In some aspects, the Pixel 2 XL feels like just a run-of-the-mill 2017 smartphone; it’s not a power-user phone like the Galaxy S8 and Note 8, or the LG V30. Overall, the Pixel 2 XL looks like a tidier, cleaner version of last year’s phone, and ironically, it seems like Google is playing catch up with most Android flagships when it comes to features.
At the very least, Google is setting the standard for a pure Android experience with the Pixel 2 XL. In this article, we look at what’s good, what’s bad, and what’s downright ugly about the latest big-screen smartphone in the Pixel family.
First off, what’s good: the best Pixel 2 XL features.
6-inch, 2880 x 1440 P-OLED QHD+ Display
The Pixel 2 XL display is a major improvement over the previous generation, with a 6.0-inch diagonal P-OLED panel that sports a 2880 x 1440 screen resolution (538 ppi density), wide color gamut and 18:9 aspect ratio.
Google claims the new screen has a contrast ratio of 100,000:1, which on paper is light-years ahead of the 1,400:1 ratio found on the iPhone 8. It’s also protected by Gorilla Glass 5, Corning’s strongest glass to date, and now features always-on for checking time and notifications at a glance.
Upgraded 12MP f/1.8 Rear Camera
If there’s one thing that can make or break a phone, it’s the camera. And in a time where almost all major flagships have a dual-camera setup to achieve professional looking shots, the Pixel 2 XL take a different approach.
Using a combination of facial algorithms and a depth-mapping image sensor, Google is trying to prove that two isn’t always better than one. The Pixel XL 2 can render blurred backgrounds for a dramatic effect that mimics what you would find with a DLSR lens.
Google also widened the camera’s aperture from f/2.0 to f/1.8, letting in more light, which makes for sharper photos and better performance in low light situations. The 12MP setup also sports a dual-pixel image sensor, which means that every pixel that makes up a photo is actually made of two smaller ones.
The Pixel 2 XL comes with optical image stabilization for photos and videos, in addition to electronic image stabilization, to counteract wobbly hand-induced camera shake, thereby reducing blur. Google says they have also improved HDR+ in the 2 XL with increased dynamic range and better noise reduction.
With all of these features combined into a single setup, it will be interesting to see how the Pixel 2 compares to other flagships like the Note 8 and iPhone X. Motion Photos (similar to the iPhone’s Live Photos) is a new feature that records a video for 1.5 seconds before and after a single shot.
Front-Facing Stereo Speakers
Nothing kills multimedia on your smartphone faster than a cruddy misplaced sound system, and more often than not smartphones don’t have forward facing speakers, let alone true stereo sound. The Pixel 2XL is an exception to this fact as both audio speakers have been moved to the front of the device, not the bottom, backside or anything funky like that.
One major weak point that hovered over the original Pixel XL was its lack of water resistance. In 2017, this is a no brainer. The Pixel 2 duo now satisfies IP67 waterproof standards, which means they can be submerged in about 3 feet (1 meter) of water for up to 30 minutes.
Now you’ll have one less thing to worry about at the pool or sitting on the John. It’s worth noting that Google’s is one of the last flagship vendors to add this level of water resistance to their phones.
Active Edge Squeezable Sides
Taking a page from HTC’s playbook, Google has added squeezing as an input action to the Pixel 2 smartphone lineup. Google has dubbed this “Active Edge,” and it can be set to carryout various actions based on your preference.
The default action, as you would expect, launches the Google Assistant, giving Google a dedicated non-voice action for Assistant without adding a button like Samsung did with Bixby. Active Edge should even work even when using a protective case, especially the new Pixel 2 cases put out by Google.
What’s bad: the worst things about the Pixel 2 XL.
No expandable memory
When you have a fixed supply of memory, wondering how much storage is left on your phone can be a real drag, especially if you like to use a ton of apps or play games. If you fall into this category of user, you will be disappointed to know that the base model Pixel 2 XL only comes with a mere 64GB of internal storage space.
Your only opinion here is to pay an additional $100 for 128GB of storage, bringing the phone to nearly $1000. Otherwise, you can take up Google on their offer of free unlimited cloud storage for photos and videos with no loss of quality to compensate, but this no excuse for not including expandable storage options, especially considering the backlash Samsung received when they removed it from their Galaxy Note 5 and S6 phones.
No Optical Zoom
Google says that the cameras in the Pixel 2 duo are the highest rated ever, according to DxOMark. However, one thing you won’t find on either is optical zoom, which gives you greater flexibility when capturing images.
Digital zoom is what you find on most smartphones and its nothing more than automatic cropping, which tends to result in noisy images with little clarity. Optical zoom on the other hand actually magnifies the light entering the lens, giving you much more detail at a farther distance.
Including optical zoom along with OIS on the Pixel 2 would have pushed its camera into the next level of mobile photography. Instead, Apple beat everybody to the punch and gave the iPhone X a dual camera setup with 2X optical zoom.
No Wireless Charging
Samsung has offered wireless charging in their smartphones for many years now and recently apple jumped on the bandwagon. Google could have made the Pixel 2 XL more future proof by adding a wireless charge coil.
While it’s true that fast chargers can juice up your phone quicker than inductive charging, it’s hard to deny the convenience that wireless charging offers. With Apple now on board, it probably won’t be long before you see other manufactures follow suit.
No 3.5mm Jack
To help enforce the previous point, just like the recent Apple iPhone and then the Motorola Motos, the Pixel 2 XL does not have a 3.5mm headphone jack. This could be a deal breaker for some, as you will now need to carry around an adapter or buy a new set of USB-C or Bluetooth headphones.
Google is including an adapter in the Pixel 2 box, and of course they have their own pair of wireless headphones called Pixel Buds you can purchase separately. Nonetheless, the absence of a headphone jack can be a deal breaker for some because carrying around extra phone pieces is annoying.
The Ugly: Pixel 2 Privacy Concerns
We already touched on Google offering unlimited drive storage for all videos and pictures taken by Pixel owners. While this is a nice feature, it seems like Google is pushing Pixel owners to store their entire lives on Google servers.
Sounds crazy? Well consider this: for Google’s AI Assistant to work in the best way possible, you need to give it access to everything you do. Google builds a profile on you with this data and that profile allows Google to serve highly targeted advertising to you, which is huge aspect of their business.
Music Detection is a new Pixel-exclusive feature that runs continuously in the background. Whenever the device recognizes a song (for example, playing in a store or on TV), it will identify the artist and song and put that info on your lock screen.
By tapping on the listing, Google Assistant will show you options to buy the track on Google Play or watch the music video on YouTube. This feature works offline and on Airplane Mode, so there are obvious privacy concerns here.
Google isn’t the only company that does this and you can disable these features if you are uncomfortable with your phone always listening. Just know that the free services offered by these companies come with a fine print that should be looked at carefully.