First of all, this article is NOT sponsored by Google. But if anyone from Google is reading this and wants to send me the Pixel XL, please do, because I’d love to test that phone as well.
A little over a month ago I switched to the Pixel. I’ve been on iOS and the iPhone pretty much since its inception or just shortly after. I think the iPhone 3G was my first iPhone. I never even thought about switching, not only because I was a little Apple fanboy, but also because there was just no reason. I liked the iPhone and I liked iOS. Whenever a new iPhone came out, there wasn't even a question about getting it or not getting it. Even if I couldn't afford it, I wanted it.
I briefly tried using an Android device a couple years ago but abandoned it after less than a week. Android always felt like a shitty operating system to me, not refined and just thrown together. But something is different this time.
I probably would have not switched if iOS hadn't let me down so much since the new iOS11. My iPhone was basically unusable for the last couple weeks; even after I got the iPhone8 I just wasn’t happy with it. My iPhone kept crashing, iOS kept freezing and apps behaved in a weird way. I knew these things would eventually get fixed, but it was reason enough to finally give Android a try again.
So I did, I switched to the Pixel2. The regular size, not the Pixel XL, because I like smaller phones. The iPhone5 is probably my favorite when it comes to the form factor and the Pixel2 is fairly close to it. I immediately enjoyed the Pixel2 and was surprised how far Android has come since I last tried it.
I’m still using my Pixel as of right now. I’m not sure when or if I will change back to my iPhone again. It could happen, you never know. And as I’m traveling a lot right now, I can promise you that my phone usage is way above the average, which is perfect for such a review. Keep in mind this is a casual and personal review, I'm not comparing specs or anything, there are enough tech website out there who do that.
But let me tell you about my main observations so far:
This was my major concern. I may not be that addicted to iOS, but I’m definitely deep into Apple's ecosystem when it comes to iMessage. The good thing is, since I'm traveling I can't receive iMessages right now anyway – and I don't miss them so far. I moved most of my conversations to WhatsApp and since it also has a MacBook app, the switch happened without any problems. I'm sure there are a couple iMessages right now from friends who get sent into the void, but that's okay. Eventually after informing them that iMessage doesn't work anymore, everyone happily switches to WhatsApp. (because iPhone users are allergic to the green SMS bubbles)
The camera is a weird one. I don’t photograph that much on my phone anymore, but I have mixed feelings about it. In low light, the camera is absolutely better than the iPhone. I’m actually surprised by HOW good the Pixel camera is in low light.
Here is an example, no editing and straight from the phone. The picture was taken on the plane with very little light available.
In normal daylight I’d say the camera performs generally the same as the iPhone, but it has some weird quirks that are either bugs, or just feel different because I'm so accustomed to the iPhone camera.
For one, the colors are significantly different depending on the angle you hold your phone, which can be frustrating. If I'm trying to photograph something yellow up close, for example, it almost appears white and completely washed out. If I then tilt the camera a bit or try a slightly different angle, the color is accurate again.When it comes to color temperature, the Pixel seems to give a more blue light whereas the iPhone has a warmer feel to it.
This doesn't bother me too much since I edit the pictures anyway, but it takes some time getting used to. I like the camera because it is incredibly good from a technical perspective, but it all feels a bit unpredictable and sometimes doesn't make sense.
Here is another picture I shot with the Pixel2, no edits:
Hardware & Feel
The Pixel feels great in my hand and less slippery than the iPhone7 and 8. It also feels much lighter, at least compared to the iPhone8 with its glass back. You could argue the Pixel feels less premium because it's lighter, but I prefer it this way. I can feel the difference since I'm carrying it my pocket all the time. I personally think that the iPhoneX or iPhone8 feel too heavy for their size and form factor which makes them feel less premium and more clunky. I think there's a fine balance where weight contributes to a premium feel, but at some point it tips over and makes a phone feel clunky instead.
I appreciate the less rounded corners and the grippy hard plastic on the sides of the Pixel2. Some may not like the bezels but I really do. Today I’m way less excited about fancy hardware on phones than I was a couple years ago. Now I just want a phone that feels great in my hand and is practical to use. As long as there are no major turn offs (like the notch on the iPhone X) I’m pretty forgiving when it comes to a phone's hardware. For me there is a difference between a phone that looks great on renders (with fancy edge to edge screen) and a phone that I just love using and having in my pocket.
Oh, and of course: The Pixel has a USB-C port. Which means I can plug it straight into my MacBook without needing an adapter. I stopped carrying an extra USB-C cable because I can just charge my phone with the same cable that I use to charge my MacBook.
PS: My Apple AirPods work without any problems on my Pixel as well. So no big deal here either.
One of my absolute favorite Pixel2 features is the fingerprint unlock on the back. It’s just SO much better than where it is on the iPhone. When taking my Pixel out of my pocket with one hand, the fingerprint sensor is automatically positioned exactly where my index finger is while at the same time having a strong grip on the phone. When I unlock my iPhone with one hand using the thumb on the home button, I feel like I'm about to drop my phone.
With the Pixel2 you can also use the fingerprint scanner on the back of the phone to pull down your notifications (you just swipe down on the sensor). I use this all the time to get a quick glance at my notifications, especially since I can keep a strong grip on my phone without needing to use the touch screen at all.
The only downside to the Pixel unlock placement: If the phone is sitting face-up on your table, you can’t unlock it with your finger without taking the phone in your hand (because you need to place your index finger on the fingerprint sensor on the back). But I’m happy to trade that for having a secure grip on my phone while using it on the go. I also assume this would be an issue with the iPhoneX as you would need to move your face above the phone on the table. Same issue, different phone.
The software switch from iPhone to the Pixel fairly easy. Google even offers a cable that connects your Pixel and iPhone to transfer all the data. It didn’t work as seamlessly as I expected as some contacts didn’t get imported and my pictures sadly didn’t transfer at all. Not a huge deal, and could simply be something I did wrong.
After that, everything worked perfectly fine. The whole Android system has improved significantly since I last used it. I could easily find every single app I used on iOS in the PlayStore, which made this whole thing even easier.
I'm surprised to say the Android experience feels less clunky than iOS, overall. It feels more like a strong mini computer in my pocket rather than a mobile phone. I think I just grew tired of the limiting ways I can use iOS and I've really started to enjoy Android in that regard. Of course, the whole integration of Google services (which I use often) helps a lot. Google Now and other Google services integrate so nicely into your phone that it just becomes a joy to use. (And yes, I am aware that Google is listening to everything I say; privacy is probably one of the bigger concerns you might have when using Android. I don’t even know if there IS any privacy anymore, but that's a whole other conversation.) The Google Assistant is absolutely amazing compared to Siri (which I never liked) and I've started using it for small Google queries or things like setting my alarm or calendar reminders.
And the Global Back Button! Holy shit, this thing is so good, I don't know if I can go back to iOS without having it. Android has this back button in the lower left corner of the screen. It's always there like the iPhone home button, but it's a back button that works across the system and across all apps. It's the best thing ever, not only because it is ALWAYS there but also because it is JUST IN THE RIGHT position! I always disliked iOS for having the back button in the top left corner, the most impractical position on a mobile phone, especially when using your phone with just one hand.
The downsides of Android are still the same as what they were a couple years ago. While the operating system feels more productive than iOS, there are many little issues and inconsistencies that bother me. It’s almost like someone worked their ass off to make a beautiful unlock screen, but spent no time designing and refining the experience for browsing photos. Pinching and swiping through the photo gallery is absolutely horrible on Android and I have no idea how they even managed to get this approved and shipped. It all feels like a prototype rather than a finished product. Android generally still lacks the refinement and consistency that iOS delivers, yet I believe Android has great potential as a future operating system for mobile.
And all of this not only applies to the operating system, but also to the majority of apps I've used so far. They're all working, but they're not as nice and refined as the ones on iOS. You can easily see how these Android apps were built as an afterthought long after the iOS version was shipped. I think this all just has to do with the fact that the majority of people who used Android in the recent years just didn't care as much about smooth UI experiences, whereas Apple has always led with quality, curation and perfection. Android is catching up, and I think it is catching up pretty well.
Another picture shot on the Pixel2, at night in low light
Using Android for a month now, I'm motivated to work on it myself. There is so much potential and I'm curious why Google (with their stock Android) hasn't managed to get this whole experience a bit more rounded. But as we all know, internal company politics is the answer to many of these questions.
For now I will stick with Android, although I’m open to trying new devices such as the OnePlus or any of the Samsung flagship phones. I’m not too sold on the Pixel specifically, but more sold on using Android in general. Every time I've picked up my iPhone8 in the last few weeks it felt clunky and old, like when you used an iPhone5 for a while and then picked up the iPhone 3G again.
Weirdly enough, I just feel more productive using Android. As I mentioned before, it's like a powerful mini computer in my pocket rather than just a smartphone. And for some reason, I really enjoy customizing everything to my liking. The widgets on my home screen, the Google Now screen, and of course customizing my app and unlock screens with the wide range of available launcher apps.
I'm happy to say I’m not a fanboy of either iOS or Android. There was a time where there was no question about getting the latest iPhone – I bought it immediately as soon as it came out, if I could afford it. Today I’m not as “religious” about phones as I was a couple years ago. I just want something that works.
I hope this review gave you a little bit of insight, at least from my personal experience. I'm sure there are many other, more professional reviews out there comparing specs and whatnot.
I will definitely keep you posted on how things are going.