Thoughts on the Pixel XL

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Intro.

This phone… Damn, this is one heck of a nice rectangle! Let’s start with some history shall we? (Spoiler, it’s a perfect phone. But a damn expensive rectangle…)

Sadly I can’t say I’ve been a fan of Nexus since its coming about, all the way back in 2010, what I can say however is that I’ve appreciated every Nexus phone that Google released, with the Nexus 4 being my favourite of the lot. Google have since ended the Nexus product line and replaced it with their own Pixel brand. Despite the OEM of the Pixel (XL) being

Loving it!

Whether it was the size, the fact I was using a brand new version of Android (I was still on gingerbread or honeycomb beforehand…), the design, the pattern of the rear glass, the speed or the beautiful glass which rolled over the edge of the display, I just loved it! And until I unboxed my Pixel XL it remained my favourite phone for years. No other Nexus came close, well the 6 did, but it lacked in other areas. But once I’d taken the plastic cover off the body of the Pixel I knew, that it was the device to beat all other devices!

So, to be clear, I’ll likely bring nothing in this post that hasn’t been covered in one of dozens of other reviews. But that’s not the point! 😉 This is more of a record of what I think of the Pixel XL which is where my opinion will differ from other reviewers.

As clear as it may be, I’ll say it anyway, I was instantly impressed with the look and feel of the Pixel XL (in person)! Pictures, reviews, videos, nothing non-physical does this phone justice. You really have to hold one in your hands before it can truly impress you! The cost is a very hard pill to swallow, I do however feel as though the experience is well worth it once you play with the Pixel for just a few moments. Everything it does is lightning fast, it’s ludicrously responsive to touch inputs and the camera is just incredible (from a complete photography novice 😉 ) At the time of writing this I’ve been using my Pixel XL – Quite Black … More like Quite dark grey! – Since the 20th Oct. So around 2.5 weeks. It replaced the Nexus 6P and I don’t miss it! (Well, I still liked that phone a fair bit!!) But once you try out a Pixel you’ll never want any other Android phone. I’ll give credit where credit is due, Apple have, by far, the most seamless OS integration of any phone manufacturer – any why wouldn’t they? As they control the entire process from hardware to software, it’s all their own. The Pixel on the other hand is so so close! It’s essentially the Google iPhone. It was designed from the ground up by Google, for Google, with Google users in mind. It’s a truly fantastic first go at Google’s own phone.

Not loving these bits…

There are certainly some niggles for sure, nothing can ever be perfect sadly! But these are tiny pretty insignificant gripes (except for the price, this phone is too damn expensive!) The fingerprint ‘Pixel Imprint’ scanner is too slow, I’ve used the fingerprint scanner on an iPhone 6s Plus and holy hell that was FTL! Faster than a heartbeat, pretty much as instantaneous as turning on a lightbulb… The Pixel however? Yeah, nowhere near, well sort of. It’s fast, I’d say it edges out the 6P (if only slightly) but it’s by no means instant. Maybe it’s down to software? I know that #FrancoKernel always speeds things up and that Google might make some improvements with 7.1.1 or 7.2… But there’s also a chance it could be hardware related too, as it shares the same sensor as the 6P, only time will tell with this one! But again, by no means is it laggy or slow, it’s just not as fast as Apple.

What else, what else? It’s truly hard to fault the Pixel, the camera is fast! But I’d love to have seen a higher megapixel count, although MP doesn’t at all translate to a better picture, but Google’s got; a great sensor, brilliant software and a fast shutter speed. I just notice that even with a ‘perfect’ photo, you just can’t zoom in without noticing blur / blockiness due to the, in today’s standards, low MP count. But maybe Pixel 2 will bring us a 16+ MP camera.

I’m almost finished hating on the Pixel XL! Just 2 last points of note: The Round app icons & the single MONO speaker. I love listening to music, I love watching videos on my phone, I love sound that comes out of speakers! So I’ll just list the few phones I’ve had and their respective speaker layouts.

Nexus 4 – 1x rear facing
Nexus 5 – 1x bottom facing
Nexus 6 – 2x front facing
Nexus 6P – 2x front facing
Pixel XL – 1x bottom facing…

Can you see a trend there? It was getting better and better, then… Well looks like Google took a step backwards. It’s not even like they didn’t have room either, have you seen the size of the bezels? There’s already a dirty hack floating around, which needs root, that enables the earpiece speaker to work in tandem with the main bottom speaker to create some kind of stereo-ness. See, I wouldn’t have nearly as much of a problem with just the one speaker… unless Apple hadn’t figured this out in an iPhone?! Stereo speakers, Google somehow thought that we only needed the one, which is so easily muffled and covered that it’s just plain silly. I don’t even want to blame just Google either, the Pixel OEM was HTC – HTC BoomSound anyone?? They may as well have just invented front facing speakers. But not much can be done I suppose, unless the earpiece is super loud (spoiler, it’s not) then it’s just a feature we’ll all have to live without.

Lastly, the round app icons. I’m not a fan, it’s very much user preference for this one. But I think it’s been implemented poorly and doesn’t look uniform unless all apps are properly circle-y’d, as opposed to just whacking a shape on a dinner plate.

I’ll leave on a high note though 🙂 I’ve flashed Franco Kernel to my phone and I’ve got to say, that even though it’s only r2 (2nd release) it’s already had a pretty damn significant impact on already solid battery life! I’m looking forward to software updates and more kernels from Franco. It’s a near perfect phone, build quality is immense, even if I’m terrified of the crazy amount of glass on the unit. If you aren’t reading this on your Pixel / Pixel XL, I hope that’s because it’s on charge 😉 If not, you should go and get one!

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