When the original Pixel was announced last year, I was not impressed. Google had been selling phones for years under the Nexus program, even though technically the phones were manufactured by other companies. Nexuses were always praised for having strong software, but not always applauded for their hardware. Last year, Google’s Pixels were phones they designed from the ground up, and the first phones to be “Made by Google.” There were still similarities to the earlier Nexuses: the Pixel had great software, but did not have the most modern design.
Looking at the Pixel 2, I’m reminded of the Nexus 5x. And while I loved the Nexus 5x, it was not a modern looking phone. The Pixel 2 is 2 years newer and several hundred dollars more expensive, it should not look like the Nexus 5x. Sure, the Pixel 2 uses a glass and metal design like a lot of modern smartphones, but the bezels are very large on this phone. In addition, Google has applied a plastic coating over the metal frame, which hides the antenna lines but gives it a cheaper feeling as compared to an iPhone or a Galaxy. I don’t mind plastic phones, and this phone actually feels quite sturdy because of its plastic and metal, but it doesn’t quite feel like a $650 phone. This is actually a lot better implementation of a plastic coating over metal than the LG G5 in 2016.
The Pixel 2 has a great screen, even if it is a little small. The OLED panel is made by Samsung, meaning you won’t get most of the issues that reviewers have been pointing out on the Pixel 2 XL. The colors, contrast are all great to my eye. The screen itself is around 5″ across, which is smaller than almost every other flagship released last year. Only the iPhone 8 was smaller, and in many ways, it was not a flagship phone. While in most day to day usage I don’t notice the screen size, I do prefer having a larger screen for news, reading and media apps.
While I am known to not care much about cameras, as long as they cross a threshold of being good enough, the Pixel 2 breaks that mold. Before this phone, I was convinced that phone cameras had reached their peak and are only going to get incrementally better from now on. For Christmas, I went home to Colorado and saw my family. I was taking all of the pictures, and after I shared them with everybody, no one felt like they should take their own. I am not the type of person that usually takes pictures of everyone. But when you know that the picture is going to turn out great no matter what, it’s really easy to just pull the Pixel 2 out.
While I do not normally mention battery life, it’s pretty common to get subpar battery life with smaller phones. The Pixel 2 is a little bit of an exception. I usually can make it through a day quite comfortably with this phone, which considering the battery size is a testament to software. I typically clock about 4 to 4.5 hours screen on time. Unfortunately, I occasionally have gotten around 3.5 hours, which is not enough for me, considering I’m used to large phones that often get 5-7 hours.
There’s not much else to the Pixel 2, which makes me wonder. We’ve seen many phones this year that have pushed the limit on fitting a lot of internals in small spaces. The Galaxy S8 and the iPhone X have a lot of technology, but relatively small footprints. When you see the Pixel 2, you realize how large of a footprint it has for such a small screen. I wonder if there is any extra space inside. Teardowns on YouTube indicate there may be.
I was quite disappointed in the speed of the original Pixel’s fingerprint sensor, but the Pixel 2 does not disappoint. It is incredibly fast and accurate, and has the additional functionality of being able to swipe down to access the notification center.
Like many other manufacturers this year, Google has opted to remove the headphone jack. Other reviewers have pointed to both waterproofing and internal space as the reasoning behind the move. Samsung has been able to create small waterproof phones with headphone jacks, so I’m not so sure. After watching a few teardown videos on YouTube, I don’t think Google filled the Pixel 2 with as much as they could.
When the Pixel 2 was first announced, I advised people against it. The design looks very similar to the Nexus 5x released two years ago, which was then criticized for the size of its bezels. When you consider having this phone for two years, you may seriously regret your decision when the phones of 2020 all look like the iPhone X or the Galaxy S8. If you don’t care, and plan on spending over $600 on a phone, the Pixel 2 is a great choice.