Google Pixel 2 XL Review — Return to the Android throne?


Software — the crowning jewel of the Pixel series. Sure, they may be the best in whatever other region, but this is where they stand out head and shoulders above the rest.

The best part about it, of course, is stock Android. Somehow, the Pixel 2 XL manages to be quicker than my first gen XL, which is no small feat for it too was the speediest phone around when it launched.

Because this is stock Android, not present are pre-loaded, and uninstallable apps such as Microsoft Office Mobile, or Amazon, which serve little to no use, or are simply unneeded duplicates of apps already included with Android (e.g. Calendar, Chrome/’Internet’).

What this does is free up a significant amount of storage on your device, and keeps it running much smoother than devices which have such applications installed. Sure, some can be disabled, but they’re not completely gone. Worse still, some apps don’t even allow themselves to be disabled and/or update themselves whether you like it or not, consuming even more storage.

The 2 XL, down from the fingerprint sensor registration, to simply its swipes from left to right is buttery smooth to an extent that not one other phone can match (except Google’s own Pixel 2). Forget Samsung, LG, or even Apple. The 2 XL’s speed needs to be experienced to be believed.

Given that Google is in direct control of stock Android, it follows that it will be first to receive the updates before other manufacturers get their grubby hands on it. The situation is similar to Apple, where iOS updates are released immediately to users because there are no carriers or third-party OEMs to get in the way to install their own apps and UIs, which also contribute to bloat (as said above).

Also present with the 2 XL is Google Assistant, which now can understand a little bit of Singlish. No need to set your language to English (US) to get it to work! However, while the change is appreciated, it’s not much more than a gimmick for it still struggles with the heavy Singlish accents as well as words like lah and lor.

Newly added with this device is also an always-listening mode that pretty much renders Shazam obsolete. If activated, it will display an unobtrusive notification in the top bar (if the device is active), or on the always-on display lockscreen that identifies the song playing. It is so accurate that it can even recognise sonatas written for the piano. However, it does only reference from a list of major and popular artists, so there is a chance your underground artists may not get some love.

Furthermore, anyone who purchases a Pixel 2 XL and uses their Google account on it for Photos, gets absolutely free, unlimited full-resolution photo/video backup until October 2021. No matter if the video is in 4K or 360p, there is absolutely zero compression if backed up in the Photos app on the 2 XL.

Finally, being a HTC-manufactured device, the 2 XL also gets the edge-squeeze functionality we saw on the U11. Squeezing the phone’s bottom half edges will result in the launch of Google Assistant, but for someone who’s an avid user of the OK Google voice command, this was hardly ever used. Furthermore, the fact that the button is non-reprogrammable and slaved to launching Assistant was a big disappointment given that HTC’s U11 allows you to do quite a bit more with the squeeze.

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