Google Pixel XL – Review – It’s pure Google and that’s exactly what they want – EFTM

Google Pixel XL – Review – It’s pure Google and that’s exactly what they want

It's good - even great, but would you want one over the big names already out there


Phone by Google – it says it on the billboards, it even says it on the back of the phone, the Pixel is an important move for Google who want to take a stronger role in the mobile space despite their dominance as the provider of the operating system to the majority of smartphones today. How does it stack up?


The fanfare around the launch of this phone was something new for Google, rather than a partnership with another company like LG or Huawei on previous Nexus phones.  They wanted to make the point they had designed this phone inside and out – that’s not to say they built a smartphone factory, they partnered with HTC to assist with the manufacturing, but it’s a whole new level of Google involvement from end to end.


Perhaps given the fanfare, and having used the Pixel XL (larger screen variant) for a while now, I should address the “10 things to know about Pixel” as touted by the Internet giant.


  1. Made to look good in your hands.
    • There is something different about this phone’s design.  While the colours (other than the blue which isn’t being made available in Australia) aren’t anything new, the phone is actually quite thick, yet the rounded edge isn’t as round as an iPhone which gives it a more comfortable feel in the hand, I’m not sure it “looks” any better or worse than any other smartphone.dsc05245
  2. The first phone with the Google Assistant built in
    • Google’s new “Assistant” is an advance in Artificial Intelligence from Google, their understanding of what we want, how we search for it and how we could use the “Ok Google” to simplify our lives.
    • There’s no doubt it’s a huge leap forward, and frankly puts Siri to shame.  Voice recognition is simply outstanding, I’ve used many such services and have been left wanting by their ability to recognise my words.  Speaking slowly to a phone is not what I want to do.  The voice recognition is so fast, you’ll not believe it – the recognition happens on the device not online as it works while in airplane mode.
    • My only issue with the assistant is her/its limited knowledge or understanding of the kind of inane things I want to know.  Yep, can tell me my first meeting, can help me with my day, but ask it What time the Formula One Grand Prix is this weekend and all I get is a link to  That’s an evolution thing, what I see here is the start of something very, very powerful.
  3. The highest rated smartphone camera, by DxOMark Mobile
    • Let me first address this with one observation.  DxOMark have done an analysis of the iPhone 7 – rated it an 86, the Pixel gets an 89.  The highest mobile ever tested.  One problem, for some reason there is no result for the iPhone 7 Plus which has been out for the exact same amount of time as the 7 – why?  I’ll call conspiracy here and suggest they are holding out on that to allow Pixel to “launch” as the best rated camera.  Expect the iPhone 7 Plus to equal or better it – in my view, but I could be wrong.
    • The camera is great, image stabilisation is excellent, low light performance is good, shutter speed is amazing and overall, very impressive.  Is it the best I’ve ever used?  Right up there.  Can the average Joe tell the difference?  Not often – these devices outperform one another in certain circumstances, so it’s a real much of a muchness situation.
    • That said, you won’t be disappointed in any way by the Pixel camera.
  4. Your stuff, unlimited
    • So smart.  Your iPhone is full?  Get a Google Pixel – all your photos in the cloud unlimited storage.    Apple has iCloud, but you have to pay for extra storage.  The only downside here is the data cost at some point – home or mobile, to do the uploads.
  5. One-tap video calling with Google Duo
    • Facetime – we all say it, it’s become the word for video calls, gosh that must frustrate Google.  Duo is their answer to that.  It’s great, awesome in fact – but everyone’s got to install it – Apple has Facetime in every iPhone, that’s Google’s problem.
  6. Unlock fast with Pixel Imprintdsc05262
    • Love it – works fast, setup is fast, and it’s a no press unlock – the one thing Apple has to get done as many others have.
  7. A battery that lasts all day, and charges fast
    • I’ll vouch for that.screenshot_20161016-000415
    • I’ve had many good solid days usage from this, never once worried about middle of the day charging, and my weekdays are 16 hours on the go.
    • Plus, the fast charging?  Normally you have to use a special power brick which has some fancy technology in it.  Nope, Google has some Wizardry in the Pixel that has me fast-charging and I mean fast, from a Belkin USB-C cable plugged into my standard USB Power point.  Very impressive.screenshot_20161014-220544
    • This is the most impressive smartphone battery I’ve seen.
  8. Dress your phone up in style
    • Ok look, they’re just trying to fill ten points now.  99% of people will buy this from a Telstra store and never know about any case or customisation options.  Points for trying though.
  9. Expert care from Google, no appointment needed
    • So what Google have done is incorporate a “Support” tab, they say there will be a chat where you can share your screen – but right now it’s just a PHONE link and they call you.
    • Certainly excellent, but hidden away a touch – if you really value the support service you’ve committed to, make an icon for “Help” on the home page.
  10. Switching to your new Pixel is simple
    • They wrote point 10 first.  Because they wanted to end on a high note.
    • [ Sound of a slow clap – strong loud slow clap ] 
    • My wholehearted congratulations to Google.  This is brilliant, nailed it.screenshot_20161013-225717
    • In the box is a small adaptor.  Plug that into your Pixel.  Then plug in your iPhone cable, and plug that into your iPhone.  Follow the on-screen instructions and Google Pixel will rip the heart out of your iPhone and insert it into Google Pixel like a needy Tinman from the Wizard of Oz.  And it works.screenshot_20161013-231235
    • Sure, not all my photos were copied – but that’s because it took all the ones on the iPhone itself, not the iCloud.  My SMS Messages were there, contacts, iMessage attachments, Music – i transferred 12 of an available 19 GB of “stuff” – and it just worked.

Keep that applause going folks, this is it – this is the first phone you might just want to try if you’re tired of the iPhone.  This process has been tried before and never worked as well – in fact Apple’s own transfer from Android isn’t in the same league as this.


So, best smartphone ever?

Nope.  It’s great – still a five star phone for sure, ticks a lot of boxes, for many people, all of them.

But Google is too full of their own brand that they think they can charge the EXACT SAME PRICE as Apple for a smartphone.  Sorry folks, nope.  You want someone to switch from Apple?  The DEAL needs to make sense.  Some, possibly Many will switch. But not enough to counter those concerned about Samsung who will go back to iPhone.

Google needs this to be a $799 phone, maybe stretch it to $899, it has to be $200 cheaper than the big two – that would be the best smartphone.


Looks, Performance, Features and usability – very important.  Price though? The critical thing.

Pixel goes on sale tomorrow at Telstra Stores (George St Sydney from 8am), or from JB HiFi.

Google Pixel XL
Date Published: 10/18/2016
Phone by Google, they really want you to know that, great camera, great performance, amazing battery life and huge advances in digital assistant technology
5 / 5 stars

Trevor produces two of the most popular technology podcasts in Australia, Your Tech Life and Two Blokes Talking Tech. He has a weekly radio show on 2UE, as well as appearances across the country and regularly provides Technology Commentary to Channel 9’s Today Show and A Current Affair. Father of three, he is often found down in his Man Cave. Like this post? Buy Trev a drink!
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