We upgraded our phones to Pixel 2

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, December 5, 2017, 9:50 PM | comments: 0

I was fully expecting that I would hang on to my original Pixel (in Really Blue) for the full two years, but I was thinking about what to do for Diana. Her Nexus 5X just kind of died after two years. It came back to life once for me, but has since been deceased. She took my 5X then, which is the same age. Then Google did a Black Friday deal with a $100 of Fi credits and trade-ins, in what amounts to cutting a Pixel 2 cost in half, or a BOGO deal. So while I didn't need a new phone, the deal brought the cost down to something reasonable, and Diana doesn't have a hand-me-down.

Most importantly though, we get the new cameras, which are arguably the best (or tied for best) on any phone. I took 1,600+ photos in the last year, so that's important.

First impressions: It's a Pixel. The first version of this phone was fantastic, and the second improves on it in most every way. I know some people complain that the design is "meh," but I'm not sure how many more variations on a rectangle you can have. On this one, they reduced the glass on the back to just the top fifth. No glass on the back would be better (especially if you don't use cases), but I understand the radios need some breathing room. I got the white one, and it looks great. The metal has a less slick texture than the previous model, for the better. I kind of wish they did the front bezel in white, because I liked that about my blue Pixel. I know everyone loves the thin/no bezel thing, but as someone who has a tick where I rub the edges of the case, I'm OK with bezels. Also, the room for the speakers makes for pretty good speakers. (Sidebar: Spigen makes really solid, inexpensive cases that protect the phones without hiding them. This is my third phone with one of theirs.) I'm super annoyed about Google (and everyone else) ditching the headphone jack, but at least they put a dongle in the box. I imagine they partly did it for the water resistance, but it still sucks.

The screen is another great OLED (can't believe Apple is still doing backlit LCD on the 8), and unlike the original Pixel, this one isn't tweaked out. I had to use a developer option to tone down the color on the old one, but this one has an option in settings for "Boosted," "Natural" and "Saturated." Saturated was the default color space of the old one, but this one landed on Boosted. Natural feels a little flat to me. I like the always-on time and notifications on the screen, which on OLED doesn't take much energy to sustain.

A primary consideration for going all-in was the new camera, as I said, but I haven't done much with it yet. I can tell you that the power button double-tap to taking a picture is nearly instant. The processing, even when you turn on portrait mode, is crazy fast as well, and they haven't yet turned on the dedicated photo processor chip yet, which I believe is supposed to offload the HDR and depth of field stuff at a lower energy cost. That update is starting to roll out now with Android 8.1. Instead of having two cameras, they use what sounds like Canon's dual-pixel trick, where pixels next to each other can calculate distance (used on the Canons for auto-focus improvement) as well as computationally arrive at wider dynamic range. Google is using it to aid in the portrait mode and whatever other visual effects they decide to roll out.

My "tolerance" for Android was opened up a few years ago (as Windows Phone continued to die a slow death) with Google keeping its own phones on the latest bits, and they're at a pretty amazing place now. Widgets are the answer to WP live tiles, and contextual menus are occasionally useful. The live backgrounds are fun. Mostly, the OS gets out of the way now. The fine grained control of notifications has evolved to near perfection, and it's contextual to each notification. Careful logging of energy usage and data makes it easy to find the occasional rogue app (I'm looking at you, Walt Disney World).

The transition was fairly easy. Contacts have been synced in whatever service you prefer for years, and since mine are all in Gmail, this "just works." They now have some merging and copying capabilities too, in case you have your stuff spread across multiple accounts. From a security standpoint, it makes sense that not all passwords and accounts get copied, but with Google's auto-fill functionality, most recent apps that I've installed don't make me guess the passwords. The only thing that really bothered me in the move to the new device is that Google is hell bent on changing notification sounds every new model. I really liked the "Hey!" notification for texts in the last Pixel, so I downloaded the file and restored that. I also like a "real" phone ring, and for whatever reason, that carried over for me.

Net cost for these phones was $350 with the trades and Project Fi service credits. And remember we're averaging about $55 per month total. These are top of the line phones, state of the art, and it doesn't involve a grand for the phone on top of typical carrier pricing.

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