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Google Pixel 2

Google Pixel 2

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It’s really hard to switch phones. Everything is new and different; patterns, features, organization—everything needs to be relearned. When I switched from my iPhone 7 Plus to a Google Pixel 2 I was pretty disappointed¹.

I was extremely excited for this phone. A few other people I knew had already switched, I’d seen the reviews on every site, seen the beautiful photos from the camera, browsed the new Google store². I was convinced. Everyone said “Yes, the Pixel 1 was good, but this is The iPhone Killer.” Then I read Josh Topolsky’s review³ of it and basically I was sold. 

One of the designers on my team at work is a big Google fan—he’s never really been into Apple, uses a Surface as his personal computer, and has had a Pixel since before it was cool. So when I received my package from Grover⁴ (yes, I rented it—I won’t commit to anything) we both stared in giddy anticipation as I, a lifelong Apple user, 📦 unboxed and set up my new Google Pixel 2. 🤗

But my excitement stopped there. It’s just a phone, I thought. 😐 It’s just an Android phone. There’s still the Roboto typeface. Sure the transitions are smoother now but it still has this weird, crusty, grey feel of Android. Dialog boxes and modals are still that Androidy square, animations sometimes clunky—apps often feel like strange mobile website afterthoughts. And it’s not just Android, the industrial design is disappointing too. The XL looks better, but the normal black Pixel 2 really just looks like any phone. It’s not sexy, it doesn’t seem special. 🤷‍♂️ The website makes the phone look extremely nice, but in real life, it looks basic.


The Bad

To get into the details, here’s listacle 📝 of gripes:

Unlocking your phone when it’s laying on a table is annoying. Moving from an iPhone 7 with TouchID to this is really annoying. Although I guess the other alternative (iPhone X) requires you to pick up 🤳 your phone to unlock it too. This is dumb.

The screen turns greyscale when you switch it off instead of just fading to black. It’s ugly. The new Android P Beta did away with this.

Moving from an OS that used 📳 vibrations and haptic feedback really well to one that kinda just vibrates whenever you touch it feels cheap.

Just like on iOS, keyboard shortcuts⁵ don’t work. They just don’t. Why even have the feature if it doesn’t work? 😡

When I start typing my email address, there’s no option to autocomplete it. On my Google phone. Eventually, the keyboard did learn my email address.

Font rendering is horrible. Check out these two screenshots, first is Apple, second is Google. Pay close attention to how the letters bounce up and down in the right screenshot. WTF is even going on here?

 Apple font rendering (normal).

Apple font rendering (normal).

 Google font rendering (wtf?).

Google font rendering (wtf?).

There’s an inexplicable line around the home button. There’s a nice triangle, a square, and … a circle with a thin line around it? 🙃 Someone explain this to me please.

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The battery-saving mode is so intense. It’s like 🚨 YOU ARE USING BATTERY SAVING MODE 🚨 the reasoning of which is lost on me. In Android P, battery saving mode is much cleaner.

My USB-C to headphone dongle just plain doesn’t work. You have to restart your phone with the dongle plugged in each time you use it, in order for it to work. But I guess dongles are the past, Bluetooth 🤮 is the future. Whatever. Somehow in the Android P Beta, this is fixed. Everyone still hates dongles and I still hate Bluetooth headphones.

The screen is bad. It has some kind of weird auto sharpening on it where when you look at a dark shape on a white background (AKA text everywhere), there’s a white drop shadow under it. I guess it’s just a cheap screen? But remember this is the normal Pixel 2 not the XL that supposedly has a bad screen.

 Photo of my screen.

Photo of my screen.

 Screenshot of that same spot. There is clearly no white shadow.

Screenshot of that same spot. There is clearly no white shadow.


Did you read this far? Weird, ok. Well, take a breath of fresh air. Hell, take a walk. Sorry for the negativity, friend. Let’s look at some positives now.


The Good

Listen though, after all that, I really have to say… Android is good. The details may not be completely there, which is superficial really, but Android is smart in ways that Apple hasn’t managed to figure out at all. Of course this lies in the fact that Apple is a hardware company and Google is a software company. Apple has always sucked at The Internet, and Google… well Google is The Internet. Anyway, here are some things I’ve really enjoyed:

The Google Assistant is really, really good. I mean I probably don’t have to explain to you the cringeworthy thing that is Siri. And generally I always distrusted voice assistants, probably because of my experience with Siri, and then later with Amazon Alexa. Sorry to the h8rs, they both suck. The Google Assistant is just really good. It does things you think it will do (amazing!). You can type to it instead of always having to speak (revolutionary!). It’s very smart. If you have the Google Home system, it’s even better and smarter. The feature that automatically recognizes the song playing around you and displays it on your lock screen. 😭👌 So good.

 
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The settings app is really well organized, and compared to iOS, it’s so much more useful. Just look at these screens. They are beautiful and exactly what I want in a settings app.

 
 
 

Google Lens! OMG! You guys… you guys. It can select text, scan barcodes, automatically look up addresses, recognize David Bowie! Google Lens is truly an incredible piece of technology.

 
 
 

I’ve really grown to love the notifications tray (plus control panel). It’s smart, flexible, extendable, apps can do cool stuff in it. It’s a place where the open Android system really shines.

 
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And probably the only thing you’ve ever heard about the Google Pixel. The camera is amazing. I’ll end on these photos because they’re nice to look at. Go ahead, click on them and see them in all their glory.

 
 

The front-facing camera has portrait mode too. 🤓 If you expand them, you’ll see there’s sometimes clipping issues in the background blurring.

 
 

Even normal photos somehow look great. I took this first photo out of frustration while waiting for a flight. The second one I took while waiting for food at a restaurant. Low light plus portrait mode (plus moving fish!).

 
 

Cats, buildings, mostly-dark sunsets, sheep! They’re all beautiful!

 
 

So where does that leave me today? Staring at an iPhone X pretty sure I can’t switch back. I’m excited to see the Pixel 3. And hey maybe Apple will make a truly “all screen” phone, who knows… you know y’all killin me with that notch (the real reason we even talkin about Android). 😂


 

 
 
 
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