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Moving from the Note 5 to the Pixel 2 XL

February 4, 2018

Pixel 2 XLI typically replace my phones every two years; in that time the technology generally advances enough that a new phone offers a noticeably improved experience. Plus after two years a phone’s battery tends to hold its charge for a noticeably shorter time, so a new device also avoids the need to charge as often.

I held off replacing my Note 5 this fall because I was considering moving from Samsung to Google, and if I did I thought I might switch to a Pixel device (since I would likely be working on Android, and Pixel devices are the only way to use the latest and greatest Android version).

I did indeed move to Google in November, joining the Android UX team. But I held off getting a new device, largely because I wasn’t sure whether to get the Pixel 2 XL or the Pixel 2. The choice would normally be a no-brainer; I like bigger phones. But the LG display in the Pixel 2 XL has gotten a lot of bad press, while the Samsung display in the Pixel 2 has gotten praise (Samsung does make great displays).

Last week I finally went ahead and bought a Pixel 2 XL. I’ve been using it for about a week now. I also switched carriers for the device, from AT&T to Project Fi. That choice was driven by two factors:

  1. AT&T’s coverage the Googleplex sucks; my Note 5 battery was draining extra fast because it was straining to contact AT&T’s cell towers.
  2. International data rates that are (in most countries) the same as domestic rates.

It was also a nice bonus that I could use my Google Voice number for the phone directly.

Here are my observations about the switch so far, in no particular order:

  • The Pixel 2 XL display does indeed exhibit a blue tint at a much smaller angle than Samsung (and Apple) devices I’ve used. It was really noticeable for the first day of use, and then I totally stopped noticing it, due in large part to the fact that I generally look at my phone directly while using it. So yeah, the display should be better. But it’s really been a non-factor in daily use.
  • Battery life has been amazing. Even with Location kept enabled (ti’s using the first thing I disable on a Samsung device to preserve power), I’m generally only using 20% of battery a day. Now those are days where (a) I’ve got WiFi available most of the day, (b) I don’t use the device a ton, and (c) I turn the phone off from roughly 10 PM to 6 AM. But still, that’s way better than I ever got with my Note 5. I think the improved battery life is a combination of a new battery, Project Fi (shifting radio use more to WiFi than cell), and improved software (both Android O and Google vs. Samsung). It’s also a factor that I haven’t set up a smartwatch with the phone yet (I still haven’t decided whether I’m going to just use my Gear S3 with it or try out an Android Wear device), so the phone isn’t using the Bluetooth radio much.
  • Unsurprisingly, Android seems snappier. TouchWiz (now the Samsung Experience, I suppose) has gotten better, but it’s still got room for improvement.
  • The one thing I miss from Samsung’s phones is Samsung Pay. Android Pay is fine for NFC payments, but Samsung devices offer MST (Magnetic Secure Transmission) so that you can use Samsung Pay with swipe credit card terminals. I won’t be able to use the Pixel for payments in as many cases as I could my Note 5.
  • Project Fi offers much better account handling and tools than AT&T. Shocking, I know.

I haven’t used the camera much since I haven’t gone anywhere particularly interesting since switching, but I’m looking forward to trying it out.

From → Hardware, Mobile

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