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Saturday, January 28, 2017

Final Verdict - 6P v. Pixel XL - Who Wins?

On January 12th I posted an article about giving the Pixel XL a try.  As a long-time Verizon customer, I received an offer to upgrade to the Pixel XL from my Nexus 6P for only about $15 a month for 24 months.  Verizon gives you 14 days from the date you receive the phone to return it if you are not happy with it. I ordered the Pixel around the middle of December of last year.  I finally received it on January 11th. 14 days were up on January 25th. During those 14 days I used it extensively to make sure that I would be happy switching from the 6P to the XL. After all, this was a 24 month commitment that I was being asked to make.  I used every bit of my 14 days to test drive the Pixel XL.  I made my final decision on January 25th, the last possible day that I had to return it.  I ended up driving down to my local Verizon store and returned the Pixel XL and reactivating my Nexus 6P.  It was not an easy decision to make. I was going back and forth in my mind up until the very last minute. I made my final decision while in the parking lot of the Verizon store.  I've had a few days to think about my time with the Pixel XL and I want to share with you my thoughts about the Pixel and what went into my decision to stick with the 6P.  

Pixel XL Is a Great Phone

First of all, let me start off by saying that the Pixel XL is a great phone. I would be willing to say that the Pixel XL is probably the best Android phone ever made.  Having said that, the phone is not perfect.  But while not perfect, the Pixel XL is about as good as it gets when it comes to an Android phone.  The display on the Pixel XL is outstanding.  The only other Android phone that may have a display that is comparable to the Pixel XL may be the Samsung Galaxy S7.  My wife has the Apple iPhone 7S and the display on the Pixel XL is much better than the iPhone.  The size of the phone is excellent. It's not too big and not too small. Being that I only had two weeks with the phone, I had not gotten completely used to the size of the phone.  The Nexus 6P is much larger.  But I could see myself getting used to the size of the Pixel XL if I had a little bit more time with the phone.

The phone is buttery smooth and the vanilla Android experience makes the phone easy to use and as fast and smooth as any Android phone I've ever used.   I did not experience any problems with the operation of the phone. It never slow down or failed to do anything I wanted it to do immediately. The fact that the phone is running the latest version of Android 7.1.1 is a great thing. And knowing that the phone will receive monthly security updates directly from Google is another strong selling point.

The camera on the Pixel XL is the best thing about the phone. The camera on the Pixel XL is absolutely outstanding. I took many pictures with the phone to test it out. Every single picture I took on the Pixel was outstanding. In addition to the great pictures, the camera is super fast. Once you tap on the button to take a picture, there is no delay or lag when it comes to taking a picture. The Pixel XL has the best camera ever on an Android phone. Google hit it out of the park when it comes to the camera on the Pixel XL.

Google also hit it out of the park when they made it possible for any photos taken on a Pixel to be backed up to Google Photos in high resolution without counting towards your Drive storage limit. Currently, any photos you take on your Android phone will get backed up to your Google Photos account in normal resolution for free.  But if you want those photos backed up in high resolution, the photos will use up your Drive storage limit. But any photos taken on the Pixel get backed up in high resolution for free.  I have never backed up my photos in high resolution before I tried the Pixel. I can tell you that pictures backed up in Google Photos in high resolution are much better than the standard resolution that Google allows for free. So in addition to the great photographs taken by the Pixel XL camera, you get to back up those photos in high resolution for free forever.

If I was a heavy user of my camera, I would probably switch to the Pixel XL just for the benefits available on Google Photos and the excellent camera. I have a few friends who have young kids who take pictures all the time. My kid is in his late teens so I don't take as many pictures as I used to. But for someone who needs the best camera experience, I strongly suggest the Pixel XL.

Things I Didn't Like

The main thing that I did not like about the Pixel XL was its speakers. I am a heavy user of the Waze navigation app on my phone. I have a cell phone vent mount in my car and I always place my phone in it and use the Waze app even when I know where I'm going.  I do this so that I can get there faster by using the unique features available in the Waze app. It's one of my most used apps.  The Pixel XL has two speakers that are located at the very bottom of the phone.  I mount my phone horizontally, which causes the Pixel's speakers to be pointed away from me, and I can barely hear the bottom facing speakers on the Pixel XL.  My Nexus 6P has two speakers that are located at the top and bottom of the front of the phone. These front-firing speakers on the 6P are much louder than the Pixel. There were several times when I did not hear something coming out of the phone while using Waze on the Pixel even though I had the volume set to the max. I don't think I've ever had that problem with my Nexus 6P.  In addition to the problems experienced with the Pixel's speakers in my car, the placement of the speakers at the very bottom of the phone makes it very easy to cover the speakers with your hand when holding the phone.   I would strongly suggest that Google address the speaker problem with the Pixel 2 by just putting the two speakers on the front of the phone like they did with the Nexus 6P. Apple put the speakers on the front of the iPhone 7S.  I don't understand why Google put them at the very bottom.  Especially since the phone is built by HTC, the cell phone maker known for it's "Boom Sound" speakers on past cell phones.

For me, the speaker issue is a big deal.  I use the speakers more than I use the camera.  That's why the speaker issue was such a huge deal for me.  I suppose that if I used the camera more it wouldn't be that big of a deal for me.  But if the Pixel XL had the same front firing speakers as the Nexus 6P, or the iPhone 7S, I probably would have the kept the Pixel XL and ditched the Nexus 6P.

There's a few other things about the Pixel that I did not like. While none of these reasons dramatically impacted my final decision I do want to point them out because they may matter to you. The WiFi on the Pixel was not as good as the WiFi on the 6P.  I pick up my kid on the side of his High School almost every day.  On my 6P I can pick up the Wifi from the High School. I get a pretty good signal and I'm able to stream music from my TuneIn Radio app onto my car stereo while waiting for him. But with the Pixel, I could not detect the WiFi signal from the school.  In addition, when running a Wi-Fi speed test from home on the 6P and the Pixel, I would get slightly higher download speeds on the 6P. But only slightly.

I did experience some missed calls on the Pixel from home.  My home office is located in the basement of my house. I get a weak cellular signal in the basement.  Usually one or two bars.  In spite of the weak signal I don't think I've ever had a dropped or missed a call on my 6P while using it in the basement. The Pixel has the option to enable WiFi calling. There is no such option available on the 6P.  When I got the Pixel I enabled this feature immediately.  After I did that, I noticed that I missed a couple of calls while I was in the basement.  My phone did not even ring.  After a few days I disabled the WiFi calling feature on the Pixel and relied strictly on the cellular service from Verizon.  I did not have any call issues with the Pixel after that.  I assume that the problem was the WiFi calling.  Since this is a feature that is provided by Verizon, I cannot blame the Pixel for this problem.  It's probably Verizon's fault. They need to improve their WiFi calling feature.

HD voice is another feature that I would like to talk about. The first time I noticed HD voice was shortly after I got the Pixel. I was calling my wife on her iPhone 7S and I noticed that the call was crystal clear and I could see on the screen an indication that HD Voice was active. I noticed that several calls on the Pixel in the last two weeks were going through HD Voice. I think it's a wonderful featured to have. If a call is being made on HD Voice, you can't help but notice how crystal clear the voice on the other end is.  But here's the thing.  It looks like HD voice has more to do with Verizon than than the Pixel.  A few minutes after I turned in the Pixel and started heading home in my car with my Nexus 6P I made a phone call to my wife. To my surprise I noticed that same crystal clear voice on the other end.  I looked at the screen of my 6P and I see the same HD Voice indicator.  So it turns out that HD Voice is not exclusive to the Pixel. I have noticed that I am making and receiving calls and HD Voice is active on my Nexus 6P. I'm very happy about that because I thought that when I turned in my Pixel XL that I was also losing HD Voice.  But it looks like it's a feature that I will have on my Nexus 6P.   Makes me feel a little better about my decision to turn in the Pixel XL.


As you can see, I have very few complaints about the Pixel XL.  I really do believe that it's the best Android phone ever made.  Then you may ask why I didn't keep the phone?  I've been thinking about that and I think the decision had more to do with the Nexus 6P than it did with the Pixel.  In addition to realizing what a great phone the Pixel XL is, I also came to better appreciate how really great the Nexus 6P is.  While the Pixel XL is a better phone the Nexus 6P is not that far behind.  The 6P is running the exact same version of Android as the Pixel.  Now there are a few additional features available on the Pixel XL such as Google Assistant, but this feature is so new that I don't think anyone missing it on the 6P is really going to notice.  The Pixel's camera is clearly superior to the 6P. But you only really notice this when you compare pictures taken by the Pixel to pictures taken by the 6P.  If you are using the 6P to take pictures and don't have a Pixel to compare it with, the camera on the 6P is pretty darn good.  I would venture to say that for the average Android user, the 6P camera would be just fine.

With all the other things that the Pixel is better at than the 6P, the 6P is not far behind the Pixel. While the Pixel's display is better than the 6P the 6P's display is still very good.  And while the Pixel is faster and smoother than the 6P, the 6P is still very fast and very smooth.  All the more impressive when you consider that the Nexus 6P is one year older than the Pixel and was only half the price of the Pixel.

In summary, the Nexus 6P is still good enough that there were not enough sufficiently compelling reasons to upgrade to a Pixel right now.  Looking into the future, I can see the Nexus 6P getting a little old.  And just thinking of some of the upgrades that could be included in the next version of the Pixel makes me think that for me, a Nexus 6P user, it would be wiser to wait until the end of the year and upgrade to the next Pixel.  I hope that Google does a better job with the speakers with the next Pixel.  I have looked at several online reviews of the Pixel and the speaker issue appears to be a common complaint by reviewers.  I hope Google is listening.

I hope my review helps.  Hit me up on the comments if you have any questions or have anything to add!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Nexus 6P v. Pixel XL: Is It Worth the Upgrade?

I have been a Verizon customer for many years. The past year I've been using the Nexus 6P which I bought on Amazon. I've been very happy with the 6P.  I have no complaints and was not looking for an upgrade. But about a month ago I stopped at the Verizon store and checked out the Pixel XL. Verizon had a deal going which would only cost me about $10 a month so I decided to give it a shot and try out the Pixel XL. I have 14 days to return the phone and pay a small restocking fee so I decided to give it a try. I received the phone yesterday and activated it. I want to give my readers my initial impressions of the Pixel XL and discuss whether 6P owners should upgrade to the Pixel XL. Here's my initial impressions:

Set Up Is a Breeze

As a long time Android user I can tell you that Google has been making strides in coming up with a seamless and effortless way to transition into a new phone. In the early days of Android you had to manually download your apps and manually input your accounts and settings to set up your new phone. Then Google began restoring apps automatically from the cloud but you still had to manually set up your accounts and your settings.  The setup process for the Pixel XL has improved the Android experience once again. The phone comes with an adapter that allows you to connect your old phone with your new Pixel XL and easily transfer the apps, the accounts and settings from your old phone to your new phone. From my experience the process was not 100% successful. While all of the apps, with the exception of one or two, were automatically installed on the new phone, more of the settings were not successfully transferred. I found myself having to sign in on a couple of apps, but this was not a serious problem.  While not 100% successful it was sufficiently good enough that it did speed up the process and make it much easier to transition into a new phone. Android has made incredible strides when it comes to transferring apps and the data from your old phone to a new phone. The experience was positive and I have to give Google credit for really streamlining the process and making it very easy for me to set up the new Pixel.

Physical Appearance

My initial impression was that the 6P and the Pixel XL are the same size. But the more I look at the phones, especially side-by-side, the 6P is noticeably larger than the Pixel XL. While not much bigger, the more you look at the Pixel XL, the more you realize that the 6P is a larger phone. I don't know what impact that will have on my impressions of the phone. I say that because when I got the 6P I was coming from a 2014 Moto X. For the first couple of weeks the 6P felt very uncomfortable with its larger size. I was worried that the 6P was too big. But after a few weeks, I got used to it and learned to like the size of the 6P. In my first 24 hours with the Pixel XL, I find myself wondering whether the size of the phone will be a problem. Thinking that it may be too small. I'm thinking that I need to get used to it like I did the 6P. So my judgement about the size of the 6P has to wait.

Overall, I prefer the appearance of the 6P.  The Pixel XL is not a very attractive phone. The plastic and glass back doesn't do anything for me. The metal backing on the 6P is more attractive to me and makes the phone seem more substantial and premium in spite of the price difference. While both phones are slippery, the Pixel XL seems to be a little more slippery than the 6P. Both phones require a case. Not only does that improve the grip of the phone but it protects them from being damaged if dropped.

Overall the 6P wins in physical appearance.  But that is probably more of a personal preference.


The Pixel XL performs better than the 6P. There is no doubt that the Pixel XL is slightly faster and than the 6P. Having said that I am not putting down the 6P at all. While the difference in the performance of the phones is noticeable, the Pixel XL is only slightly better than the 6P. The display on the Pixel XL is better than the display on the 6P. This may be one of the biggest differences in the phones.  It is crisp and clearer than the 6P. The blue colors used in the system settings on the Pixel XL are an improvement over the dull green colors on the 6P. The display on the Pixel XL is brighter and more pleasing to the eye. But that should be expected considering that the Pixel XL is much more expensive than the 6P and about a year newer.

So when it comes to performance, the Pixel XL wins.

Battery Life

Since I've only had the Pixel XL for about 24 hours, it would be unfair for me to render a final judgment when it comes to battery life. But I do want to point out that I never had any battery issues with my 6P. My 6P would never run out of battery life but it would never make it through an entire day without a charge either. In the short time that I have had with the Pixel XL I haven't noticed any drastic improvement in  battery life over the 6P. If anything, the battery life on the Pixel XL may not be quite as good as the 6P. But then again, it may just take a little bit of time for the Pixel XL to settle in and give me a better idea of the performance of the battery.  It wouldn't be fair to the Pixel to render judgment on it's battery life this early.

So at this time, no judgement on the battery life.


We've been hearing that the camera on the Pixel XL maybe the best camera ever on a smartphone. This may be true. The pictures taken by the Pixel XL are outstanding. They are very clear and look great. A definite improvement over the pictures taken by the 6P. Just take a look at the pictures taken at the top of this post.  The photo of the 6P was taken by the Pixel XL while the photo of the Pixel XL was taken by the 6P.  You can clearly see which picture is better. But the biggest advantage that the Pixel XL could have over the 6P is the ability to save all of the photos taken on the Pixel XL to Google Photos in high resolution for free. Any pictures taken on the Pixel XL will be saved to Google Photos in high resolution. Any space taken on Google Photos will not count towards your Google Drive storage limit. That is a big deal for people that take lots of pictures. For many customers, this may be a big enough advantage that will make upgrading to a Pixel XL a no-brainer. For me, it may not be that big of a deal because I don't take lots of pictures. But I will acknowledge that this is a huge advantage that the Pixel XL has over the 6P. Like battery life I don't think it would be fair for me to render a final judgment on the Pixel XL camera until I spend a little bit more time playing with the phone. But regardless of what happens, there is no doubt that the Pixel XL camera is a big improvement over the 6P. The unlimited Google Photos storage in high resolution and the speed of the camera alone are enough to give the Pixel XL the edge over the 6P. Taking pictures is a snap. You tap on that button to take a picture and it's almost instantaneous!

So while it's a little early to render a final judgment on the camera, I am confident in saying that the Pixel XL camera is a big Improvement over the 6P.


The biggest advantage to owning a Google phone, whether it's a Nexus or the Pixel, is that your phone will be upgraded to the latest and greatest version of Android first.  That's true for both the 6P and the Pixel XL. Both are running Android 7.1.1. But while both phones are running the same version of Android, the Pixel XL has a few features that are not available on the 6P. First of all, when you first set up the phone you are notified you can set up Wi-Fi Calling. This is something that you cannot do on the 6P. I don't know if this will make a difference for me but knowing that if I am somewhere where I cannot get a signal to make a phone call but have access to Wi-Fi that I will be able to make a phone call is a good thing.  It's better to have the ability to do this than it is to not have the ability to do so.   HD Voice is also available on the Pixel XL. I don't know if this feature is available exclusively to the Pixel XL or if this is just a feature that Verizon offers on all new phones. I haven't made enough phone calls to decide whether this is a big deal, but just like the Wi-Fi calling, I would think that it's better to have this feature than to not have it.

I've been hearing that the Verizon version of the Pixel will not be upgraded as quickly as the Google Store version of the Pixel. I can assure you that that is not the case. As soon as I turned on my Pixel XL yesterday, I was notified that a system update was available. I downloaded and installed that update. That update was the January security update to 7.1.1. My 6P has yet to receive that update. So it looks like the Verizon version of the Pixel XL will be updated by Google without delay

The biggest software feature that the Pixel XL has over the 6P is Google Assistant. It looks like Google Assistant is Google's answer to Apple's Siri. It basically gives you the ability to control the phone with your voice.  Setting it up is really simple. It takes a minute or 2 to train Google Assistant to recognize your voice and a simple command of "Ok Google" wakes your phone and gives you the ability to do pretty much anything you want by just using your voice. I was able to send a text message using my voice from beginning to end flawlessly. It's going to take a little bit more experimenting with Google Assistant for me too render a final judgement but the little I've seen of Google Assistant is very promising.  My understanding is that Google intends to add more features to Google Assistant as time goes by.

The additional software features available on the Pixel XL gives the Pixel XL a clear software advantage over the Nexus 6P.


After reading my initial review you would think that the Pixel XL is a hands-down winner over the Nexus 6P. I don't think that I am ready to make that conclusion. While the Pixel XL is an improvement over the 6P, the improvements are not drastically better than the 6P. The advantages that the Pixel XL has over the 6P are slight differences. I'm a little concerned about some of the things that the Pixel XL is missing. For one thing, since the Pixel XL is priced among the high-end phones it should have more premium features. One feature that the Pixel XL should have is wireless charging. I know that wireless charging has not taken off like we initially thought it would but at this price point the Pixel XL should have this feature. While not essential it would help make the phone a little more useful. Another feature the Pixel XL should have is dual speakers. The 6P has a speaker at the top and bottom of the phone. The Pixel XL has 2 speakers at the very bottom of the phone. At this price point, the Pixel XL should do a better job with the speakers.

So at this point I am not ready to make a final recommendation as to whether it's worth upgrading from a 6P to a Pixel. If I absolutely had to make a recommendation right now I would probably recommend not upgrading to a Pixel XL. The differences between the 6P and the Pixel XL are just not quite big enough and the missing features from the Pixel XL tip the scales in favor of sticking with the 6P. It may be better to wait for the next version of the Pixel to upgrade from the 6P. Based on Google's track record, the next Pixel should be out in about 9 or 10 months.

It will be interesting to see if my opinion changes in the next 2 weeks.  Stay tuned.