Updated: Aug 3, 2019
New to Google ecosystem? Never used Google phone before and so confused what to expect from a google phone? As a Google phone user myself for last 3 years here’s some knowledge from personal experience. This review is mainly tailored towards google Pixel 2 but nonetheless, I will share personal experiences with Google's ecosystem, what works and what doesn’t!
Start of Nexus Journey ..
About 3 years back, I was using Chinese phone Xolo. Sound funny name? I know! In case you haven’t heard then Xolo was brand separated by Chinese company ‘Lava’ and being a Chinese company as you can expect, phones were quite cheap (like dirt cheap!), had numerous features only high-end phones offered (or did not offer) and on top they offered service and warranty (how that service works and how reliable service is topic of separate discussion). So coming back, back then my Xolo one day went off, just died! It would not power up. It had a replaceable battery but getting battery wasn’t an option since you won’t find it listed online or won’t find it in local stores. The main reason for purchasing this phone, for me, was to try out custom ROM’s, which I did do so when it took last breath (read the last screen up 😊 ) it had custom ROM running. I was by this so accustomed to changeable ROM’s that I preferred ROM’s which are sleek, just barebone Android and so Google phones were the best choice. I picked up Nexus 6P. So my Google phone journey started with Nexus phone.
I Just loved Nexus 6P’s display (ahem, I did not get yellow tint on screen! ). Barebone android along with the latest Android updates coming in was nothing less to boast. The camera was great, too. But after about a year’s use, the battery was a problem, the mic was not working properly and it would just stop working once in a while. Considering price point for nexus back then (600$+, or INR 40K+), it was a dealbreaker as you would expect such costly phone bought with your hard earned money would last for at least 3 years, at least I did assume. On Google’s end, updates kept coming but major flaws I observed personally were:
Updates weren’t anything major which Google pushed monthly.
Yearly update coming in from Google (which bumped Android version) degraded the performance of phone than helping it.
Lack of themes support. I know there are a ton of Android launchers who can customize the phone to your liking but missing this feature in Google’s own now launcher is still a big drawback.
Poor RAM management. The phone went from the best to the worst with the install of handful apps over time. You can expect better from Google on such basic OS functionality front, especially in their own branded series phones.
Slow HDR processing! Yes, you read that right. Every time I took HDR photos it took minutes sometimes to complete HDR post processing and get the photo ready.
Abandoned Nexus series. Moment Google decided to revamp Nexus series and come up with Pixel series, they simply abandoned older Nexus series phones. If you go on any facebook or other forums for Nexus, you will see posts full of people complaints about Google simply not maintaining their phones.
My initial target was to use this phone as the primary driver for at least 3 years before buying next cool device but with above, things weren’t getting any better with my Nexus phone. And while this was something I lived with by doing some changes, like installed nova launcher to revamp phone, had uninstalled a ton of apps etc., when the phone was something manageable. While this was happening, Google had launched Pixel series.
Is Pixel 2 Still a Good Buy?
The advent of Pixel phones and with experience of Nexus 6P, I wasn’t in the mood to buy Google phone again. So I gave a pass to Pixel. Pixel had no innovative feature, sure, there was a personal assistant but it did same things Google now based assistant did on other phones. The camera on Pixel was rated good but it wasn’t something extraordinary, not for the price point it was sold on!
During this time, Google was working hard on the successor of Pixel phones. They launched it by close to the end of the year 2017. Two variants offered are Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. They both feature the same config and the only difference is XL is bigger in screen size (almost 6 inches) and features higher pixel density. Despite Nexus let down experience, I decided to give Google phone another try as this was rebranded Google series. This was clearly Google’s attempt to come into the market of high-end feature phones, where Apple and Samsung are sitting for a while.
What did Google get right with Pixel 2 phone?
Stunning camera! Yes, the camera is absolutely amazing. This became a signature feature in short time and a good camera is getting synonymous now with Google phone. This also attributes to VPU unit they added just to process photos you click.
Maybe not perfect but well-managed RAM. Google RAM manager code in their Android kernel seems to run well. This gives a feeling of 6+ GB of RAM while in reality only with a bump of 1G over previous Nexus series, it is at 4GB now. This affects battery, increasing its runtime as well as life.
Not so barebone Android. Yes, you read that right, Android is not that native and Google did good customizations to it to make it suit Pixel devices.
Google assistant. This is another signature feature as of now with Pixel phones wherein you squeeze the phone, call your assistant and it really understands you! You can just ask it anything and it will have something for you each time, something useful and not just verbatim search results (sorry siri!).
So with signature features like great camera and Google rebranding in an attempt to get iPhone like branded series, I did give Google another chance and bought Pixel2 XL (and Btw Pixel2 is equally good except for smaller display).
Is Pixel 2 phone the perfect device?
Well, answer to that really depends on what do you need on your smartphone. Unlike lower-end phones which tend to focus on quantity of features, though features itself can be half-baked, higher-end phones these days need to focus on depth of the feature, or quality of the feature. So it is really hard balancing act for companies like Google to choose between what all they support in smartphones. Google did do some things right as mentioned earlier, and some of them did get hit in short time, like the Pixel 2 camera!
Google added vision processing unit (VPU), visual core chip basically which just processes image when you click any photo on your camera. This makes the Pixel 2 camera damn good, just point-and-shoot excellence! VPU essentially gives mobile raw power, which Google uses in its post-processing image algorithms, which use AI and fill the noise/gaps in images as part of post-processing to make it more clearer, sharper and stunning. I would recommend this phone if you want a smartphone mainly for shooting photos and videos, it was a requirement for me and why I gave Google another chance. Lot has been said and written on visual core chips and how they work so I would just give some sample snaps here so decide for yourself. The camera will blow your mind with portrait mode, which feels like magic mode. You can just point and shoot with this camera, be it a day, be it a night, it won’t disappoint you!
Rest of the phone ..
I already mentioned some things Google got right with Pixel series, especially Pixel 2, but overall I want to mention that with about 6 months use and a handful of apps installed, the phone hasn’t slowed down so far. That is a good thing, considering Nexus experience. But recently one update broke camera app so it crashes once in a while. Things like that will only be known after some more use. But so far so good!
Conclusion: Should you buy it?
If you have a higher budget for smartphone and want a great camera on your phone then this phone is definitely a go. If you want little less from the camera but also low on a budget then do check one plus phones. If you have gaming requirement then some Moto offerings are perfect, one plus there also is a good choice. If you want to remain ahead of the competition in terms of getting the latest Android updates (maybe if you are a mobile app developer) then Pixel 2 is the best choice as of today.