I write about gadgets, which means everyone asks me what laptop or dishwasher or whatever to buy. I struggle with this, because the answer often starts with,“It depends.” Unless youaskabout a phone. In that case, I usuallysay get an iPhone.
Don’t get me wrong. I love Android. But the phones can be… frustrating. Clever features too often seem overwrought or poorly designed, or they’re buried beneath 15 Verizon apps on the homescreen. The iPhone is the Default Phone, the one you buy when you want a phone, not a project.
The Google Pixel changes that. It offers the look and competence of an iPhone, with a truly great camera and loads of innovative software and services. It changes my answerto the question I hear most often: What phone should you get?
You should get a Pixel.
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Google’s new phone arrivesThursday, starting at $650 for the Pixel and $770 for the Pixel XL. You can get itin blue, black, or silver, with 32 or 128 gigs of storage, from Google or from Verizon. You should buy it directly from Google, and soon. Most models already are backordered.
Not long after I got my Pixel XL, I flewto Colombia for a week’s vacation. It was a very Google-y getaway: I had a Project Fi SIM card, I kept my itinerary in Google Trips, and, given what Verizon charges for international data on my iPhone 7, I relied entirely upon thePixel because Project Fi gives standard rates in most countries.
Google Assistant is the first voice assistant that really works. You can’t take a bad picture with the Pixel. So what if it looks like the iPhone? The iPhone looks great, and so does the Pixel.
Every phone should be waterproof, and this one isn’t. Good as it is, Assistant’s hardly flawless.
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I’ve always loved Android because it felt so much more alive and connected than iOS. The sharing menus are smarter and more prominent, apps refresh in the background so they’re always up to date, and widgets and notifications are useful and interactive. But iOS was always so much simpler, with shallower learning curves. It’s dictatorial, but painless. The Pixel’s software doesn’t totally close that gap. It’s still too easy to clutter your homescreens with multiple versions of the same icon, and it’s still too hard to find cool features like the thing where you can swipe down on the fingerprint reader to see your notification shade. But the Pixel is the mostcoherent and cohesive Android ever.
I’ve always been an iPhone guy, honestly. I’ve used just about every flagship Android phone ever made and always returned to Apple. That’s partly because I bought an iPhone 4S in 2011 and signed up for iMessage, and leaving iMessage is a monumental pain in the ass.But mostly I liked having a phone I didn’t have to think about. The iPhone always offers great hardware, a good camera, fantastic apps, and data security. I don’t want to worry about my phone, or spend my time tinkering with it. My phone’s too important to risk any extra effort, or worse, unreliability.
But I’m switching. For real. I’m turning off iMessage, re-buying apps, and warning friends that I probably won’t get their texts for a few days. I am a little worried about Google’s long-term commitment to this new hardware push (and the customer support that comes with it), given itspropensity for killing productsthatdon’t get billions of users. But I’m totally in love with the Pixel. I love this camera, I love Google Assistant, I love that I’ll get to use it with a comfy VR headset, I love that I finally get a version of Android that is both powerful and attractive. I love that there’s a kickass Android phone that (probably) doesn’t explode.
The immediate joke everyone, including me, made on Twitter after the Pixel launch was that Google made an iPhone. Well, that’s true. As it turns out, an iPhone running Android is exactly what I’ve been waiting for.