Which of two great phones squeaks out a win over the long haul and delivers an upside surprise? Read on.
Note: this updates a previous review of the two phones.
I’ve been using the iPhone X, Google Pixel 2 XL, and Pixel 2 since the fall of 2017. In this short review I’ll focus on four metrics of the two flagships that impress over the long term.
To Notch Or Not:
That’s a little disappointing (if true) because I favor the Pixel 2 XL physical design over the iPhone X because Google executed a great design without the notch. (That said, I guess we’ll all have to get used to the notch because it’s fast becoming the design element du jour.)
Display — Let’s talk about the Pixel 2 XL:
Pixel 2 XL: I’ve had three builds of the Pixel 2 XL over the last seven months. Why? Because I didn’t like the initial OLED display (made by LG) on the XL: mostly because colors were muted. There was also a “blue shift,” i.e., a blue tint when viewed from an angle on white backgrounds. But the blue shift didn’t bother me as much since all OLED displays (including the iPhone X) have this to some degree.
My most recent build is January 25, 2018. That’s more than three months after it was released and at least four months since the early builds. The upshot: I have been pleasantly surprised with the fresh build. Maybe it’s a hit-or-miss thing but the display quality has definitely improved since the two early builds. The colors are no longer muted and the blue tint, while still there, isn’t glaring (though I can’t speak for others).
But, again, by far the most important thing is that the colors are deeper, more vibrant, i.e., it now looks like a high-quality OLED display (see notes at bottom¹).
iPhone X: Apple’s first iPhone with an OLED display (made by Samsung) is even better than the excellent LCD on the iPhone 8 (which I’ve also been using). That’s saying a lot. When looking at photos, the X’s OLED display is tuned so it’s not quite as garish as the saturated colors on Samsung’s Galaxy phones. In short, no complaints.
Apps: an even match. Granted, there are some exceptions (like video editing, which tends to favor the iPhone) but generally there’s parity between the two platforms. In fact, most apps are indistinguishable between iOS and Android.
AI: This isn’t breaking news but Google Assistant on the Pixel is superior to Apple’s Siri. I don’t use Google Assistant or Siri that much but if you do, go with the Pixel. Simple fact is, Google does AI better than Apple.
Integration with Mac: Apple is better at synching iOS features with the MacBook out of the box. That includes call features such as FaceTime calls. I also use a Pixelbook (made by Google) with the Pixel 2 XL but, aside from the obvious things like Chrome, Photos, Docs, and Calendar, there isn’t the deeper level of integration that iOS and the macOS have. This a big plus for Apple and I value this a lot. (And I would suggest that Google do a better job here.)
Apple has an amazing phone but loses this one because, starting at $999 with 64GB, it is about $100 too much. On the other hand, the Pixel 2 XL with 64GB and a considerably larger 6-inch OLED display (both taller and wider than the 5.8-inch on the X) starts at $849.
Other upsides: the Pixel 2 XL is the best pure, lag-free Android experience, doesn’t have a notch (unlike the iPhone X), has a gorgeous display (on the later builds), a camera that’s the iPhone X’s equal, and feels great in the hand for a big phone.
Platform preference aside, the Pixel 2 XL is a better value and boasts quality equal to the iPhone X — even considering the initial display problems. And has a gorgeous physical design sans the notch.
And one more thing: Biometrics. I’m not a big fan of the iPhone X’s Face ID because it requires you to hold the phone directly (more or less) in front of your face. I prefer the XL’s fingerprint ID on the back of the phone. But this is a personal preference thing so I may be in the minority here.
¹The colors appear much less muted even with “Saturated” toggled off (this is done in the “Display” settings under “Advanced”). I have chosen to keep Saturated turned on, which I did not do on the earlier builds because I thought it looked too artificial. That’s not the case now.