Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Google Pixel XL

I have always had a soft spot for Android phones. It caters to the inner geek in me, or if I have to be totally honest, the geek I used to be. Massively customizable, almost every aspect tweakable, and you can get to a command line prompt within a few seconds.

I always preferred Google's own interpretation of Android, through their Nexus line. The last Nexus device, the 6P made by Huawei, alongside the excellent 5X made by LG, were great devices.

But, their hardware was clearly from a 3rd party, and while Google had influence in the software, they only had heavy influence and not absolute control of what you held in your hands. With the Pixel range, Google clearly aims to change that. I am currently using an XL, which as it claims, is the bigger of two devices.

The hardware manufacturer is not highlighted, and this is first and foremost a Google device. What are the key differentiators from Nexus devices ? Frankly, little to nothing other than 24/7 support directly (ostensibly) from Google. No self-respecting Android user would go for Android support to anything other than xda forums. It is also the first phone to ship with the Google Assistant, which is theoretically a context-aware AI that is meant to be a personal assistant in your pocket.

My experience is that Google Assistant is good as a product for techies; I think its got a year or three before usage becomes even remotely mainstream. What is clear is that by adding it into a phone, and making it available in Google Home (which I have ordered and funnily enough is the first device that has my wife's attention i.e. she wants it), we should see the AI engine improving exponentially.

Its a good device; is it good enough to replace your Nexus ? No. Is it better than a Samsung ? Much harder question. I'd say the S7/S7 Edge only have the advantage due to waterproofing and SD card. But, because I don't store much on phones and am generally always well connected (and have lived without a water proof phone this long), its not a big swing for me. Getting software updates and releases first, is.