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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!

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