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Google Pixel 2, one year later review: Ancient-looking powerhouse

Google's Pixel 3 series is nearly upon us, and when the new phones are announced on Tuesday, they'll be replacing the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL from last year. Before that happens, I want to take a look back at the former of those two devices and see how the regular Pixel 2 is holding up a year after it was first released.

Without further ado, here's our Pixel 2 one year review.

The things that are still great

To be perfectly honest, almost everything about the Pixel 2 works just as well as it did from day one (and in some cases, even better).

The phone feels just as fast and snappy as it did out of the box, and following the update to Android 9 Pie, the new animations and gestures give the Pixel 2 a fluidity I didn't even know it was missing. Those gestures do take some getting used to, but once you get a feel for them, it's a vastly superior experience compared to the three static buttons of yesteryear.

I've been messing around with Android Pie on my OnePlus 6, and even though it has a newer processor (Snapdragon 845 vs. 835) and more RAM (8GB vs. 4GB), Pie on the Pixel 2 continues to feel so much more polished and fluid. The excellent hardware and software optimizations that you get with the Pixel line is undoubtedly one of the best reasons to buy into it, and the Pixel 2 continues to be a prime example of that.

Something else that I've really enjoyed is the Pixel 2's camera. It's no secret at this point that the Pixel 2 has one of the best cameras on the market, but even so, the thing continues to put a smile on my face each time I press the shutter button. There may not be any manual controls to tweak your shot like you can find on Samsung or LG devices, but the consistency of good-looking pictures I've taken is better than any other phone I've ever used.

How else has the Pixel 2 held up well? The battery still sees me through a full day of use, the fingerprint sensor hasn't shown any signs of slowing down, and the Active Edge and Now Playing features are easily some of my favorites I've used out of any phone over the last few years.

What hasn't held up so well

Without a doubt, the Pixel 2's weakest aspect is its design. This was never a strong suit for the phone, and as time's gone on, things have only gotten worse.

The Pixel 2 isn't necessarily an ugly phone, but when stacked up against everything else that's come out this year, it simply looks like an ancient relic. This, of course, is thanks to the gigantic bezels.

Not only do flagship handsets like the Galaxy S9 and LG G7 have much better screen-to-body ratios, but even smartphones such as the Honor 7X and Nokia 7.1 that range from $199 to $350 look like gadgets from the distant future compared to the Pixel 2. Bezel size certainly isn't the end-all-be-all when it comes to phones, but the ones on the Pixel 2 don't do it any favors.

Also, while this may be more of a personal preference than anything else, the 16:9 aspect ratio of the Pixel 2's screen just looks weird after using so many phones with 18:9 setups. It's not technically bad or wrong, but after going back to using it for a while, I'm certainly glad the industry has moved on to taller and narrow panels.

Should you still consider buying it?

Based on what we've seen so far (which is almost everything), the Pixel 3 will be an all-around better phone in nearly every way. It'll have a faster processor, improved cameras, wireless charging, and a much more modern design with a larger display.

If you're okay with the outdated design, the Pixel 2 is still a good purchase.

If you've got the cash to spend and want what'll likely be one of 2018's best Android phones, I recommend waiting for the Pixel 3. However, if you want to save a couple hundred bucks and don't need to have the very latest and greatest, the Pixel 2 is still a damn good phone one year later.

Google's promised three years of software updates and security patches for the phone, meaning it's guaranteed to get the Android R update when it lands in 2020. That's a big deal in the Android space, and it makes the Pixel 2 a lot more appealing if you're considering picking it up a year into its life cycle.

Let's hear from you

If you've been using a Pixel 2, how has it been holding up for you? Are you going to keep it for a while longer or move on to the Pixel 3? Let us know in the comments below!

The Google Pixel XL, two years later: Going down with a fight

Joe Maring was a Senior Editor for Android Central between 2017 and 2021. You can reach him on Twitter at @JoeMaring1.

21 Comments
  • 16:9 is superior in my book.
  • 16:9 is better. I don't like the bars on the tall screens when watching video in i.e. the YouTube App. Tons and tons of apps haven't been updated for the new ratios, break when you force it, and probably won't be updated soon or ever. As for the Pixel, I think Google's software is its worst aspect. Yes, the updates are fast, but you're getting what is basically a bad iOS clone with none of the benefits of iOS. I'd go back to iPhone before I bought a Pixel device. Gmail, Contacts, Calendar, Chrome, etc. All of this software is missing features or lacks modern conveniences that other OEMs or Apple provides (Content Blockers, e.g.). The camera software is also pretty awful. Worse than Apple's. And with how bad Android developers are, generally speaking, this is NOT something worth skimping on. Without a great stock camera app, a device is dead to me. Not everyone is a point and shoot infant, and the Pixels often churn out massively underexposed images that don't look anything like real life. I record a lot of video; and software that is heralded on iOS, like Filmic Pro, is absolute trash on Android. The OEMs need to do the heavy lifting, here. Without comparable solutions on Android (Camera+, ProCam, etc.), I have to choose devices based on the stock camera software's capabilities.
  • Yeah... Let's never compare iOS to stock Android. I switched over to an iPhone 8 plus the other day for about 4 dats and the OS switch was horrible. Simple apps like Twitter, GroupMe, and Instagram take significantly longer to open compared to my s9 or OnePlus 6. It's personal preference, but I hate their settings and how settings are so buried in their LONGGGG page of crap that I eventually give up and ignore it. iCloud isn't even that great either. Google photos and my Google account does a better job at backing up my info. Try again Apple.
  • You and I have had very different experiences with the stock apps and camera software. I have the Moments app but honestly, the stock one does such a good job and the Pixel 2 takes great photos that I don't really need to do much work. Main thing is though, you do have a choice here so to each his own!
  • I haven't really heard much about the Pixel 2's battery life. Anyone care to chime in regarding screen on time?
  • While not Pixel 2 specific, my first gen non-xl pixel will easily get 3 hours of screen time, which is about what all my other phones get.
  • Almost as ancient looking as its successor, the Pixel 3...
  • Bezel XL becomes the Notch XL (with bonus chunky chin!)
  • What utter BS. Beauty is in the eye...If something that is only a year old looks "ancient", there is something drastically wrong with the criteria used. Still love my P2 and am looking forward to using it for at least another year.
  • Great devices no complaints at all can't wait for the pixel 3 to come out.
  • Does the look really matter? If left on a table or you happen to be holding it in public it might get pinched! My Pixel 2 doesn't have the looks but Pie has been superbly optimized with the hardware.
  • My jumpins. If beno was here to read this. He would bust his spleen rebuting the ancient look comment.
  • I believe he got the 2XL and they're only bashing the smaller Pixel 2. But yes, he'd be all over this thread 😂
  • I love the non xl versions.
  • I will never, ever understand the obsession with bezels and now the notch.
  • Nope. Me either. I enjoy my iPhone 8 and pixel 2 designs. The kinda blue pixel 2 is one of the nicest looking phones out there.
  • I carry two phones with me on a daily basis; a first gen non-XL pixel, and a S9. The phone I prefer to use is the Pixel. While the S9 is only a little bit taller than the Pixel, it's much harder to use one handed (sure Samsung has the one handed mode, but it's not the cure-all). To interact with the entire screen, I have to move the phone up and down my hand to reach the outer corners. I have a case, but the fear of dropping it and cracking the screen is all too great. I have no issues using the entire screen on my Pixel. Sure, the 18:9 ratio phones do look great, but they aren't really any easier to use than the phablets with large bezels. Plus, manufacturers have taken to making the same sized phones, but with larger screens. These screens aren't any easier to use one handed, and "looking good" is their only benefit.
  • google pixel 2 looks great. Why does it have to look like an S9 to be "pretty"? android 9 made the device even faster. I have the Kind of Blue and I love it's 'looks'. Dual front firing speakers is worth the bezels. plus, I have something to hold instead of finger-tipping the edges.
  • Mayconvert - "finger-tipping the edges"... I know exactly what you mean! The S8 and S9 always felt awkward to hold. The U11 feels very reassuring in the hand in comparison.
  • 16:9 is superior in my book as well. So much better for media, and you can fit more text on the screen of a 16:9 screen than you can on the Essential phone. Regarding the bezels; I watched the video reviews, and the Pixel 2 received one sentence about the bezels. The HTC U11 has smaller bezels than the Pixel 2. Regarding the bezels; The U11 has smaller bezels than the Pixel 2. Yet, in the video reviews, the U11 had a half-minute rant stabbing it to death and throwing it under the bus and lighting the bus on fire. The Pixel 2 gets off with a one-sentence remark. Why? Is it bias?
  • Well THAT was an edit gone wrong! Ignore the middle paragraph!