 6p takes are great. Maybe the best second only to the Pixel. However, the camera experience of the 6P is a complete joke. The 6P’s camera is slow, unreliable, and laggy. Why? Well, you can once again, thank the SD810 for the heat issues that causes the phone to stutter and lag, and battery life to go to shit when that happens.</p>
<p>So if the 6P is doing anything moderately intensive, like Pokemon Go, and you decide to launch the camera, well, good luck trying to get the camera to launch in time because it’s not happening.</p>
<p>In contrast, the Pixel camera will reliably and consistently launch in less than a second no matter what I’m doing with the phone. I have never had such a consistent experience with the 6P. Also, the Pixel’s shutter and focusing speed is just ridiculous. There’s no way the 6P is better than the Pixel in this regard.</p>
<p>I don’t know what mojo Google did to Android on the Pixel, but the Pixel is the most optimized, fluid, stutter-free Android experience I’ve ever witnessed. Even my iPhone 6s isn’t this buttery smooth. You really have to try hard to get the Pixel to choke. The 6P, on the other hand, can be choked in 1001 ways.</p>
<p>As for the iPhone, well, my 6s is still gathering dust in a drawer somewhere. Once Apple figures out how to do notifications, persistent background syncing, and a sane way to set default apps properly, maybe I’ll have a look at it again. Otherwise, iOS is just not as polished as Android and is not for me.</p>
<p>So to Paul, I say the 6P is cheap, alright. But you get what you pay for.</p>
<p>This is a very very bad review. I’m serious. There is absolutely no content here to go with and there is part of this article that makes no sense. ANYBODY…who is very familiar with Paul’s writing, knows that he goes technical. Here he does not. Not even in the previous (sorta) reviews he posted earlier.</p>
<p>Second, the Pixel is too expensive and the iPhone is not, but he’s ok with the iPhone? LOL…the Pixel in many ways bests the iPhone. The general consensus with other Professional Reviewers is that Pixel is on par with the iPhone. That’s a fact. Also,as for "uninspiring?" This is coming from a guy who called Windows Phone a "special phone." It’s 1% special alright.</p>
<p>From my personal experience, the Pixel CLOBBERS the Nexus 6P in more ways than one. The Assistant is really great. Second, Daydream. Microsoft’s ambition with AR is a $3,000 pipedream. Whereas, with Daydream you can be walking down the street in Chicago or the Champs-Élysées within an hour. LOL…you can’t do that with iPhone nor a Nexus 6P. Actually you could, but the experience is clearly not the same. Third, the camera is really GOOD. The 6P has a good camera, but the Galaxy S7’s camera is much better. It’s even better than the iPhone 6 and 7. To be honest, I can’t decide which camera is best the Galaxy S7 or the Pixel. To be honest, I think I would have to pick the Galaxy S7. If Paul ever reviewed it….forget it…. he won’t, which would be too bad for him.</p>
<p>Like I’ve already mentioned, I have read so many reviews on the Pixel. With the Pixel being a pure Google phone, comparisons with the iPhone is a given. Again, there is none of that here.</p>
<p>This leads me to believe two things: Paul really didn’t use his Pixel enough and he really has no interest in using it. </p>