What do the Android Central editors think of the Google Pixel after a week?

Google's Pixel phones have been out for just over a week now, and some of us have had them for far longer. We've written three reviews and ten times the number of editorials, and yet there's more to say about these amazing devices — so we convened a roundtable to do just that.

First, Pixel or Pixel XL? And Why?

Daniel Bader

I have been enjoying the smaller Pixel more than I thought. It has the right combination of size and power for my liking, and it's extremely usable in one hand.

More than anything, it just works. I know that's overrated in a market that values features over function, but for what I use my Android phone for, the Pixel does the best job right now, period.


Jerry Hildenbrand

Pixel. With the same service and the same apps, it actually has better battery life for me (though not really enough to make a difference) and it's easier to carry. I've mentioned it before, but riding around in a wheelchair all day means keeping my phone in a shirt pocket works better for me, and the Pixel works better for a shirt pocket.


Andrew Martonik

I used the Pixel XL first, and I actually found it much more comfortable to use than I first expected, though it pushes the upper limit of what I can safely manage in one hand for my usual tasks. After receiving my smaller Pixel, that's the one I've settled on. Having the same great experience in a smaller size is wonderful, and battery life has just been ever so slightly less — a worthy tradeoff for me. Going back to the XL isn't completely out of the question, but I'm just enjoying the Pixel more right now.


Russell Holly

For me, it's all about the Pixel XL. While I appreciate a good small phone, and the PIxel is exactly that, the slight difference in daily battery life means I can do things like drop a wireless hotspot for 45 minutes while finishing a thought on my laptop and never have to worry about my phone making it through the day. I'm very much over feeling like I need to carry a battery backup or my quick charger with me places. This phone lasts me all day, and that's what I wanted.

Also, Daydream View is going to be awesome through the larger Pixel.


Harish Jonnalagadda

I really liked the in-hand feel of the smaller Pixel, but the added battery life and the denser display of the Pixel XL won out in the end. The Pixel XL is much more usable one-handed than the 5.7-inch Nexus 6P, and the battery easily lasts a day even when connected to a cellular network throughout, with Bluetooth and location services enabled. After using the LG G4 for most of last year and the G5 for a few months earlier this year, I now look for all-day battery life when buying a phone. And in that regard, the Pixel XL delivers.


Marc Lagace

I got my hands on the smaller Pixel and haven't had the opportunity to hold the Pixel XL. But after using some bigger phones for a while (RIP Note 7), it's been really nice coming back to a phone that's a bit more compact and easy to use one-handed. While I'm sure I'd enjoy the extra battery life and the crisper display found on the Pixel XL, I'm more than satisfied by what the Pixel has offered so far.

What's your favorite thing about the phone so far?

Daniel Bader

That would be a tossup between the software itself — the day-to-day goings-ons of bug-free, smooth-as-butter experience, plus Nougat's excellent notifications and multi-window support — and the camera.

The camera was surprising. It went from, "Oh, this phone takes great photos," to "Holy crap, look at this photo. And this one. This is one I took in near pitch black that came out amazing with little grain."

I'm not saying it's the best camera on a smartphone today, but it takes great photos almost every time and I have to give Google props for that.


Jerry Hildenbrand

All of the things that aren't there.

I don't want IR blasters or iris scanners or SD cards. I want a piece of tech that lets me stay connected with "my people" that has a great way to use the services I like to use when doing it. The Pixel stays out of the way and lets me do that.


Andrew Martonik

It has to be the overall fluidity and consistency of performance. I've never used an Android phone that's this quick to open and switch apps while also never slowing down or skipping a beat. Everything is super stable, and so smooth it's remarkable.


Russell Holly

It's just so damn fast. The camera is fast. The launcher is fast. Switching between apps is fast. I've been using the phone for over a week and my Pixel hasn't lagged or visually dropped frames or completely frozen in place. The same can't be said of my last three phones, a list that includes the iPhone 7 Plus, the Galaxy Note 7, and the Nexus 6P.


Harish Jonnalagadda

The performance. The phone just flies! It's remarkable how seamlessly the Pixel handles everything you throw at it. There's no lag anywhere, and I never got the feeling that I was waiting for an app to launch. I'm wary of switching back to phones with manufacturer skins, even those in the high-end segment. Once you get used to the Pixel, everything else feels slow.


Marc Lagace

It's a toss-up between Google Assistant and the camera. I've enjoyed using Google Assistant so far, and am pretty excited to see Google develop it further as time goes on — but mostly I'm just a big sucker for hilarious easter eggs and random fun, and Google Assistant is chocked full of both.

But the camera — my goodness, the camera! It's lived up to the hype and then some in my books. Every time I've shown someone a photo or video i've taken with the Pixel, they've been blown away by the quality. Every time. It's that good, folks.

Where do you think Google could have improved?

Daniel Bader

On the smaller Pixel, battery life has been an issue. In Toronto, during my normal daily routine, I typically get to 9pm before I need to top up, after taking the phone off the charger at 7am or so. That's pretty good.

But I've been traveling for the past few days, and have been penalizing the battery with roaming and constant hits to Google Maps. That really annoyed the Pixel, and I was almost empty after five hours on one of those days. It's not the end of the world — the Pixel charges quickly, and I have quite the collection of portable battery packs — but it is something to consider for the average road warrior. This is a daily driver, not a day-and-night driver.


Jerry Hildenbrand

I know thin flat phones are trendy, but they aren't the most ergonomic thing in the world. A bit of curve in the rear would make the phone feel like it was a better fit in the hand. It might not actually be better, but things we can see or touch trump facts. The HTC 10 nails this, and I wish that had been the phone Google was chasing instead of the iPhone.


Andrew Martonik

On the hardware side, missing waterproofing is a real downer — a phone this expensive should have the feature. In terms of software, Google really has to figure out how it's going to combine Google Search, Now and Assistant into one cohesive product. The parts are there, but they have to be combined in a smart way.


Russell Holly

Assistant is cute, but needs some muscle behind it immediately. It's barely able to keep up with Google Now when it comes to basic commands, and as much fun as the follow-up question system is in concept it barely works in practice. This is a big step forward for Google because of what it means for the future of personal assistant software, but it'd be great if it was useful all the time.


Harish Jonnalagadda

The Pixel gets all the basics right, but it's missing fringe features like water resistance. It's a tough ask to convince customers to shell out over $600 for a phone when there are very capable handsets for under $400, and Samsung has done a great job of distinguishing its flagships with curved displays, wireless charging, and water resistance. The Pixel makes up for it through sheer performance, an excellent camera, and Google Assistant, but an IP68 rating would have definitely made it a more compelling option.


Marc Lagace

I would have really liked to have seen better water resistance to match what Apple and Samsung are offering with their flagship devices. Also, the lack of an SD slot is disappointing. I'm rocking the 32GB Pixel, so I'm slightly paranoid about running out of storage space. Other than that I've found the build quality and performance to be on point.

The camera: is it as good as they say it is?

Daniel Bader

Yes, I'm rehashing here, but the Pixel's camera is impressive. One thing to note that is that smaller phones usually get punished in some way compared to their larger counterparts, often by lacking optical image stabilization or featuring a less capable sensor.

The Pixel's camera is identical to that of the Pixel XL's, and has proven to shoot great photos in almost any condition. I spent a lot of time talking about this in our latest podcast, but what's impressed me most is how usable the low-light photos are given the lack of OIS, proving that software is perfectly capable of minimizing noise and shake with the right engineering work. And Google has that in spades.

Just look at the speed of HDR+. Google has been touting this feature for years, but it's only now proving its mettle in the camera department. This is evolution at its best.

Here's one of my favorite photos:

Jerry Hildenbrand

It's better. Almost impossibly better. Reason says there is no way the camera can be this good without the traditional means to keep pictures from blurring when the light is low or you're moving too much. Yet it is. I had little faith in seeing any real improvement over the Nexus 6P, but I was wrong. So wrong.

Here's one of my favorite photos:

Andrew Martonik

It's as good as they say it is, and it's better than I ever could've imagined. You see, Google has talked a big game about its Nexus cameras for years … and now, it has delivered entirely. The Pixels not only take excellent photos, they take consistent photos and they do it quickly as well. That's just the perfect combination.

Here's one of my favorite photos:

Russell Holly

This is, without a doubt, the best smartphone camera I've ever used. At least, in full auto anyway. I wish Google would implement a proper manual mode so we could have some extra fun, but in full auto the camera is outstanding. It pulls light in from basically nowhere, everything is nice and crisp, and the slow motion is absolutely beyond belief.

Here's one of my favorite photos:

Harish Jonnalagadda

I have a knack for taking out-of-focus images from phones that have great cameras. I usually resort to taking several shots, out of which I get one that's passable. That isn't the case on the Pixel. I consistently got great shots without putting in any effort, and the ability to create GIFs in burst mode is an added bonus. Easily the best camera I've ever used on a phone.

Here's one of my favorite photos:

Marc Lagace

Man. As I already mentioned, the camera is probably my favorite part of the phone. It's super quick to load and takes great photos and videos regardless of the conditions. I went to a concert the day after getting my Pixel and yea, I'm one of those guys who likes to take videos at rock shows. I was blown away by the quality when I reviewed them the next day!

Here's one of my favorite photos:


What about battery life? Is it in line with your expectations?

Daniel Bader

I'm going to talk about the Pixel XL here, because I also have that one. It's really good, better than the Nexus 6P with the same battery size, and certainly good enough to get through a whole day. As I said above, I'm worried, not disappointed, with the smaller Pixel's uptime, but that it pulls 12-14 hours on a 2770mAh battery is no small feat.

But the Pixel XL's cell is 25% larger, and that shows in practice. I've never finished the day short of 10% battery life — even long days, when I stay up editing these wonderful people — and that's encouraging. I find the XL a bit big for my liking, otherwise it would easily take the place of the smaller Pixel in my pocket, but you shouldn't have any qualms opting for the more expensive model if size is a concern.


Jerry Hildenbrand

It's better than the Nexus 6P or BlackBerry Priv with the same apps and services running. I can't say how good it is other than it's not yet been dead when I go to bed and plug it in. That has happened before with other phones. Battery life does take a bit of a hit when I'm somewhere with a bad mobile signal, but that's to be expected. No complaints so far!


Andrew Martonik

The Pixel XL offers all I need and more in terms of battery life, making it through my full day with some 20-30% to spare. If I push it hard, I'll end with at least 10% left. I never had to scramble to a charger on the XL. The smaller Pixel isn't as great, regularly finishing the day about 10% lower than my XL did — most of the time that's fine, but on a tough day I really needed Battery Saver come 9 p.m. to make it until bedtime.


Russell Holly

I can regularly get through a 17-hour day with four hours of screen on time and still have 15% remaining when I plug in before bed. I've never had an Android phone without a 4,000mAh battery onboard deliver that experience. After Google's promises of Doze on the go, this phone meets my expectations and then some.


Harish Jonnalagadda

I've been using the Pixel XL for nearly a week, and I haven't had to enable Battery Saver yet. I'd call that a win.


Marc Lagace

I've been using my Pixel pretty heavily throughout the day and it typically reaches 15% battery life by the late evening end of the day. I also appreciate how quickly it charges for the times where I've forgotten to plug it in overnight.

Let's talk software: do you think Google did everything it could to separate itself from its partners?

Daniel Bader

I think there's something to be said about simplicity. In my experience, Android is better when Google calls the shots, since it has always, with some exceptions, had users' best interests in mind.

If you look back on examples where companies like Samsung, LG, Huawei et al. decided to augment Android with their own interpretations of features yet to launch on "stock" Android, they've either been abandoned after a generation, or had little developer support. Samsung's Multi Window is perhaps the only example of a feature that developers adopted in any great number because the API was mature and easy to integrate with. But even then, now that Google has a multi window API of its own, developers will like default to that one when Samsung launches Nougat on its battery of devices.

All that is to say I believe Google wields far more influence over the Android developer community than its manufacturing partners (rightfully so, since it builds Android), and on the Pixel those features are showcased as they were intended.

It could even be said that the Pixel software's lack of affect, its simplicity and polish, alone separates from its partners, and now that Google is marketing a phone designed and engineered in-house, there is even more reason to think of "stock" Android as the canonical version.


Jerry Hildenbrand

Look at an LG V20 and ask me again.

Yes. Something like a Moto Z will have similar software, but that's because Motorola chooses not to alter Google's design too much. The Pixel software follows the K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid) software design they've used since the G1. With Android 7.1 it's refined to do the relatively few things it does remarkably well. Sometimes, less is more.


Andrew Martonik

Everything? No, I wouldn't say so. You can tell that Google has put some extra work into the Pixel's software experience that it didn't (or couldn't) do in previous Nexus phones, and that goes much deeper than a new launcher and Google Assistant. Google did a lot to make the software fast and extremely cohesive, and that helps differentiate itself from most phones — aside from any discussion of what that means for its partners.


Russell Holly

Yes and no. When you pick up this phone, it's clear you're using something different in the launcher and the wallpapers and the audio tones. That said, there's still very little that makes "Pixel" particularly different from "Nexus" in day to day use. I guess an argument could be made for the way you can access Assistant everywhere being the big thing that separates this phone from everything else, but as I covered earlier it's not a huge feature for me yet.


Harish Jonnalagadda

Google has significantly added to the software experience when compared to the Nexus line, and that's evident from the second you start using the Pixel. That said, Google Assistant needs a lot of work before it becomes the all-encompassing virtual assistant that Google envisions.


Marc Lagace

Well, it's unlike any other Android phone I've used. I like the tweaks they made to the app drawer, and everything runs smoother and faster than anything else I've tried. I also really like the way Google Assistant was integrated into the OS and look forward to see it evolve over time.

Is this really the iPhone of the Android world?

Daniel Bader

That's a dumb question, Daniel. But seriously, yes in some ways this is the Android community's equivalent of the iPhone — if you mean updates from the source, a focus on imaging, and the proper marriage of hardware with integrated services.

Google is even trying (and failing) to recreate iMessage and FaceTime with Allo and Duo, respectively.

The Pixel will never actually be anything like the iPhone, at least this round, since Android is so vast that Google relented much of its fate long ago. But by trying to take back at least a small semblance of the messaging, the aspirational side of Android, Google has created something iPhone-like, and I think that's a good thing.


Jerry Hildenbrand

Yep. Outside of the appearance, the Pixel is a conduit for the apps and services it provides and nothing more — exactly like the iPhone. No bells, whistles or gizmos added to distract attention away from the one thing on the screen you're looking at is a decision, not an accident. Like the iPhone, the Pixel brings you a core software experience designed to be augmented by the things you want rather than the things the company who built it says you want. And it does it in an unassuming package.


Andrew Martonik

In terms of this being an in-house made vertically integrated phone experience, sure. There are clear differences in philosophy and execution between Google and Apple — this isn't an iPhone, it's Google's version of the iPhone "model" of making a phone. It controls the whole stack: sales, hardware, software, apps, services, and even the carrier.


Russell Holly

Sure? I'm not sure how it matters whether this phone is like an iPhone or not. There's a market out there for a phone made by Google with dedication to software updates and actual product support by Google. If that makes this an iPhone than sure, whatever.

If your reasoning for calling this an iPhone is that it's expensive and locked down to Google's experience, consider this me laughing directly in your face followed by continuing to enjoy this phone.


Harish Jonnalagadda

In the sense that Google controls both the hardware and software side of things, yes. In every other aspect, the Pixel is like any other high-end Android phone. It represents Google's vision for Android, but you're free to tinker with it any way you like to make it truly yours. Try doing that on an iPhone.


Marc Lagace

I feel like comparing the Pixel to the iPhone is supposed to be like throwing shade Google's way. But if the Pixel is Google's ideal vision for an Android phone, and that feels reminiscent to Apple's iPhone, then so be it. At least I didn't have to replace all the stock iOS apps with the Google equivalents as I've done with every iPhone I've ever owned.

Any final thoughts? Is it worth the $649+?

Daniel Bader

No waterproofing is a serious knock against this phone, and you can be damn sure the Pixel 2 will have it. But when I consider the price I paid for the Pixel against the value I perceive it brings me, I don't think $649 is asking too much.

Would it sell more if it were $549, or $399? Sure, but then it wouldn't sit in the same category as the Galaxy S7 and iPhone 7, and that's the market Google wants to pursue, and be seen pursuing, with the Pixel.


Jerry Hildenbrand

No phone is worth $600. But if that's the price put on the best phones, then yeah. There is nothing built by anyone else that has these features or this hardware, and if they are worth that much, it's hard to argue the Pixel isn't. $600 is also what the Nexus One cost after tax and shipping. And the Nexus 6 cost me $700 before either.

In any case, only you should care how you spend your money. The Pixel is worth as much or more than anything else out there.


Andrew Martonik

I absolutely understand the hesitation from a lot of people to spend $649 to $769 for a phone — be it a Galaxy S7 edge, Moto Z, LG V20, iPhone 7 or Pixel XL. There are tons of great phones out there that will set you back $2-300 less, and they'll give you a solid experience. But if you're willing to spend $649+ on any phone out there today, you'd be crazy not to consider the Pixels.


Russell Holly

Like the HTC 10, I feel like these phones are about $100 off the mark. Samsung earns their price tag by stuffing every feature under the sun in their phones, and the law of diminishing returns abides. This phone is very nice, and I'm happy to pay slightly above my perception of its value for the experience I've gotten so far, but this phone would be damn near perfect if it were either $100 cheaper or included things like waterproofing and wireless charging.


Harish Jonnalagadda

I have no issues with the Pixel XL's $769 retail price. That's a significant discount when compared to the phone's asking price in India, which is $1,010 (₹67,000). Google is pushing the overall experience with the Pixel, and that commands a premium. One that I'm willing to pay.


Marc Lagace

Honestly? Probably not. It's a fantastic phone, but unless you're comfortable with re-upping on a carrier contract for a discounted price, I don't understand how people can justify spending so much on a phone. Then again, we're living in a world where the latest flagship phone from any manufacturer is going to run you upwards of $700 or more, so it is what it is. And the Pixel is arguably the best of the best right now.