Google’s Pixel 2 Is the Best Android Phone

The good: Clean interface, great camera, long battery life.
The bad: Underwhelming screen, no facial recognition or iris scanning, not much that makes it stand apart from Samsung and Apple.
Who should buy: Any Android fan that values clean software and camera quality, particularly those looking for something beyond what Samsung’s offering.

When Google unveiled its first Pixel smartphone last year, it felt like a giant leap for a company better known for its software and search engine than its gadgets. Google’s message was clear: Apple and Samsung aren’t the only tech giants capable of making high-quality gadgets. That remains the case with the company’s impressive new Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones.

Both of the new Pixels take what already worked and complement with admirable new features. The larger Pixel 2 XL includes a nearly borderless screen that dominates the phone’s face: a design approach Samsung, Apple, LG and Essential staked out first. Like other recent phones, the new Pixels have adopted basic water resistance. And the camera boasts some fancy new features, like the ability to capture a few seconds of footage around a still photo to create images that move, and a new Portrait Mode for delivering bokeh effects.

Sound familiar? It should if you’ve been following the smartphone industry for the past year. It’s also a familiar song you could sing about some of Google’s competitors, each of whom invariably borrow a feature here or there in what’s become a game of feature leapfrog. The Pixel 2 and 2 XL are more Google catching up than edging past those others, but that doesn’t mean they’re not worth a look. With its easy-to-navigate interface, long battery life and great camera, the larger Pixel 2 XL may in fact be the smartphone of choice for Android fans looking for take fresher than Samsung’s.

Let’s start with screens: the $649 Pixel 2 includes a 5-inch, 1920-by-1080 pixel display, while the pricier $849 XL version has a 2880-by-1440 pixel screen. The XL edition’s nearly edge-to-edge screen is far more impressive. As nearly borderless screens become common on flagship smartphones, the standard Pixel 2’s thick frames make the phone look outdated. The Pixel XL 2’s screen is sharp and vibrant, but not quite as stunning as the displays found on the Samsung Galaxy S8+, Apple iPhone 8 and Essential Phone. All three of those devices produced bolder colors than the Pixel 2 during my experience.

The new Pixel phones are getting another handy new feature that Samsung phones have long had: an always-on display. That means that even when the screen is turned off, you’ll be able to see things like the time and notifications.