In all of my years writing about Android, I've never once pre-ordered a phone on the day of its announcement. I typically wait for reviews to come out and to get hands-on time with a device myself before handing over my cash, but something changed this year. Despite heavy hitters like the Galaxy S8, LG V30, and Note 8 all begging for my attention and money, I ignored all of them (and my sensible instincts) and pre-ordered the Pixel 2 XL as soon as pre-orders went live on October 4.

Google absolutely killed it last year

It took a lot of strength and willpower to not purchase a Pixel last fall on the day of its announcement, but I decided to hold off and see what my colleagues had to say. As I'm sure all of you remember, response to the phone was overwhelmingly positive. Despite this, I still held off. The phone simply didn't look all that interesting after the initial excitement wore off, but then I actually got one as my daily driver in June.

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The Pixel was a perfect example of a phone that you had to actually use for yourself and carry as a daily driver to understand what made it so great. There's nothing interesting or exciting about its hardware, but the software that's powering the phone is still magical to this day. Last year's Pixel still remains as one of the snappiest and most fluid Android experiences on the market, and Google's expertise when it comes to camera software and performance remains as one of the industry's best.

2016's Pixel XL

Because of these things and so much more, the Pixel offered a user experience unlike anything I'd encountered before on other Android phones. The consistently smooth performance, tightened up UI, solid battery, and world-class camera turned a phone that seemed borning on the surface into one of the best the market had to offer.

Why this matters for round two

With the Pixel, Google proved that top-notch software is more important than flashy hardware. Sure, the latter is nice to have, but the former is so much more important when using your phone day-to-day.

With the Pixel 2 XL, Google is checking both of those boxes.

Google nailed hardware and software this time around with the Pixel 2 XL.

From a hardware point of view, Google included a narrow 18:9 display with 3D curved glass and considerably smaller bezels than last year's model, front-facing stereo speakers, appropriately-placed fingerprint scanner, faster and more efficient processor, and a design that's more refined and polished. As for the software, there's still unlimited cloud photo storage, Google's post-processing magic for the camera, and the ridiculously smooth performance that can only be had when hardware and software are made for one another.

Last year's strong points make a return, but there are also new additions like the Pixel 2's ability to automatically identify songs that are playing in the background and turn on Do Not Disturb when it detects that you're driving, access to Google Lens so you can theoretically turn your eyeballs into Google Search, new ways to access the Google Assistant, and an AR feature-set that looks like worlds of fun.

Where the Pixel offered bland hardware with stupendous software, the Pixel 2 XL offers modern, eye-catching hardware with an even better software experience (presumably) than what we got last year.

Pixel 2 XL against the competition

As mentioned in the beginning of this article, the Pixel 2 XL does not exist in a bubble. Its two biggest competitors, for the time being, are the Galaxy Note 8 and LG V30. Both of these phones have their own set of strong suits, but they're missing something that, in my opinion, makes them inferior – Google's software.

LG V30 (left) next to Google Pixel 2 XL (right)

The Pixel proved last year that a near perfect software experience could outshine classier hardware, and now that we have a phone from Google that offers both of these things, I'm ecstatic to get my hands on the Pixel 2 XL to see if it lives up to its predecessor. The updated/modernized hardware is greatly appreciated and something that needed to happen for gen two, and while I'm certainly excited for that aspect of the phone, I'm more anxious to get up close and personal with Google's vision of what Android should look and feel like in late 2017.

The perfect melding of hardware and software is what made the original Pixel so damn good, and when we get to combine that with new features like Google Lens and Ambient Services and hardware that looks appropriate for the year it's released in, I think we're going to end up with something truly special.

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL