Google Pixel Phone -- is it as good as the reviews?
January 23, 2017 2:19 AM   Subscribe

I took a look at the smaller size Pixel at the Verizon store and it looks pretty simple, it's an Android, it's sleek and fits in my hand. It's also expensive. Can you comment/give me some tips about purchase and ease of use based on first-hand knowledge or cutting edge reviews?

Current phone: Samsung Galaxy S4 has needed the battery replaced twice, a factory reset, holds a charge for only 2 hours (no joke), I need to carry my "fast charger" with me at all times, and will only back up to the Verizon cloud if I am not at home. What a PIA.

Entire device heats up to the point that I cannot hold it in my hand, and I'm waiting for it to one day burst into flames -- and just today a warning came on that said the unit had "minimized functions to attempt to cool the device because it had become overheated."

While speaking to a Verizon rep the other day, I was told that I don't actually have to wait for my 2 year contract to "expire" on 3/29/17 -- if I want to just buy a phone outright, I can do so with no penalties and my cell service plan will rollover on 3/29 (I "own" my current phone now).

So is the Pixel past the Beta stage? Is it reliable and easy to use?

I use my phone for texting, for occasional calls, no streaming, if I had the battery life I'd read books again, maybe I'd try a game or two and perhaps I'd use the camera occasionally.

I need the following apps:
Google Calendar - syncs with computer
Inkpad - a necessity (holds all medical data; the free version)
Clock - alarm - free
Calculator - simple math - free
Tip Calculator - free

So ... nothing fancy. I don't stream, I don't use Google maps because I don't drive.

Maybe there are apps I could appreciate if I had a phone that worked?

Thoughts appreciated.
posted by alwayson_slightlyoff to Technology (17 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I'm reading and writing this on my Pixel right now. I love it. It's fast, light and thin, charges fast, doesn't get too hot.
posted by limeonaire at 2:35 AM on January 23, 2017

I'd strongly suggest taking a look at a OnePlus 3 (or the newer 3T) before you commit. Some of the features are a little better than the Pixel's. Some are a little worse. Overall, most reviewers say that the Pixel is every-so-slightly better. But the OnePlus is half the price. It's also just been updated to Nougat.

I'm very happy with mine after 6 months of use. Having previously had Google phones, I like the almost-vanilla Android version the OnePlus uses (OxygenOS). The tweaks are small, and almost all for the better.
posted by pipeski at 3:03 AM on January 23, 2017 [4 favorites]

I have Oneplus 1 that's still going strong and based on my experience with it, I'll be buying another Oneplus when it dies. I'd buy the 3T without hesitation. I checked out the Pixel, and it looks like a very impressive phone, but I think the Oneplus 3T is the better choice based on price and nearly identical specs.

You have to buy Oneplus phones through them and through their website. The lack of brick and mortar/carrier relationships is one of the ways they keep their cost so low. But, I've found that despite this, they're very responsive when it comes to customer service and repair. I recently had to get my phone repaired (damage I caused by being careless) and even though my phone is far out of warrantee, I got very fast service and an excellent repair for a very, very fair price.
posted by quince at 3:26 AM on January 23, 2017

I moved to the Pixel as soon as it became available, and I haven't looked back. It's fast, battery life is terrific, and I really like the fact that it's current with Android updates. It's seems to have a really good WiFi antenna, as I can get WiFi signals wherever I am.

It's a bit larger than I'd have preferred, but I've gotten used to the size, and am quite happy with it, even though, yes it was an expensive phone.
posted by jasper411 at 3:42 AM on January 23, 2017

People on the podcasts I listen to LOVE the Pixel. I can't speak from firsthand info, but it is definitely "past the beta stage."

It may be more phone than you need, however, especially if you don't plan to use the camera. But keep in mind that the camera is really good, so you may end up taking more pics with it than you expect based on your S4 experience.
posted by dondiego87 at 3:58 AM on January 23, 2017

My partner has a Pixel and loves it. It's only a few months old and the battery's barely half-drawn down by the end of the day. The resolution and the camera itself are strikingly good, too; I think images taken with it are noticeably better than the iPhone.

That said, he's much more of a power user than you seem to be. Is there any reason you don't get, say, a Nexus 5 or 5X? The 5, which I have, was $300 new direct from Google two years ago, and can be purchased used for under $100 now. I think it's an excellent phone, though mine's a bit laggy from being dropped so many times or perhaps the natural aging process of technology. It (and all the Google phones, including the Pixel) comes unlocked, so if you ever wanted to leave Verizon you wouldn't have to worry about not being able to take your phone with you (and if you ever travel internationally, it's handy to buy a $10 sim card at the airport and be able to access maps and data instantly).
posted by tapir-whorf at 4:01 AM on January 23, 2017

My husband has a Pixel and loves it. I briefly tried a Nexus 5 and loved the experience of using it but it was just too big to get used to. I also upgraded from a Samsung S4 (mini) so I think going to a Nexus would give you the kind of upgrade you want without breaking the bank.

OTOH, if you don't upgrade often it might be worth getting the newest of the new and being set for a bit longer. The Pixel is out of beta and worth it if you upgrade infrequently.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 4:41 AM on January 23, 2017

I bought a Pixel for the camera, which is magnificent. It's a slick phone otherwise, but honestly my Android needs are modest and a lesser phone would have suited me just fine. But oh, that camera.

I'm a little disappointed with the battery life, but it charges fast, so whatever. I didn't expect to care about the fingerprint login feature (my old phone didn't have this and I survived), but I really like it.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 5:00 AM on January 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

I love my Pixel (and I loved my the Nexus 5 I had previously, too, so I'm not surprised). The battery life and fast charging is great. Since nobody has mentioned it yet, I switched to Project Fi and it's been great. This month's phone bill should be less than $35 and I even spent a week abroad! Fi's data is charged same internationally. The phone was a bit expensive, but my phone bill savings will make up for it. Another idea is to look at the Nexus 5X - it's considerably cheaper but still should be a solid phone.
posted by beyond_pink at 5:38 AM on January 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have both a Pixel and a OnePlus One. Love them both. My Pixel is for an organization I volunteer with and my OnePlus is my daily driver. If you are willing to give up your privacy and use all the location functions, etc with the Pixel, it is a great phone. I have the smaller version and really like it a lot. I would get another but for the cost. I also love my OnePlus. When getting another phone for myself, I would get a OnePlus over the Pixel simply because of the cost. Their features are similar. You are using it for light usage as far as I can tell.

I also add that if you buy your own phone, you do not need a contract with Verizon or anyone. No need to lock in for two years.

(Also, my phone prior to my OnePlus was a Galaxy S4. I used it a lot and really liked it. One can purchase batteries online for about $15 that work well. I loved the S4 bc I could swap out batteries on the fly. If your only issue is the battery is crappy, buy a new battery. That phone lasted for a long time until I soft bricked it into a boot loop at the Verizon logo. I just did not want to spend the time to fix it when I could buy the OnePlus.)
posted by AugustWest at 6:18 AM on January 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

another pixel user here (Pixel XL, 32gb). it's expensive but it takes great photos (especially compared to my previous phone, a 2014 Moto X). battery life is great and it charges super-fast with the included charger.
posted by noloveforned at 6:30 AM on January 23, 2017

I'm a happy oneplus user too. But note that you will have to move to a gsm carrier for it.
Also oneplus has virtually no customer service. I cracked my screen yesterday and the only practical solution is for me to order a replacement online and take it to an independent shop.
I had a volume problem and I had to read forums to fix it myself.

This is fine for me but I wouldn't recommend a oneplus for someone that needs extra help.
posted by k8t at 7:12 AM on January 23, 2017

Yet another happy Pixel user here. Definitely the best Android phone I've ever owned (and I've owned... 7 I think?). Very competitive with my wife's Galaxy S 7 Edge, a great camera and I generally get great battery life (although compared to my previous Nexus 5X that's not saying much). All the apps you list work like a dream on my phone.
posted by GuyZero at 7:36 AM on January 23, 2017

I came back to add that the Pixel size, mentioned as a plus by the asker, is definitely smaller than the OnePlus. That size, is consistent with the S4, a little longer, and, to me, is a huge positive. The larger phones are great, but they are materially large and don't fit in everyone's hand so easily.

Also, k8t brings up a great point. I have had to flash/re-flash my ROM several times on my OnePlus which is fine if it is fine, but not everyone is up for having to make a lot of the changes themselves. If you are planning on rooting your phone, don't buy the Pixel from Verizon, buy in from Google and use it on Verizon as the Vz version's bootloader does not (easily) unlock. There are work arounds on XDA, but not easy.
posted by AugustWest at 8:39 AM on January 23, 2017

You can get a new, unlocked nexus 5x for less than half the price of the pixel on eBay. It's the pixel's predecessor and is still more than capable of handling the type of things you'll throw at it for several years. Highly recommended.
posted by chrisamiller at 9:47 PM on January 23, 2017

Do not get the Nexus 5X. It has significant thermal issues, generally runs much slower than the theoretical specs and gets terrible battery life AND has had widespread bootlooping issues.
posted by GuyZero at 10:45 AM on January 24, 2017

You guys are great, as always. The only time I feel like an "old" is when I ask a tech question and
have to google things like "rooting" or "bootloader" but that's okay -- I learn!

I would have gone for the Pixel, but a friend found out what I was up to and showed up with an
iPhone 5 and insisted I take it for free. I'm not really happy about it or with it, had a hell of a time
at the Verizon store trying to upgrade to version 10.2 (finally had to take it home and finish it myself,
wasn't that fun?) And discovered that they lost my text messages and can't transfer Inkpad to this OR Pixel
(despite promises) so there go all my medical notes.

I will try to make this work, if not ... back to your suggestions. :)
posted by alwayson_slightlyoff at 9:37 PM on February 6, 2017

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