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Google Pixel XL - Thoughts & First Impressions / Ongoing Thread - *IMAGE HEAVY*

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hokiealumnus

Water Cooled Moderator
Joined
Oct 14, 2007
Google Pixel XL - Thoughts & First Impressions / Ongoing Thread - *IMAGE HEAVY*

Finally, after almost two months (ordered 12/20, received 2/14), I have received my back-ordered Google Pixel XL. I will try to keep this thread up to date with my exploits, much like I did with the thread for my dearly departed G3.

pixelxl-01.jpg



First impression is that it was totally worth the wait. The phone is a bit large for my tastes, mostly owing to its very large bezels, but it has grown on me in the just-under-24-hours that I've had it. Width it's fine; maybe just a hair wider than my G3, but it's super tall because of those bezels.

pixelxl-03.jpg


The back is definitely an acquired taste. Because of my wait, I had read every review and watched every relveant video and had already gotten used to it. But if you're not familiar with the phone, that upper glass portion seems odd.

pixelxl-04.jpg


However, a big part of what drew me to this phone is that there is -no- camera hump, unlike most other phones on the market. The fingerprint sensor is slightly recessed and everything else (sensors, flash, camera) are tucked under the glass so the back is nice and flat.

pixelxl-06.jpg


At the bottom of the phone resides the speaker (just one, despite there being two holes for the sake of symmetry) and the USB-C port. USB-C is great because the plugs are reversible...no more fiddling with which way to plug it in! There are other reasons USB-C is good, but none more practical than that.

pixelxl-05.jpg


You'll also note the only branding on the phone - a Google "G". I'm also very happy that Google didn't choose to ditch the headphone jack on this phone, which isn't pictured here. It resides on the top, on the side opposite the camera lens.

As far as accessories go, you are provided with a wall charger and cable, plus a USB-A to USB-C (male to male) cable for transferring data from computers without USB-C, a very handy inclusion. They also supply a USB-C to USB-A (male to female) adapter.

pixelxl-02.jpg


Other first impressions - The phone with its 4GB of RAM and Snapdragon 821 processor is blazing fast and buttery smooth. The AMOLED screen is amazing too, especially coming from the LCD of my old phone. Colors just pop. The camera is just as fast as the processing - it pulls up near instantly and photos are taken extremely quickly. I haven't personally had a chance to use the camera much due to weather here, but it is universally prasied as one of the best in a phone on the market, which was one of the biggest draws when ordering this.

The next post will go into the accessories I got for it!
 
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hokiealumnus

hokiealumnus

Water Cooled Moderator
Joined
Oct 14, 2007
Part of the reason I -had- to wait on the phone this long was because I ordered the accessories the same day I ordered the phone, so I couldn't cancel to get another one, even if I wanted to, becuase I'd have wasted money on accessories.

I got two cases - one to show off the beautiful design (IMHO) of the phone itself, and one with a bit of extra protection. The former is the Nillken Nature. It is insanely thin, at just .6mm thick. Its main purpose is to protect from scratches, because if you drop it with this case, you may as well be dropping the phone itself.

pixelxl-07.jpg


For real, it's like there's nothing on the phone at all, but it keeps me from scratching it up...win win!

pixelxl-08.jpg



pixelxl-09.jpg


You can order these on Ebay, but they won't come fast. Mine took almost exactly a month to get here from China.

The other case, a Tudia Arch matte blue case, is much more practical. It's not an Otterbox, and probably won't protect from five foot drops onto concrete, but it will do a lot more to protect the phone than the Nillken will.


pixelxl-10.jpg



pixelxl-11.jpg



I also can't trust myself with screens, so a screen protector is a must. I ordered two different ones - Yootech tempered glass and an Armorsuit wet-apply cover. I ordered both because I wasn't sure how I would like the fact the glass just covers the screen due to the edgest of the glass being curved, despite looking quite flat at first glance. Tempered glass is always my preferred screen protector, but it's nice to have the other in case this doesn't work out.

pixelxl-12.jpg


pixelxl-13.jpg


The tempered glass seems just fine, and it's not an annoyance to me for it to stop right at the edge of the screen. I'm quite pleased with it, with the exception of a very small portion on the right that isn't adhering to the screen. It's not noticeable unless I'm looking right at it, and if it does become too annoying or get worse, they do ship two protectors. I'll definitely keep this thread in the loop about that.

pixelxl-14.jpg


I also got two two-packs of Tronsmart Micro-USB to USB-C adapters, which were reviewed and approved by Benson Leung, who is a Google engineer that enjoys reviewing USB-C cables/adapters/accessories and calling out shoddy workmanship. If you ever need any USB-C accessories outside the OEM, make sure he reviewed it positively first.

Now, on to software customization, and important notes for anyone considering the Pixel / Pixel XL!
 
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hokiealumnus

hokiealumnus

Water Cooled Moderator
Joined
Oct 14, 2007
The first thing to know is that both the Pixel and the Pixel XL require an unlocked bootloader to flash anything, to include root (SuperSU is the only current method), TWRP, and/or custom ROMs. Only one version of Android can be unlocked on Verizon-supplied phones - Android 7.1, build # NDE63P!. That's because they patched the exploit to unlock it in the first update for the phone, which updated to 7.1.1 and was released in November. Thankfully the shipping build three months later, in what I like to tell myself is a Google nod to the development community, is still 7.1. As long as you don't update, you can unlock your bootloadrer.

Unlocking the bootloader does not preclude being able to update. After you do so, you're free to update and remain completely stock if you want. Unlocking just gives you the -ability- to flash things, but you don't have to. However, if you update without unlocking, right now it appears the chances of you ever unlocking the phone are slim to zero.

Therefore, if you get one of these from big red, pull out your SIM before powereing on and do not connect to WiFi for set up!.

Unlocking your bootloader is super easy. First you must have the latest Android USB drivers. The easiest way to do that is to download & install the Android SDK toolkit and install them from there. After you have that, you need adb & fastboot, which can be gotten via the toolkit or independently. As long as your drivers are up to date, adb & fastboot should work fine. ownload dePixel8 from here and follow the instructions. The instructions consist of four commands and one confirmation on the phone itself. It's totally easy.

Once you unlock, you are unlocked forever unless you manually re-lock the bootloader. After it's unlocked, boot back up into the OS, put your SIM back in, sign on to WiFi, set up your phone and feel free to take whatever updates they push. The only drawback is a nag screen when you reboot/turn on your phone asking you to re-lock it. Um...no, Verizon, I want to do with my phone as I please, thankyouverymuch.

DISCLAIMER: DO NOT RE-LOCK THE BOOTLOADER UNLESS YOUR PHONE IS COMPLETELY STOCK, YOU WILL BRICK YOUR PHONE.

I haven't decided if/when I'm going to put a custom ROM on here. I mean, I'm actually a maintainer for several devices and am a builder on the crDroid team, so I guess I should just add the Pixel/Pixel XL as devices I maintain. But the stock Android experience of a Google phone is so nice, I'm not sure I want to yet. The itch will get to be too much I'm quite sure, but for right now (heh, less than a day in), I'm satisfied with stock.

That's all I've got so far. Questions, comments, concerns & discussion are always welcome!
 

Soulcatcher668

Member
Joined
Jan 2, 2012
I must admit, I am a little grumpy about the PIXEL. They killed off the NEXUS line which was an amazing phone for the money and jumped straight to the $1000+ bracket.

Do you feel like this phone justifies it's price?

How many users actually need a phone of this caliber? I bet you could take away 95% of the populations cell phones, give them an old Moto G with an iPhone 7s sticker and they would never know the difference.


On the other hand hokiealumnus, that's a damn nice phone and I am jealous. :drool:
 

Janus67

Benching Team Leader
Joined
May 29, 2005
Have had my Pixel XL 128gb (Black) since early January. Overall it is a wonderful phone. Very smooth, good battery life, excellent camera, etc. The only issue I've had is that my cell signal seems to be mediocre compared to my old galaxy s5. My phone keeps switching to wifi calling because it goes down to 0 bars.
 

Robert17

Premium Member
Joined
Feb 1, 2011
Not understanding mobile phones very much......does it come with a large load of bloatware? I'm guessing, Verizon (or any carrier for that matter) put their own version of maps, office productivity, search engines, etc. and that's the reason to root it?
 
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hokiealumnus

hokiealumnus

Water Cooled Moderator
Joined
Oct 14, 2007
I must admit, I am a little grumpy about the PIXEL. They killed off the NEXUS line which was an amazing phone for the money and jumped straight to the $1000+ bracket.
Totally agree there.
Do you feel like this phone justifies it's price?
At retail, with no carrier subsidy or discount? Probably not, but it's not far off considering it's an impressively powerful computer you carry around in your pocket, with a camera attached that's better than most point & shoot cameras on the market to boot. Really I don't think any phone justifies its retail price, but the reason for that feeling is simple - carriers got me used to paying $200 for the latest and greatest and just using their services for an agreed upon two years. Also, I don't have a grand to drop on a phone straight up.

So, the real question is do I think it's worth what I'm paying for it. That answer is absolutely. In December, big red was running a promo, and in part it led to the back-ordered nightmare you see now. They offered the Pixel XL 128GB for $20/month for two years. That's only $480 for this phone, and is a heck of a deal.

I'm used to two year contract phones, for which you pay $200 up front + $40/month for the phone on the line. On device plans, the cost for having a phone on the line is $20. Therefore, $20 + $20 = $40, and my bill remains just as it was, with no change at all...I just have to use this Pixel XL for two years like I would have anyway.

Worth that? Without a doubt in the least. Worth paying cash for one? That's a very bitter pill to swallow, and I don't think I would do so. If I absolutely had to buy a device outright, I'd probably get a Nexus 5x, which can be had for great prices right now. However, there are plenty of people that do think so, considering neither Verizon nor Google can keep the things in stock at all.

How many users actually need a phone of this caliber? I bet you could take away 95% of the populations cell phones, give them an old Moto G with an iPhone 7s sticker and they would never know the difference.
Very few. Truth be told, my G3 was fast enough to do everything I needed it to do right up until it died.

That said, there are things it couldn't do well. Battery life wasn't all that great, and VR was just poor. Considering VR is the future, and that big red is going to send me a free Daydream View for having to wait so long, maybe more users would want a phone of this caliber than I would normally think.

Almost nobody needs a phone of this caliber, really and truly, but that doesn't mean nobody wants it, and when that deal popped up, it was just too good to resist. I wouldn't have one today if that deal wasn't there. I'd have gotten whatever was available to keep my bill the same when my G3 died. It was just dumb luck that Verizon ran this deal when my contract was up and I could actually get the phone I wanted with zero compromises. :attn:
 

Janus67

Benching Team Leader
Joined
May 29, 2005
Not understanding mobile phones very much......does it come with a large load of bloatware? I'm guessing, Verizon (or any carrier for that matter) put their own version of maps, office productivity, search engines, etc. and that's the reason to root it?

The pixel comes with 0 bloatware if purchased directly from Google/Play Store. If you buy it from Verizon it comes with a few pieces of Verizon software that are easily uninstalled.

To backup what Hokie said on worth the price. Similar to him, I signed up for a deal with Verizon where I am paying $25/mo for the phone, but traded in a LG G4 that I got for free with some rebates and was unused, the trade in valued at $26 and change per month. Thus they are effectively paying me $1.25/mo to have the phone. I would not have dropped $1000 out of my pocket for the phone without the aforementioned deal. It's a great phone and the camera is quite excellent compared to my old phone (which I still keep around for a baby monitor, backup, etc), but unless I needed a new phone and was going to be reselling phones to cover most of the cost it would be hard to have enough reason to drop this much on any phone.
 
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hokiealumnus

hokiealumnus

Water Cooled Moderator
Joined
Oct 14, 2007
Not understanding mobile phones very much......does it come with a large load of bloatware? I'm guessing, Verizon (or any carrier for that matter) put their own version of maps, office productivity, search engines, etc. and that's the reason to root it?

No, actually; there is almost no bloat on this phone from the start, which is a rarity with any Verizon phone. There are just a couple of Verizon apps. An added bonus to the Pixels is that Verizon has no control over that, other than to have their apps included in shipped phones. Every single app you want can be uninstalled, unlike Samsung, LG or even HTC phones where their bloat is on there for good and the best you can hope for is that you can disable it. This phone is essentially not beholden to Verizon.

As far as why root, I enjoy it. You get full access to do what you will on your phone, but the amount of times I actually need to use root access on my phones is pretty small. You can also install custom operating systems that introduce a lot of features you wouldn't otherwise have. For instance, the "night time" mode (when the OS reduces the amount of blue put out from the display) on the Pixel is quite strong, too strong IMHO. With crDroid, you can adjust how strong you want the effect to be, rather than it being stuck on one value.

There are a huge number of other tweaks that can be introduced too. Want your statusbar clock centered? You can do that. How about get rid of the alarm icon on your status bar, because you know darn well there's an alarm set and don't need it up there reminding you all the time? You can do that. How about installing audio software such as Viper4Android to give you better sound? You can do that.

There are lots of reasons to root/use custom OS'es. Like having a phone at all, it's not necessary for the basic phone to function perfectly well. It just lets you take your device and make it your own more so than you could, say, with a locked down iOS.
 

Pinky

Member
Joined
Apr 21, 2001
Location
Narf City, USA
IMO the one hidden cost is the accident insurance until the phone's replacement cost (used) is less than the cost of continuing to pay for the insurance for the remainder of the contract plus deductible. That time comes roughly early/midway into the second year, so until then it's another $9 /month. You can roll the dice without it, I'm just not much of a gambler.
 
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hokiealumnus

hokiealumnus

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Joined
Oct 14, 2007
IMO the one hidden cost is the accident insurance until the phone's replacement cost (used) is less than the cost of continuing to pay for the insurance for the remainder of the contract plus deductible. That time comes roughly early/midway into the second year, so until then it's another $9 /month. You can roll the dice without it, I'm just not much of a gambler.

I actually decided to go with Upsie, rather than a payment plan. Financially it's a much more feasible purchase - two years' coverage, $80 total plus $75 deductible vs. Verizon $240 ($10/mo for two years) and a $150 deductible. Plus, if you use the promo code at Upsie "ANDROIDPOLICE", you get 10% off and it's only $72 for the two years.

I've paid for and never used the carrier-provided expensive insurance before, but for this phone I'd rather have the peace of mind some sort of insurance provides.
 

Pinky

Member
Joined
Apr 21, 2001
Location
Narf City, USA
I actually decided to go with Upsie, rather than a payment plan. Financially it's a much more feasible purchase - two years' coverage, $80 total plus $75 deductible vs. Verizon $240 ($10/mo for two years) and a $150 deductible. Plus, if you use the promo code at Upsie "ANDROIDPOLICE", you get 10% off and it's only $72 for the two years.

I've paid for and never used the carrier-provided expensive insurance before, but for this phone I'd rather have the peace of mind some sort of insurance provides.

Nice tip, unfortunately I've had mine longer than 45 days.

I also hadn't read the deductible went up... that at least changes the bail date to being a bit sooner, it's unlikely my phone will be worth more than $150 + whatever I can get one used after a year. Assuming I don't have a break, that actually saves me money as I can afford/justify ditching the insruance sooner.
 
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hokiealumnus

hokiealumnus

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Joined
Oct 14, 2007
Well, I almost made it a whole week on stock, which is pretty solid for me; but I have now caved.

TWRP installation is very straightforward. It's amazing what an actual, honest-to-god, unlocked bootloader can do to make life sooooo much easier. All you have to do is download the TWRP image and the TWRP zip. You boot to the image via fastboot, then from the booted image, install TWRP via the zip file. Do not install the image! It will only install on one of the two ROM slots and cause you to have to restore to bone stock, wiping everything. Download links and instructions are in this linked thread.

After that it was a simple matter of flashing a ROM as normal, with the added step of flashing the vendor image, which is apparently a thing you have to do on Nexus (and now Pixel) devices. The ROM I picked was Pure Nexus by BeansTown106, whose ROMs I used happily back on my old Galaxy S3 years ago. It's a stellar ROM, but is missing the one feature I wanted most - to be able to turn down the vibration strength. Such is life though, and everything else about it is wonderful. It hasn't even had a chance to settle in yet and my battery is sitting pretty at 2 hours, 3 minutes of screen-on-time (SoT) with 67% of the battery left. That's on par to hit over six hours total. :thup:
 
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hokiealumnus

hokiealumnus

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Oct 14, 2007
I haven't mentioned it on here really, but I now build for a ROM team - crDroid (our Google+ page) Well, after a little rigmarole, my ROM's team and I have finally gotten a beta build of crDroid up for the Pixel XL! I tested it extensively; there are known issues, which are all listed in the ROM's thread. If anyone is interested, feel free to go check out the thread on XDA. I will most likely be running crDroid from here out, apart from testing others' ROMs for fun.

The best part about the Pixels is that they are -Google- phones, so there isn't some super secret, closed-source driver that makes the camera work like it should like...oh...any other manufacturer out there. Meaning, you don't have to run a 'stock-based' ROM to get the good camera, and give up decent camera quality to run AOSP/LOS-based ROMs. For those purposes, every ROM is 'stock' on a Google phone. :p
 

Janus67

Benching Team Leader
Joined
May 29, 2005
That's good to know about other ROMs, I had been holding off on even considering running any other ROMs other than the stock Pixel one because of the camera driver issues I had with my old Samsung phones/
 
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hokiealumnus

hokiealumnus

Water Cooled Moderator
Joined
Oct 14, 2007
That's good to know about other ROMs, I had been holding off on even considering running any other ROMs other than the stock Pixel one because of the camera driver issues I had with my old Samsung phones/

Photo quality is identical, however on my ROM there is a bug where the Google camera app crashes after recording the first video (it's in the Known Issues section). The built-in LineageOS camera works fine for video. It's something we're working on. This is a first release beta after all. :)
 

R_Pierce

Member
Joined
Feb 4, 2017
Location
Marion, IA
I ALMOST sprung for a Pixel, coming from a Nexus 6P. Decided to purchase a Oneplus 3T instead, and cant say I regret it! Stunning phone.
 
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hokiealumnus

hokiealumnus

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Joined
Oct 14, 2007
I ALMOST sprung for a Pixel, coming from a Nexus 6P. Decided to purchase a Oneplus 3T instead, and cant say I regret it! Stunning phone.

I've heard nothing but great things about the OnePlus 3T; great choice! Unfortunately it was just not an option for me because they don't work on Verizon.
 

R_Pierce

Member
Joined
Feb 4, 2017
Location
Marion, IA
Oh, for sure! I'm a smart phone junky myself. I see many complain of the camera (of course comparing it to the pixel) but I can't tell a smidge of difference between my 6P camera and the rear camera on the OP3T. But regardless. I'll be following along to see how you rate :)