It's hard to overstate how good Google's Pixel line of smartphones are. For my money, they're the best smartphones available.
They run a clean, sleek, fast operating system. They have great cameras for capturing sharp, vibrant photos and video. They cost far less than the competition — literally hundreds of dollars less than the closest equivalent Apple iPhone. The Pixel line looks great, but still prioritises function over needless visual upgrades.
I've been using the Pixel 2 for a few weeks now, transitioning from the Pixel 1 directly, and I'm convinced it's the best smartphone available — with one caveat.
Listen, spending $1,000 (R12,450) on a phone is ridiculous — I'm looking at you, iPhone X! If I'm being completely honest, I don't feel super comfortable spending upwards of $650 on a phone either.
However, it is comparatively speaking — the best price for a flagship smartphone from a major manufacturer. Compared to Apple's $1,000 iPhone X (and even the $700 iPhone 8), the Pixel 2 is the lowest priced. Samsung's Galaxy S9 goes for over $700, and LG's G7 ThinQ starts at $750.
Naturally, there are pluses and minuses to those other phones. Limiting the discussion strictly to price, the Pixel 2 has them all beat.
To celebrate my partner's birthday, we went to a restaurant. Because I don't want to be one of those people taking photos of my food, but I also want to take photos of beautiful things, I sneaked this shot covertly. This is a tiny restaurant with servers moving around, low lighting, and I took it without really looking. That the photo still came out this good, with this much detail and richness of colour, is stunning.
I don't expect anyone to take close-up shots of grass blades. The intention here is to point out how smart the camera is on the Pixel 2 (and the Pixel 1, for that matter) — it has no problem maintaining focus, even with a ton of movement.
Everything about using Android on Google's phones is better.
Since Google makes Android, its phones always get updates faster than anyone else. And since Google makes Gmail, Google Maps, Google Calendar, Google Docs, and all the other Google services you probably already use, you'll be delighted to find out how tightly those services are tied into the operating system.
Imagine if all the Apple versions of those apps on iPhone — Mail, Calendar, etc. — were actually Google's. No jumping through hoops with two-step verification, or weird disconnects between your actual Gmail account and the version you access through Apple's Mail app. As Apple might say: It just works.
When those services tie into Google Assistant — Google's equivalent of Siri — the experience is even more impressive. Assistant will warn you about upcoming Calendar events, and changes to flights, and traffic up ahead.
While Apple has moved on to scanning faces, the Pixel 2 keeps the fingerprint scanner — still the fastest way to unlock a smartphone — on the back.
It might seem like a strange place at first, but it makes a lot of sense when you think about how people actually hold phones. Instead of pinching the bottom third of your phone while pushing your thumb over a button, you simply hold the phone as you would to use it — where your pointer finger naturally rests is where the fingerprint scanner is.
It's a brilliant design choice that I'm glad Google has stuck with through several iterations of its smartphones.
Are you the kind of person who barely uses headphones? Maybe you've got a Bluetooth stereo in your car, and a nice set of Bluetooth headphones for the gym?
This caveat does not apply to you. Lots of people are fine without a headphone jack, but I am not one of those people. I use headphones often, in a variety of different settings, and I need to be able to use whatever headphones are available.
I'm glad the Bluetooth support in Google's Pixel 2 is so good, and I happily use it. Sometimes, though, I just need to be able to use a quick set of earbuds. Could I use the dongle that Google included? Sure. Could I buy headphones with a USB-C port? Sure. But why?
That there is no good reason for Google to have removed the headphone jack from the Pixel frustrates me all the more. It's a needless blemish on an otherwise excellent phone.
Across the board, the Pixel 2 is an excellent, premium device that feels worth the price. It's a nice looking piece of tech that runs quickly and smoothly, takes gorgeous photos and video, and beats the competition in price. It's even got a smart design that makes it all the more endearing — it feels instantly personal.
I haven't mentioned the battery life yet, and that's because there isn't much to say. The Pixel 2 lasts through the day, but I've certainly found myself plugging it in by early evening once or twice — you'll get better battery life with the larger Pixel 2 XL model, but I've been using the standard model.
In almost every other way, the Pixel 2 is better than the competition.