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The Android 12 beta has me longing for a Pixel again

Android 12 Beta on the Pixel 4
Android 12 Beta on the Pixel 4 (Image credit: Jerry Hildenbrand / Android Central)

My Pixel 4 is broken. That's how this all needs to start. Like too many other people, my Pixel 4 didn't have the long and fruitful life an expensive smartphone should have and with one warranty replacement under my belt for a swollen battery, I've got a phone with a flakey battery connector. Worse, now there is no warranty to fall back on. Dammit.

Yes, the Pixel 4 has really bad battery life even when it works correctly and that is the reason I switched away to a Galaxy S21, but I assumed that I could switch back when Google did something cool that made me want a Pixel phone again. But it just didn't turn out that way.

I can't complain too much because the Galaxy S21 is a great phone that likely isn't going to break twice in a year and it took very little effort to fix almost everything I didn't really like about its software out of the box. Samsung has come a long way since the days of blooping nature sounds and slimy plastic and after using it every day for a while, I can say that the Galaxy S21 is the best Android phone you can buy for almost everyone. Almost everyone.

Android 12 hands-on

Source: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)

I'm just not part of that "almost everyone" metric, and I know a lot of people who read websites like Android Central aren't either. I see Google show Android 12 and all the new stuff, I get to experience the new stuff for a few minutes on a broken Pixel 4, and now I am seriously jonesing for the new stuff. Samsung will give me its version of Android 12 in a few months but I just don't want to miss out.

A Pixel really has only one advantage in 2021 — instant access to potentially buggy software (read: fun!)

I'm also fully aware that this is really the only advantage a Pixel phone offers for me. The S21 camera is more than good enough for what I need even if it's not quite as good as the Pixel's. The hardware on the S21 is better than any phone to ever come from Google and the size works for me even if I wish it were a bit wider and had just a bit more bezel around the screen. It's a really good phone in every measurable way.

But it's not a Pixel phone and it doesn't have any access to the new stuff Google is slowly pushing out, and that's starting to feel like a deal-breaker. Now the question is how much value is there in spending money to get what I want while giving up some of the other things I want.

I could swing just buying a Pixel 5 or I could just move my wife onto my Google Fi plan and get one for next to nothing after the generous subsidization Google offers for new customers — she has no desire to get a new phone and set it up so it works just like the phone she already loves. Both of these ideas will cost me money and I'll let you in on a little secret about me: I hate spending money because it seems like I never have enough of it. Shocker, I know.

Amazon also wants me to buy a Pixel on monthly interest-free payments because it makes sure to tell me every time I search for one. Like most people, I probably wouldn't miss $30 a month added to my credit card but it still adds up. And yeah, I know I'm preaching to the choir and most everyone reading this works out these very same scenarios in their heads whenever a new phone comes along that they want to buy.

I'm going to do the thing I hate most: spend money for no real reason.

I'm not exactly sure what I'm going to do just yet, but I know one thing: in the end, I'm going to have either a Pixel 5 or a Pixel 4a 5G with the Android 12 beta running on it in my hands in the near future. And I know it means I have to spend money and that I will complain about that part.

But it also means I get to have that buggy beta experience with not fully tested software from Google in real-time and that makes having a phone fun again. At least to me, it does. I'll also have a beautiful and 100% working Galaxy S21 to use so I can still be part of the digital world when those bugs are really bad.

I just need to get all of this behind me before google releases a Pixel Watch and I decide that I want to try Wear OS again or that mythical Pixel foldable ever appears. My bank account is going to hate me.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Jerry Hildenbrand

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

38 Comments
  • I don't care how good it is, I'm not spending a grand or more on a phone. Ever. To each his own. I have my Pixel 3a XL for almost two years now. Performance is good, battery life is excellent, amazing camera performance. I get my monthly security updates and every major OS upgrade quickly. I have no plans to replace it right now. I don't need a top of the line "flagship". My Pixel serves me well.
  • My wife uses a Pixel 3a XL and she says the very same things about performance and battery life. Hmmm.
  • I feel that way as well but and the Pixel is the only phone I'm happy to "downgrade" to a mid range chip because Google is so good at optimisation of the 700 series chips and Samsung still needs to improve on this area as their software is heavily modified and Google's software is light and more optimised and smooth on lower end hardware like the Snapdragon 670 on your Pixel 3a XL, updates, the fantastic software, experience and the Pixel camera being an excellent point and shoot camera (which I prefer) are the reasons why I'll be returning to a Pixel with a Pixel 5 most likely.
  • I'm in the same situation. My Pixel 3a has been great for performance, battery life, camera, etc. I got this thing for $300, and it works perfectly for me. Really the only reason I would want to upgrade is for an ultrawide camera and wireless charging. Besides that I could rock this thing for years.
  • The crazy thing to me is I just got a Pixel 4A 5G, And I thought I read that the battery life was excellent on this phone from multiple reviews, But my 3a XL I've been running for a year and a half still has way better battery life!
  • Have you turned on adaptive battery? Of all the Android phones I've had only my old Pixel 2 XL and my Nokia 8.1 had great battery life, my S20 FE has mediocre battery life. But my OnePlus 7T has the worst battery life of any phone I own or owned.
  • Preach brotha! Been using a Pixel 3a XL for over a year and love it! Won't lie though, I will upgrade to the Pixel 6 depending on the price.
  • The One UI beta should be coming this fall. I've participated in a couple of Samsung's beta programs. Pretty great experience.
  • Don't do it Jerry! I have the 4xl, the beta is fun, but not worth buying a pixel phone to try. For reference, I'm typing this on my S21U. I'll consider the 6Pro as a replacement to the 4xl to use for my backup phone.
  • Not everyone wants to customise their phones as extensively, don't get me wrong I like One UI but it has its querks and I like my Android, stock and clean, minimalist and simple.
  • I forget to add that I like being first in line for updates and yes I know Samsung has improved but Pixels still get updates first, especially software updates.
  • I've been feeling that way for a while now, even though I love my S20 FE, I've realised that One UI just ain't for me, I've always been a stock Android fan with how simple it is and the reasons I want a Pixel are updates, software which is clean and simple and for updates along with Android 12 being yet another reason why I will get a Pixel 5 and I'll at least get my security updates on time again as Samsung has been delivering my updates later and later now. In fact my happiest experience of Android was with my Nexus 6 and Pixel 2 XL (I miss that phone).
  • My s20fe has been getting them earlier and earlier.
  • The last time my S20 FE got a security patch relatively early was in March since then they’ve been later and I still haven’t gotten the May security patch which I would have already on a Pixel.
  • I'm on the may patch.
  • I should have gotten it as Samsung released the May security patch on the 6th for the S20 FE so its strange I haven't gotten it yet and while it's a carrier branded phone, it's actually unlocked, both my 11 Pro Max and S20 FE are unlocked so I get my updates directly from Samsung so Samsung is taking the p***.
  • I think if I had new Pixel 5 or 4a5G I would be too proud of either to put a buggy beta on it. The old rule from my Windows Phone days was never put a beta on a phone you care about. I guess I've lost my sense of adventure.
  • I didn't care about betas but I do or rather did enjoy seeing an update notification on my old Pixel 2 XL ( which I never sold it) as I absolutely loved it to bits and it's by far my best experience with Android and I will get a Pixel 5 most likely.
  • Still can’t believe why you don’t have a Pixel and also whatever phone you like. It’s not like you can’t have multiple phones. Me as a tech enthusiast can never think of not having a Pixel every year. I love my latest Galaxy but there is no way I won’t have a Pixel with me every year 😋
  • I agree but I think for me my combination is a Pixel and an iPhone because I love simplicity and fast updates although I prefer the Pixel not only because I enjoy Googe's version of Android the best ( I admit I love Pixel phones) and miss the updates, the whole Google experience which is smooth as butter and the smoothest and enjoyable Android experience I've had where I didn't feel the need to change too much because I like how everything is out of the box for the most part and I'm using Lawnchair as my launcher and have replaced the Samsung apps with the Google ones which I find works more reliable and convenient and as a visually impaired person, Chrome scales properly without headers merging into an unreasonable mess so those are my reasons why I'm going back to a Pixel because fast day 1 updates, the pure Android software experience and the great camera that takes great photos without having to be a pro as I'm a point and shoot person so the Pixel suits me the best but I still like One though but it isn't my favourite version of Android and the slower updates are now a deal breaker for me.
  • I feel seen.
  • I sold my S20 FE after 4 months due to 2 things: Really BAD battery life, and Samsung's silly camera oversaturation of Reds and Blues (my S10 had neither of these problems).
    I solved these 2 problems by buying a Pixel 4a 5g. Amazing battery life! And amazing camera!
  • I thought I was the only one who doesn't like the way Samsung does reds smd blues, especially on the display, and yeah I agree the battery life on my S20 FE is very mediocre so I'm looking forward to seeing accurate colours, smooth, uncluttered software, great camera that takes little effort to get great shots and fast day 1 updates again on a Pixel again the 5.
  • I loved the experience ever since the nexus 4 before I had android 2.2 froyo from the LG Optimus T and since then fabled with windows phone 7.5,7.8,8,8.1&10 mobile then back to Motorola G5S with Android 7 Nokia 6.1 in 2018 with Android 8,9&10 and pixel 3aXL with Android 9,10,11 and now 12
    Pixel 5 with Android 11 and now 12 I almost gave into the S21 but that didn't happen.
  • You did thr right thing avoiding the S21 Ultra as that phone runs hot and Juan Carlos Bagnell aka Some Gadget Guy did a comparison with the OnePlus 9 and S21 and the OnePlus 9 nearly always looked better than the S21 and I'm thinking that I fell for the Samsung hype train. I'm sticking with what I know and love with the Pixel and Android ad Google intended.
  • I'm having no heat issues with my S21 Ultra. And the photos are absolutely great, assuming that's what you meant with the Some Gadget Guy comment, but thanks.
  • Yes that's what I meant, Some Gadget Guy on YouTube did a test between the S21 and OnePlus 9 Pro and the S21 got so hot that it throttled and apparently the S21 comes throttled out of the box.
  • That's cool, or whatever. Again, no problems here. Great phone. Probably the best I've ever owned.
  • Best phone in the opinion of someone writing an article and that is all it is.
    As for the 4XL, mine is over a year and NO problems at ALL. Battery life is the same or so close that I do not notice anything.
    Facial unlock can be slow, but before I purchased the Pixel, I tried a S20 plus and the fingerprint reader was slower.
    Is the Samdung a good phone....maybe, maybe not. Read the forum and you can find those who hate it as much as this bozo hates the pixel. To each their own, but these ludicrous articles written on this site by crying babies need to be taken away. It makes this site look even more partial toward one manufacturer.
  • The obvious choice is used. Or P4a for $350. Don't give into Google's high-priced schemes.
  • The Pixel 5 was reasonably priced here in the UK at £599 and the 4a 5G at £499 and the 4a at £349 so the high price “schemes” of the Pixel 4 series are a distant memory.
  • I am still holding on to my Pixel 2 and love it, apart from the small battery. Anxiously waiting for the pixel 6 to be upgrade, Mets hope it's everything we hoped for. I want to specs.
    When will it be available?
  • I still have a perfectly fine 3XL. Did the Samsung thing a few years ago and it ended up looking like a Pixel. Ha! Definitely interested in the 6 Pro tho.
  • I have the beta on my 4a5G and love it. Yes, it feels like a new phone and I'm finding excuses to use it--it's fun. After seeing all the rumored goodness in the Pixel 6 (Pro), I will be stomping on toes to get in that virtual line. I don't care how much it's going to cost. I don't really 'like' to spend money, but I work to have money to spend on the stuff that I want--I like that.
  • I moved to Pixels after BlackBerry was discontinued because I prefer a simple UI and stock Android along with timely updates. Very happy with my Pixel 4a 5g and actually downloaded the beta update, reminiscing of the days when I used to side load apps on my BlackBerrys. So far so good .
  • I’m getting a Pixel 4a 5G instead of the 5 as I need a bigger screen due to me being visually impaired and the 4a 5G is almost the same phone as the 5 anyway and I value battery battery life more than a higher refresh rate and the 4a 5G will get updates as fast as the 5 anyway as it’s a Pixel.
  • Why is that everyone who leaves the Pixel line goes to Samsung and then complains about the OS? Samsung is NOT the only alternative! I love my OnePlus 8. Not pure Android, but a lot closer to it than Samsung's UI.
  • I'm running the A12 beta on my Pixel 3 and I really like it. And the leaks regarding the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro have me very excited for what might just be my next phone.