Since 2011 I’ve been a loyal iPhone/iOS user, but early this year, amidst the iOS throttling scandal, I decided to take a chance on an old friend—Google’s Android OS. The second edition of Google’s flagship Pixel device is an intriguing new contender, offering a streamlined version of Google’s Android OS and access to subsequent software updates well before Samsung (who has long dominated the Android device market share) and other popular Android devices.
While most Android device manufactures add their own gimmicky personal touches to the open-source mobile OS, the Pixel presents a bloat-free experience bringing us Android in its purest form. Equipped with the latest Android software and arguably the best smartphone camera on the market, the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2XL have quickly shot up the Android popularity charts. But how well does it hold up against its most obvious foe—the iPhone?
Pixel 2 suffers from scrolling lag
For long-time iPhone loyalists like myself, any Android device a hard sell. The first thing many iOS users will notice about the Pixel 2 is a slight lag when scrolling through pages or news feeds. While some Android devices have closed the gap on this front (the Samsung Galaxy S9 seems to have resolved this issue altogether) the Pixel 2 doesn’t quite match the precision and speed of the iPhone’s scrolling and viewport control.
This may seem like a negligible difference, but in continuous scrolling apps like Instagram or Facebook, the delay is obvious. While the iPhone is able to scroll and stop on a dime, the Pixel 2 suffers from a slight delay as the user attempts to stop the feed from scrolling, taking them past their desired stopping point. With a small timing adjustment, I was able to adequately compensate for the lag, but for some iPhone enthusiasts this distinction alone is enough reason to reject any new device running an unfamiliar operating system.
Android is built for multi-tasking
One area that Android consistently excels over iOS is in multitasking. When I left Android for iOS back in 2011, the absence of the notification bar took some time to get over but soon Apple added their own version of this feature to iOS, which sufficed for a while. One of the main distinctions between Android and iOS notification is that the former organizes by application, while the latter is purely chronological. Initially, iOS afforded users the option to sort by app or by date but for some reason this option was removed in later releases leaving Android as the clear-cut winner in this category.
The Oreo-equipped Pixel 2 continues this winning trend with some awesome new enhancements to the notifications bar and split screen capabilities. One small yet powerful enhancement is the ability to access notifications by swiping the fingerprint scanner on the back of the device. Oreo also introduces a notification snooze option so that users can dismiss notifications until a later time.
But my favorite new multitasking feature is the picture-in picture capability. Not only can you keep YouTube or Netflix videos tucked in the corner while using other apps, but you can also do this with Google Maps. Say, for instance, you are exploring an unfamiliar location and taking photos—your mapped route remains visible on screen while you snap away.
The Pixel 2 also adapts the “Always-On Display” from other Android devices. This allows the device to display date, time, and notification info even in sleep mode while using minimal battery power. This smart feature even senses when your phone is in your pocket to turn itself off for maximum battery efficiency. One of the coolest parts of this feature, specific to the Pixel 2, is the “Now Playing” music recognition software. When enabled, your device will display the artist and title of any song playing in the background with the option to download from the Google Play Music store. The feature even works when your device is offline.
Google Assistant vs. Siri
While Siri and Google Assistant are both great for completing tasks like emails, texting and reminders with voice commands, Google has made a push forward by integrating with more third-party apps. One advantage I quickly discovered was with Spotify. Not only could I tell Google Assistant to play specific artists or tracks, I could ask it to play music based on a mood or time period with commands like, “Play something mellow,” or “Play 90s rap.” In each case it would find a suitable playlist within the Spotify database. In one extreme test scenario I asked Google to “Play something sexy.” It responded by queuing up Ginuwine’s “Pony”.
In an effort to encourage even more interaction with Google Assistant, the Pixel 2 introduces the Active Edge feature. With this, users can activate Assistant (or other applications) by simply squeezing the device. Combined with Google’s accessibility to many third-party apps, I find myself talking to the Assistant far more than I ever spoke to Siri.
So far I have really enjoyed getting reacquainted with Android and all of the new features of the Pixel 2 and Oreo. It has become my everyday carrier-connected device but I do still find myself reaching for my WiFi-connected iPhone 6S when using certain apps and games or performing certain tasks. At the end of the day the choice between Android and iOS is all about personal preferences. My decision to switch was based on curiosity and the desire for something new and while I do still prefer iOS for some things, the Pixel 2 certainly hasn’t disappointed.