Google's new smartphones, the Pixel and Pixel XL, are a watershed moment for the company. They're Google's attempt to define itself as a hardware manufacturer worthy of comparison not just to Apple's iPhone, but the very products its Android operating system has allowed to flourish over the past eight years. Or, as the refrain goes: Google is finally going to compete with other smartphone manufacturers.
This narrative can get in the way of discussing the Pixel for what it is (a smartphone), so I'll try to avoid confusing what this phone means to Google as a company and what it means to you as a consumer.
LG is a company whose smartphone products have gone from bottom of the barrel to highly competitive in under four years. Once the butt of bad phone jokes in the early days of Android, the company has lifted itself up into prominence in particular with the G Series, the originator of that lineage being the Optimus G.
The original G was a model for the Nexus 4 - the glass front and back blended a fairly bold design with modern and high-end components. LG's software really wasn't quite there yet, but they quickly stepped up their game with the G2 in the following year, and in the eyes of many fans perfected that formula in the G3.
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We're the Android Police, and Google's mobile operating system is our raison d'être, our bread and butter, the most essential and integral part of our site's very existence. Still, it doesn't exist in isolation. Apple's iPhones continue to dominate the US market, and the new iPhone SE might have some of us wondering if the grass is any greener with iOS these days. That's subjective, and I can't really answer that for you. But I can say that the 2020 version of the iPhone SE pushes its $400 price tag further than any mid-range Android phone, and in the last month, I've grown to appreciate its value even more — though coming from Android, it is a dysfunctional relationship.
The Google Pixel is a notoriously hard phone to get a hold of. Persistent stock issues have plagued Google's first "in-house" handset from day one, and things really are little to no better six months after the launch event. Honestly, it's a bit embarrassing just how consistently incompetent Google seems to be at keeping a reasonable inventory of phones available for purchase. But setting that aside, as one of the Pixel's most ardent evangelists, I think there's something it's probably time for me to come clean on: Even if you could buy a Pixel today, I really think you shouldn't.
The most important phone of the year has arrived. We not only get a new version of Android, but a new approach to hardware design, too. This isn't just any new piece of hardware; this is (hopefully) the start of a revolution in design and materials for Android phones. This Nexus 4 hardware is so good, so well-built, and made with such attention to detail, that it is the new high bar for any hardware - not just Android hardware. The standard cheap plastic slabs aren't going to cut it anymore after this.
Besides the killer hardware, it's also the first phone with Android 4.2, which isn't hugely different from 4.1; in fact, it's still known as "Jelly Bean." There are a few new goodies, most notably lock screen widgets, an overhauled camera app, and a beautifully designed clock app that no doubt indicates the future design direction of Android.
It's been a little over two weeks since I received my Google Pixel (XL) review unit, so I thought I would provide an addendum to our review based on more time with the phone. I won't be covering every category I did in the review. But I will try to give you the broad strokes on areas where my thoughts haven't changed much, and some of the specifics where they have.
Look, feel, and form
I still think this phone looks a bit dull. Other members of the team disagree, though! And I think that really is the subjective nature of design coming into play here.
Nearly ten years ago, Google shipped an unassuming, totally unbranded laptop to a large group of journalists and tech enthusiasts as part of a 60,000 unit pilot program. That laptop was the CR-48, and it was designed to showcase a project Google had been working on internally for well over a year. It was called Chrome OS.
I was among the first of those lucky folks to receive a CR-48, and I used it as much as humanly possible for almost a year. It was kind of the worst: constant crashes, an insanely slow single-core Intel Atom processor, and questionable build quality would make it clear to anyone that it was very much a product built for dogfooding, not as a replacement for your Windows or Mac notebook.
I've been using the Google Pixel 2 XL now for over a week. Its predecessor, the 2016 Pixel XL, is what I called the best Android phone ever six months after its release. I'm fairly certain that the 2 XL will take the original's title, at least in my opinion, without issue.
Before flaws, refinements
Around the internet, I am seeing a lot of revisionist history claiming the original Pixel XL was essentially a no-compromise, highly polished smartphone. Here's the thing: it wasn't.
The original Pixel had significant flaws, and in spite of them, I still thought it was the best smartphone I'd ever used.
Today is the day we've all been waiting for since March when Google unexpectedly dropped the Android N developer preview on us. Android 7.0 Nougat, as it's now known, is officially done and rolling out to Nexus devices, the Pixel C, and the General Mobile 4G. There aren't any big surprises here—the final build is virtually identical to the last developer preview, but it should be more stable and it'll be on your phone or tablet very soon.
When you talk about Samsung's Galaxy smartphones, it's hard not to talk about 'the average consumer.' Because the Galaxy S series is the second-most popular line of smartphones on earth, its audience is unashamedly mainstream, and the vast majority of sales of these devices will be to consumers who aren't what you'd call tech-savvy. The issue for Samsung, increasingly, is learning how to split the difference between a smartphone that provides a good experience for everybody and maintaining that all important credibility with its fans and enthusiasts.
The Galaxy S8 and S8+, for example, have Quad HD displays - the best ones I've ever seen.