Google Pixel 2 XL, one year later review: The most consistent flagship

The Pixel 2 phones were announced close to a year ago, with few substantial changes from the 2016 Pixels. Despite some early teething issues with the Pixel 2 XL's screen, the phones have proven to be solid choices for anyone buying a phone in most of 2018. But competition hasn't stood still in the last year, and we're close to seeing the Pixel 3. How well have the phones stood up over the last year?

I've been using the Pixel 2 XL as my daily driver since November 2017, without a case unless I was in the gym. The phone was running Android Oreo for most of the year until switching to the Pie beta in July, followed by the stable versions of Pie. The phone is currently running the latest patch for October 2018.

Rock solid

Even a year later, if I had to choose one word to describe using the Pixel 2 XL, it would be "consistent." Other phones may have more RAM, and 2018 has meant there's a better, faster, stronger processor available. Still, the Pixel 2 XL is smooth as butter: apps open in an instant, there's no lag when moving around the interface, there's no stuttering when using the camera, and overall the phone is just pleasant to use.

That may seem like the bare minimum, but when the Pixel line is competing with phones that have better hardware on paper, it's worth pointing out. I can't remember the last time I had an app fall out of memory too soon or crash when I tried to open it. There's a good chance that the Pixel 3 line is going to stick with 4GB of RAM, and I'm perfectly fine with that. Google knows how to write software, and they know how to make for a good user experience.

Other parts of the phone have held up as well. The fingerprint sensor is still easy to find, the cameras are still the best you can get (more on that later), and the stereo speakers still sound better than speakers on other phones.

Tastier with Pie

Android Pie wasn't the largest of UI overhauls we've had in the history of Android, but I'm enjoying it all the same. I'm still using the old-school navigation buttons for the time being, since it seems the new gesture UI isn't completely done baking yet. I do like the new horizontal-scrolling multitasking interface, the new quick settings design and other little changes. Oreo felt great, but using the phone on Pie brings a whole new level of polish.

Battery life has degraded slightly with age, but it stills performs wonderfully.

When I first started using the stable version of Pie, battery life took a nosedive. Oddly enough, turning off the new Adaptive Battery feature greatly improved things for me, and now I get the same great battery I've had for the past year. It's degraded slightly as the battery itself has aged, but I can still get through two days of light use — in my case, that's listening to music through a Bluetooth speaker for most of the day, capturing some photos and videos of my friends and I playing music, at least ten minutes of phone calls and a healthy amount of web and social media use.

Even on heavier days when I traveled a lot — especially when moving to areas with little to no cell coverage — I still had no problems making it to the end of the day on 100%. If you buy a Pixel 2 XL second hand, the battery should still perform admirably.

Still the camera to beat

Even a year after release, the Pixel 2's camera is holding up strong. And by that I mean outperforming phones that were just released. No matter the subject or lighting conditions, you shouldn't have a hard time getting a great photo from the Pixel 2. That's not to say other phones have bad cameras, but if taking great photos is your priority, the Pixel phones are the still the ones to get.

Two more years of support

If you're buying an older phone, there's always the question of just how much longer it'll be supported. With the Pixel 2 and 2 XL, Google has been upfront from the start: the phones will keep getting feature and security updates until October 2020. That's still a long life for an Android phone, so even if you pick up a Pixel 2 in the near future, you'll have plenty of support to come.

What say you?

Are you liking the Pixel 2 XL a year after release, or are you ready for something new? Let us know down below!

Tom Westrick
  • I couldn't agree more with this article. I've had my 2 XL since last November and it's still the best device I've owned. It's fast, fluid, smooth, performant and long lasting. And has a great camera and a the best Assistant any device can offer. It's so consistent it's actually boring and I rarely even think about the device, which confirms that it's great tech - it gets out of my way and works whenever I need it. Add Fi to it and the whole mobile computing experience is golden. Cheers
  • Mine has been great - no issues with any updates - battery life has continually gotten better with each update. I have thrown multiple big games and it hasn't slowed down. I'm impressed. And yes - the Assistant has been working great.
  • I thought I heard people say it actually started to lag.
  • Yep seriously lag issues with two units after the latest Android update.
  • Pixel 1, zero lag.
  • Yes there have been a few issues with a very small number of people. I've followed all these threads. I don't know if it's a hardware fault with a tiny percentage of units or badly behaved installed android apps, but I have had this unit since launch last year and had no such issues. It's been a consistently great experience, and I don't have any reason to upgrade to a Pixel 3 especially since the new one has a horrible notch, and is limited to 4k30fps. I don't see a compelling argument to upgrade at this point, but my mind is open for surprises on the 9th.
  • How many, suffering lag, refused to factory reset when moving from Oreo to Pie?
    The biggest advantage of Pixels is that the entire history of the firmware is available for download from Google and one can go back to whichever version they prefer.
  • My pixel 2 xl runs like **** after the latest Android update. Constant freezes and lag. Ten seconds to open apps on random. I had it replaced with a new unit now this one is running ******. My pixel 1 and Nexus 6p are running smoother. I'm seriously unhappy and I've always loved this platform. I think I'm switching to something else.
  • That's sounds like you have a poorly written app in your phone.
  • thats what i thought but even with few apps testing it out it still would happen.
  • Honestly, I'd prefer the 2XL over the 3XL at this point. And I'm not a notch hater, but that's way too much.
  • Aren't they going to have software options where you can mask the notch by making the area all black? I'm sure you'll still notice it but it won't be as apparent.
  • Had a pixel 2XL, got laggy after the Pie update. Fast charging stopped working and the charger that came with it stopped working. Phone would turn off when charging with a second party cable as well. Bought an S9 and I love it. Way snappier and has the headphone jack too lol. I did live my pixel 2xl till the Pie update.
  • My Pixel 2 XL is not slow by any means but it's not as smooth with the Pie update.
  • Did you factory reset and clean things up, when moving from Oreo to Pie? That simple task may very well have cleared up your issues.
  • i tried that didnt work
  • Did you warranty it, and sell the replacement? Seems like it would definitely be under warranty still. The least you could do was that and make back some money to pay off the hole the S9 made in your wallet.
  • I have the Pixel 2 Plus, otherwise known as the LG V30. With its far superior design and ability to drive proper headphones, its still completely relevant today and kicks the arse of the fugly Pixel 3.
  • I bought two used ones off of ebay and ended up returning them. I really wanted to like them but one the fingerprint reader stopped working and the other one wouldn't update from N to O. I'm sure I wouldn't have that issue with Verizon store bought, but then it brought to light the fact that the V30 is probably going to get Pie when Android R comes out (see V20 just getting O last month). The V40 is a much bigger phone yet the stuck the same battery in it as in the V30 and still no Pie. LG likes to tease but then they consistently fail to deliver.
  • I never had the lag issues but I had burn in. They replaced it. Phone runs smooth and looks great. Love it.
  • Whether people want to admit or or not, the Pixel line is the best. Not the most feature rich, but the best overall.
  • I've had my 2XL since summer to replace my BlackBerry Priv. The Pixel is not nearly as interesting as the Priv and lacks some of the features, but does its job without a hiccup. I bought the phone for two main reasons: competitive hardware / software (including camera), along with reliable software and security updates. The latter is very important to me, which is why I stuck with BlackBerry for so long. I would still buy the Pixel, although I would wait for the price drop now.
  • Exactly the same with me. I had been with blackberry since the Curve 8530 all the way up to the Priv. The Priv was a great concept but the lag and poor performance killed it for me. Went with the Pixel 2 XL to get the most stable and secure device I could think of (besides the iPhone which I had no interest in), and haven't been disappointed since. Still miss all of the utilities the Priv and older BBs had baked in, plus that physical keyboard :'(
  • 2 issues with my 2xl. Random stuttering when scrolling left/right through the desktop. Reboot cleans it up for awhile. 2nd, do not disturb doesn't work right. Set an automatic start/stop for sleep time. Turns on ok, but turns off randomly in the middle of the night. Other areas have been great. No more verizon/samsung forced apps, and quick updates.
  • Did you factory reset and clean things up, when moving from Oreo to Pie? That simple task may very well clear up your issues.
  • Still no Beno? I thought he'd be back by now!
  • I agree, I really miss his rants. But we all know, wherever he is, his phone is performing faultlessly
  • I had an early unit, so probably got better.... But mine stunk. Bad screen, bad speakers. Battery was meh. Sold it after a couple months.
  • The Pixel 2 XL is the best phone I've ever owned. Still as Rock solid today, as the day I bought it. This is why I'll nbe keeping it at least another year. Passing on the 3 XL and the massive notch
  • I totally agree with this article. My 2XL runs just as smooth and battery lasts all day 11 months into having it. Camera is still just as amazing too. I took a leap from years with Ssung and by far this is THE best smart phone I've ever owned. *Best camera
    *Best battery life
  • You get five days on one charge too? Cool!
  • The screen is terrible!
  • Yes, I agree with this review. I got the Pixel 2. I actually regret not getting the XL. I didn't want the something so bulky in my pocket, but I do read quite a bit on my phone and I watch quite a bit of videos. The bigger screen and longer battery would have been better. Oh well. It is the perfect size for my wallet but I do have to recharge in the early afternoon if I know I'll be driving around town. Luckily the fast charge gives me a quick boost. I usually make it to the end of the day but having the extra juice had come in handy at times. I play music for about 3+ hours a day.
  • In the article it says the phone will be getting feature and security updates until October 2020. My understanding is that it will get Android 9 ,10 and 11, which means Security updates should last until October 2021. Who is right?
  • IDK. You're likely to be able to find many claims / opinions on the interwebs. What's your source?
  • I'm late, to this party, as I just got my P2XL, last week.
    I'm digging it, so far. I've managed to not root it, yet, even tho I miss Dolby Atmos, terribly!
    It has been smooth, snappy and mostly good to go. The only issues I have are small ones, but still irritating. The fingerprint sensor requires my finger to be in a certain position. I completed the sample rolling the tips of my fingers around, but I think this sensor is the most finicky I've used. Also, the slide right, for last app, using the Pie nav pill. There is a very fine line between switching to the last app and scrolling through all recently used apps. The double tap to last app, on the old style navbar, is much more user friendly. Another is the lack of satisfactory TGSP at a reasonable price. Danged curved screens!
    I had an OG Pixel XL for about a month. It too was smooth and snappy, but I didn't care for the HTC design. I most recently had an LG G6, but so much bloat with only 32GB internal storage and no VoLTE on custom ROMs, I couldn't hang with it. It was a sweet phone, but those issues were deal breakers.
    I like standard Android. The Pixels and Nexus 6P are great, except for how big the 6P was vs screen size. Motorola sticks really close to Google's Android, but Samsung and LG add too much for my liking. At least LG phones can be rooted.
  • If you don't like the gesture navigation, try "Custom Navigation Bar" by paphonb in the Play store. You can revert to the old style navigation buttons. Root is not required but you must use some adb commands without root.
  • I like it, ok, it's just a bit touchy in that aspect. I'm still using it. Maybe I'll get the hang of it.
  • The new nav system took a bit to get used to it, now it is pretty natural. For the FP sensor, maybe try to enroll your fingers again? I have to pull my finger away from the damned thing when I put it in my back pocket, or I will butt surf, dial and tweet due to me unlocking the phone.
  • I've gotten the latest Google phone for the past 5 or six years. My 2XL is still at 93% battery (I'm obsessive about not letting it go below 40% or above 80%), and it performs as smoothly as the day I got it the first week it was available. I usually feel the need to have the latest, but I don't see any compelling reasons to move off this device.
  • The only issues I have with mine are with the headphone adapter not working when I (rarely) want to use my wired headphones and Bluetooth not working right in my car half the time. I don't know if it's the phone hardware or something to do with Pie or my car system itself but my gf has a S9+ and the same car and hers works just fine. Otherwise the phone itself runs great has good battery and has been my favorite overall since I had a Moto X2.
  • Mine sits in a drawer, I prefer the way Samsung does things. It's a nice backup phone though. If anything ever happens to my S9+, it'll be ready.
  • Yeah I personally like Samsung's hardware better than Google's and even their software can be superior at times (if you actually use and benefit from their software tweaks). Wireless charging, headphone jack, Samsung pay, and the screen was what made me use the S9 over the 2XL.
  • I would agree that the Pixel has been a great performer for the most part, and definitely has a great camera. The Pixel was also on my very short list to buy as well. However, the most consistent flagship? No. A consistent flagship is one that runs great from day one and remains problem free. That, has not been the Pixel. There are other flagships which have been problem free, with beautiful screens, great cameras, Pixel-like performance with no growing lag problems. So, I'm not sure why the award would go to the great, but not always consistent, Pixel...
  • Have to agree with this article... The Pixel 2 XL had been rock solid... Don't get me wrong, if someone gave me a Note 9, I would take it, but I wouldn't spend the $$ out of pocket for a Note 9...i spent $649 for my Pixel back in February... Best $$ I've spent for a device!
  • I have only had mine since June but it is a great all around device. The only phone out there that in my opinion has no weaknesses. Super fast, fantastic battery life, decent screen, decent speakers and an unbelievable camera. Stock Android is looking pretty ugly nowadays to me but I can deal with that since this phone is so good.
  • I forgot to mention the only negative I can think of with this phone. It not having a headphone jack sucks big time.
  • I've had a Pixel XL since they first came out and i'd like to upgrade to something new(er). Wondering if you guys think the Pixel 2 XL is still a good option today? I don't want to spend 1000$ on a phone.
  • Had my Pixel 2XL for about a year ..
    Slight blue tinge (that I barely notice).. Have to hold phone at an unatural angle to see it anyway. Otherwise, it's a nearly perfect phone. No issues (just as quick as it was when I purchased it).
    Best phone I have owned! Plan on keeping it for another year (Verizon two year payment plan).. Probably keep it longer, as long as it functions like it currently is.
  • I couldn't disagree more. Ever since pie, this phone has been incredibly laggy and unusable at times. I did a factory reset when upgrading from Oreo as well as having received two refurbished units. Still nothing but problems. I'm giving the 6T a strong look when it goes for sale.
  • My Pixel 2 is still going very strong, also purchased last October. Battery life is still solid -- it lasts a little over 4 hours straight of playing Pokemon GO (constantly using GPS and graphics rendering). I'm not experiencing lag under Pie, but I did factory reset and also don't have too many apps on the phone, so there's not much bogging it down. It had a few drops but it's been in a case with screen protector all this time so the device still looks new-ish. At this rate, I see myself enjoying my Pixel 2 for at least two more years, as long as it doesn't break.