I’ve been using the Pixel XL for the last 24 hours, and I’m already convinced it’s my next daily driver. I have to have a pure Android phone, and this is the best there is. But why would you want it? Let me run down its five best features.
The Pixel XL runs Android 7.1, which isn’t coming to other phones until December at the earilest. In 7.1, Google turned the search bar into a much cleaner button, and also ditched the App Drawer. Now, to see all your apps, you swipe up from the bottom. It’s just a small little tweak, but I love it. But best of all, a long press will bring up shortcut menus in certain apps. These are major time savers.
I’m still disappointed that Google won’t add pro-level manual controls to its camera app, but the company is inching forward with quasi-DSLR features that ordinary users can understand. The SmartBurst setting lets you fire off an avalanche of shots with a long press of the shutter. Then you can enter the camera app, and grab what Google believes is the best shot. It’s got a white dot over it, and from there you can keep only that best photo.
There’s also a slider for exposure compensation, which comes in handy in low light situations, as well as a lens blur feature that mimics depth of field effects.
Google says the Pixel XL delivers the best pure image quality in the smartphone space, and that’s something we’ll have to test. But for now I can tell you the app loads super quickly, and from shutter snap to saved image, the software is fast. This alone helps deliver a killer camera experience.
OK, here’s a small little value-add.. If you run into trouble with the Pixel XL, you can head to Settings, and hit the support tab to start a help session with a Google tech. Chat support is available 24/7, and if you decide to call phone support, you can even give the tech permission to take over your screen.
You can tell Google is really trying to make Android totally painless for normal folks... as well as that point 0.1 percent of iPhone users who may actually switch.
The Pixel XL’s headline feature is Google Assistant, which feels a lot like Google Now, and actually replaces Google Now when you voice “OK Google.”. But Assistant adds some new tricks, and it’s really convienent to have Google’s platform for worldwide bot-driven dominance on your Home button.
You can ask Assistant to search for an ultra specific category of photos in your personal album. You can use it for quick navigation. You can use it to help remember things. And you can even ask it for a personalized daily brieffing.
You weren’t supposed to hear that. But anyway, Google Assistant has been super useful during all my testing, and I’m looking foward to see it getting even smarter over time.
[Emojis are so last year]
OK, my final favorite feature really isn’t important, but it’s fun. Google’s new keyboard offers animated GIF support, so, basically, the Pixel XL is like a 5.5-inch happiness delivery system. Oh, you may scoff. But you know you wanna GIF... everyone does.
Now, I still have some issues with the Pixel XL. It doesn’t offer industry standard waterproofing, it runs a bit hot, and it’s hella expensive. But damn, it’s pure Android at it’s finest. I don’t think i can resist.