Tech Trends: Google’s New Pixel Smartphones
Feb 01, 2017 03:20PM
By Makayla Gay
By Phil Yanov
After having spent years having others design and brand their smartphones, Google has released a pair of phones that no longer sport the Nexus brand. Flip over the Pixel or Pixel XL and you see the familiar Google G logo. For the past few weeks, I’ve been carrying the Google Pixel XL, which is the larger of the two. The two phones are very similar and the differences can be summed up quickly. The XL brings a larger display, larger battery and larger price tag to the party. It really comes down to “how much phone do you want to have in your pocket?”
Let’s start with what’s great about the Pixel XL, because it’s a pretty long list. The phone design is slick and smooth…in a good way. The edges of the glass and metal case are beveled in a way that makes it look a bit like an iPhone 7 Plus. Like the iPhone, it has a USB C connector for charging, but unlike its competition from Cupertino, the Pixel XL retains a headphone jack. This relieves a lot of separation anxiety. I do believe if the headphone jack goes away one day, I will still find it useful. Maybe next year I’ll be ready to give it up.
Speaking of the USB port, the fast charger is really fast. The docs say that 15 minutes of charge will give you seven hours of operation. In my experience, I’ve never felt like I was not going to get a full workday out of the phone. In fact, when my usage has been light, I get two days out of it. It gets an A+ for battery life and easy charging. Also, thanks to Google for including both a charger and a second USB to USB-C cable in the box. I’ve got options.
The Pixel XL is a flagship Android phone running the latest version of Android Nougat. In fact, the OS has been updated twice in the short time I’ve carried the phone, which is one of the benefits of having a Google bannered phone. Updates to the OS will come quickly and probably frequently, which is a comfort to the security-conscious.
Because it’s running the newest Android OS, the latest version of Google Assistant is up front and easily accessible. Call out “OK Google” or press and hold home and you get the newly interactive Assistant. This new version allows you to ask follow up questions. Ask about a business, then say “when does it open,” and the Assistant answers. Better yet, if you are in the middle of a text conversation with someone and they use a word you don’t understand, press the home circle and Google Assistant will scan the screen and attempt to offer help within the context. It can be really helpful in determining what lunch stop is closest or open. You can play with Google Assistant on other phones by loading Allo by Google, but its complete integration into the Pixel is the way you really want your assistant to work.
I really can’t say enough good about the performance of the Google Pixel XL. The processor is fast, even driving the AMOLED Quad HD display. It’s got a lot of pixels to move and it does so in a flash. I’ve yet to have the phone show any real lag. I credit this to a fast processor and a clean install of Android. There just isn’t much to slow it down. Speaking of fast, the fingerprint sensor, which is located on the back of the phone, is also screamingly fast. Simply bring your finger to the sensor and the phone unlocks. You can configure it to allow you to read your notifications as well. While it took a very little bit of getting used to, it is now my favorite placement of the sensor. You can pick up the phone and unlock it with one hand. Register fingers from both hands and it doesn’t matter which hand you pick it up with!
I use my phone to send and receive messages and make the occasional phone call, but it’s really used as a camera more often than not, and this is where the Google Pixel XL shines. The camera is fast, simple and fantastic. Independent tests say it is the best performing camera on any smartphone ever and I’ve got to agree. I’ve taken shots in low-light situations that my regular camera would struggle with. Its ability to detect and deal with HDR situations is amazing. The Pixel XL is probably going to be the best camera you’ve owned, and integrated with the Google Photos universe, it’s going to automatically keep those photos backed up to the cloud. It’s very useful.
My only con with the Google Pixel XL is the price. It is not an inexpensive phone. You can save a hundred bucks and get the straight Pixel or decide you want the bigger battery and display and spring for the full package. Either way, you’re going to get a great, clean, high performance Android phone.