We're less than a month away from Mobile World Congress, and while the annual tech show in Barcelona is always home to a lot of different announcements, this year's highlight will be the Samsung Galaxy S9. Months of leaks and rumors have given us a good idea of what to expect from Samsung's latest and greatest, and based on what we've seen so far, the Galaxy S9 will be a minor improvement over last year's Galaxy S8.

In other words, the Galaxy S9 will have a gorgeous AMOLED display, smaller bezels than ever, Qualcomm's new Snapdragon 845 processor, metal/glass design, and even a rear camera that'll allow you to adjust its aperture physically. All of this does sound exciting and will likely result in one hell of a phone, but it's not going to be the Android phone that gets my money this year.

Instead, I'll be holding out for the Google Pixel 3.

Some of you might agree with me and some of you may not. I'm not necessarily here to sway your mind one way or the other, but the way I look at it, Google is on its way to beat Samsung at its own game.

Let me explain.

Google's still not perfect at hardware, but it's making massive improvements

Its time with the Nexus brand notwithstanding, Google's only been a hardware company for less than two years. The Pixel and Pixel XL from 2016 were the first two phones that were lead entirely by Google and not another manufacturer, and as expected, they had their quirks. I eventually grew not to mind the look of the first-gen Pixel, but when compared side-by-side to the Pixel 2, it's immediately apparent just how much Google's improved with its hardware activities.

Google Pixel (left) and Pixel 2 (right).

The Pixel 2 may not be as aesthetically pleasing as the Galaxy S8, but it's a much more mature-looking phone compared to its older brother. Its glass panel on the back is more polished while still giving the phone its own unique identity, the coating over the aluminum body adds a wonderful texture, and it's just got a sense of fit and finish that I always felt was missing on the OG Pixel.

Google's quickly getting really good at this whole hardware thing.

Every manufacturer makes improvements to its hardware year after year, but I'm continually impressed with the construction of the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. I understand Google's not a small company and has endless resources for cash and talent, but for a hardware division that's as young as it is, it's impressive that the company's phones look and feel as great as they do.

Samsung's been dominating the hardware space for Android phones for years, and while I have no doubt the Galaxy S9 will be a gorgeous piece of tech, this is something that's been expected of Samsung since 2015 when it released the Galaxy S6. It's no longer a surprise that Samsung makes good hardware, and while bezels have shrunk and things like water resistance have been added, Samsung's been using the same general phone design for nearly four years. The Pixel 2 XL is a much different-looking and better-constructed phone than the first Pixel XL, and I have no doubt we'll see Google continue to focus on improving its hardware more and more this year and beyond – primarily because it's the only thing that the company needs to improve.

Samsung's software is still ... not good

I used the Galaxy S8 for about two weeks while waiting for my Pixel 2 to get delivered, and while I do occasionally miss its bright, vivid, and downright awesome Super AMOLED Infinity Display, never have I once yearned to go back to Samsung's custom software. I'll admit that Samsung has made some steps in the right direction since the days of the original Galaxy S (shiver), but there's still a lot of work still to do.

There's the issue of duplicate apps and UI tweaks that are there just for the sake of being different, but above all else, my biggest gripe with Samsung's take on Android is that it still causes its phones to bog down way faster than they should.

Take the Galaxy Note 8 for example. Android Central's Andrew Martonik revisited the phone after it'd been out in the market for three months, and when talking about the Note 8's software/performance, he said the following:

The styling and features not jiving with my personal tastes are one thing, but I've been seriously underwhelmed once again with how the Note 8's speed has held up after a few months of installing apps and loading it up with data. Precisely as I experienced after three months with my Galaxy S8, the Note 8's daily performance has started to slow. Most things I do are quick and smooth, but there are still far too many instances now where apps hang up just a few beats before launching or scrolling, or animations stutter and drop frames.

No matter your personal preference for how Samsung's UI looks, a phone with top-of-the-line silicon should not run into dropped frames and slowdowns less than six months after use. And yet, Samsung phones still do.

This is something that Samsung's been trying to correct since 2010, and yet we're still faced with the same general problem. The software's been cleaned up and some of the unnecessary features have been removed, but if phones are still showing this much degradation in performance just a few months after use, that's a problem. More importantly, that's a problem Google doesn't have.

Google's software experience is as good as they come.

As I'm sure you've heard from other people in this industry, one of the joys of using the Pixel or Pixel 2 is their software experience. I've yet to experience any slow down or jitters on my Pixel 2, and while that might not be as sexy of a selling point as iris scanning or a personal assistant that can post pictures to Instagram for you, it's one that makes an incredible difference in day-to-day use.

See at Google

What this all means

Samsung is the most prominent name in the mobile industry for a reason. It makes impressive tech, spends a heap of money on marketing, and its phones sell like hotcakes. Google may never sell as many phones as Samsung does, but its Pixel handsets are already able to compete with Samsung's best after just two generations. Google's proven to us that it knows how to make meaningful improvements in the hardware department, and its software is already the best you can find on any Android phone. Samsung may have top-of-the-line hardware, but its continued struggle with making a polished UI is getting to the point of embarrassment.

In the meantime, Google's already perfected its software experience and doesn't have any glaring problems on the hardware front. The Pixel 2 may not have the slimmest bezels and the LG panel for the Pixel 2 XL's display isn't great, but these are both things that Google will likely remedy with generation three. And, when it does, we'll be in store for something damn special.

This is what the Google Pixel 2 could have looked like

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL


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Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+


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