back to article Living with the Pixel XL – Google's attempt at a high-end phone

Earlier this month, Google announced its Pixel range of smartphones – two models intended to replace the Nexus line the Chocolate Factory has carried for the past six years. The Nexus carried a stripped-down version of Android with no bloatware or funny skins. It was beloved by developers for its simplicity, for getting code …

Anonymous Coward

Speedy?

Super speedy processor? Half the single core performance of the Apple A10 in an iPhone 7 is super speedy these days?

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Re: Speedy?

Hey, it's not his fault Apple can't translate high benchmarks into real world performance.

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Re: Speedy?

Ah so now the Android fans way of denying the iPhone's superior performance is to falsely claim it is shown in benchmarks only? Keep living in your bubble, buddy.

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Re: Speedy?

The iPhones are very speedy, especially for anything with 3D graphics. From owning a Nexus 5X and having briefly used a Pixel, both of those are also very good stuff. There may be a few microseconds between them in loading your favourite content, but I doubt you'll notice.

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Re: Speedy?

Take your meds

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Speedy?

Apple are legends at making bogus performance claims, they know that owners are too blinkered to test and question, and the press dare not for fear of freebies drying up.

Back in the real world there is no difference between an iphone7 and any well specd android device. The android device of course will also not only match the iPhone in speed, but offer a grown up OS with true multitasking and background services that the iPhone still lacks.

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Re: Speedy?

Aw cummon, at least try a little to check your claims or else people might mistake you for a fanboy who just makes stuff up. Not just benchmarks, iPhone is massively ahead on real world performance too. Incidentally this also illustrates why comparing a tick list of tech specs without testing is increasingly useless. Higher ram, processor clock speed or number of cores bear little to no relation to superiority in performance these days.

http://bgr.com/2016/10/26/iphone-7-vs-pixel-specs-performance-speed-comparison/

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Re: Speedy?

Maybe my use cases are unique since I don't use my phones for games, so any of my last several have been plenty speedy enough for me. As long as the UI ticks along nicely, I am happy.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Speedy?

Seems like BGR are just on the payola. As clearly they think 3rd party apps are somehow a reliable benchmark of how fast a phone is.

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It will peel off marketshare from Samsung while it suffers from battery issues

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Anonymous Coward

Agree, I don't think Google's target with this phone is necessarily Apple (although I'm sure they will take Apple converts as well), it's the high end Android user market... namely, Samsung. I think the effect on Apple will be minor, but I also think Google is going to quickly overtake Samsung, Moto, etc with this phone. They can't seem to make them fast enough to keep up with demand right now... likely because they didn't expect Samsung phones to literally start blowing up a month before Pixel's release. People who buy Android devices want Google software, fast updates, and support... not some middleman's take on it.

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You're mistaking yourself for a typical user

Sorry but "people who buy Android devices want Google software, fast updates, and support" is simply not true. The average person could give a shit about fast updates and support, or updates/support at all. Maybe that will change if some mass malware infestations hit the Android world, but for now a pretty small minority of Android users care about updates.

As for Google software, sure, they want Google Search, Google Maps and so on that they're used to, but all Android phones have those. In fact, Google assures that all Android phones have those by requiring their inclusion! You can't ship an Android phone with Bing Search unless you strip out ALL the Google software.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: You're mistaking yourself for a typical user

I disagree with your disagreement. I have a Moto Droid Maxx, like a year and a half old. It is frozen at 4.4. I have to get a new phone in order to use it on my company's network, so that isn't great. Phones frozen at a point in time do receive worse app support, they do slow down and although the new versions of Android and not night and day with legacy version, they are noticeably better... especially in performance. The question is why. Why would you want to include a third party OEM that adds no value and will insert all kinds of junk (never used any Moto or Samsung software, ever) when you could get it straight from the company that makes the OS and all of the meaningful software at about the same price? No one is going to do Google better than Google.... It is a tailored suit vs off the rack.

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Wanna buy a Pixel?

Hmm... high price, no SIM slot, non-removable battery... that's three strikes.

I'll keep my Honor 6 for now, thanks.

That's the way I suspect that a few folk will think when looking at this. We shall see...

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Re: Wanna buy a Pixel?

I think you mean Micro SD slot. It definitely has a SIM slot (well, nano SIM, I think)

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Re: Wanna buy a Pixel?

It's too bad that phones don't just do away with SIM slots altogether. It should be eminently feasible to register a phone with a network, or even move networks without one. Providing the mechanism is network / phone neutral I'd have no problem with this and I suspect neither would the networks or handset makers.

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Pint

Re: Wanna buy a Pixel?

DX suggested "...do away with SIM..."

In theory, one can sit at a table and carefully transfer a SIM card from one phone to the next.

If your phone is network registered by the IMEI number, then it'll take three hours listening to muzak and carefully reading endless numbers to somebody in Manila. Then neither phone will work for the next two weeks due to a tiny typo.

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Software SIMs are a superior solution

Why do you assume you would have to call a carrier to switch a phone with a software SIM to a new carrier? It would be basically a software certificate, so the phone could do EXACTLY the same thing it does when you switch SIMs and change to a different software SIM instantly via a settings menu. And no fiddling with a sliver sized piece of hardware that, if dropped on a floor with the wrong carpet pattern, might never be seen again!

The carriers don't want software SIMs because it would make it easier for customers to have multiple SIMs and switch carriers at a whim to gain better pricing. I think a lot of people think of this as an "Apple idea" so they reject it out of hand, but it is a good idea no matter what kind of phone you have. Hardware SIMs have no advantages for the end user over software SIMs.

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Pint

Re: Software SIMs are a superior solution

Doug invented "It would be basically a software certificate..."

There's a fundamental system security flaw in this approach. When, inevitably, somebody cracks the 'software certificate' handling algorithm, then you've lost the whole system. To fix it, you'd need to rewrite new certificate handling software in several OS ecosystems or innumerable baseband chipsets. It'd be an irreparable mess. It could be fatal to a smaller carrier.

With SIM cards, in the worst case, the carrier orders up millions of $0.50/each next generation SIM cards and mails them out. It only costs $2.00 per customer to renew the whole security system.

The bigger issue with SIM cards is that they change size as fast as many people change phones. Even when they're the same size, 'Sorry, this phone needs an LTE compatible SIM." I don't recall ever actually being able to swap a SIM.

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Re: Wanna buy a Pixel?

Pretty much all mobile phones use the IMEI as the unit, user and phone number master identifier. This usually resides on the SIM.

And yes, reassigning an IMEI number is a real pain in the arse. I know, I used to do this at the enterprise IT level for the phone system repair tech's phones that they use and I had direct access. It wasn't easy even with that much authority and yes, the system recognition of the new equipment assignment is still measured in days. If they were lucky.

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Re: Wanna buy a Pixel?

I can only assume people wanting to get rid of SIM cards don't do much overseas travel.

I have used 3 different SIMs in the last 6 months from different countries. Quick and easy, you can buy them before you leave, do the whole thing in English and you can walk off the plane with a working phone in the new country.

Getting rid of the SIM card would be a freaking nightmare.

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Re: Wanna buy a Pixel?

"If your phone is network registered by the IMEI number, then it'll take three hours listening to muzak and carefully reading endless numbers to somebody in Manila."1

Sim or not, if you transfer from one network to another and you intend to keep your number you have to go through that process. There is no reason that a software sim activation has to be more complex in any way.

Frankly the opposition to software sims is totally irrational. Assuming it were to be a standard then there are very few downsides.

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Pint

On pros and cons of SIM cards

DrXym offered "Frankly the opposition to software sims is totally irrational."

Yeah. True... ...once software systems (in general) have been fully 'secured'. LOL.

Until that day, only the naive would bet their industry on the always-false promises of software based security. I guess they're not that foolish.

The logical trap that too many 'experts' continually fall into is that (for example) they understand the theory behind 'software certificates', but then they inexplicably assume that everybody (including hackers) sticks to the same logical flow chart. Which, considering the history of hackers, is one of the most monumentally stupid assumptions that one could possibly make.

The weak spots will not be in the certificate itself. They'll be in the software that handles it. The hackers will move in 3D around the 2D flow chart, inexplicably tunneling or jumping. That's why it's best if the security processor itself is buried in epoxy. Not trusting somebody else's CPU.

Hardware (SIM cards) can be hacked too. SIM Shim tricks are an example. But the SIM approach slows down the distribution (because it's hardware), and (counter-intuitively) allows the carrier quick and cheap replacement with the next generation solution (because it's a single-design, bought-in, $0.50 item). The carrier's logistics chain can easily beat the hacker's logistics chain.

Anyone disagreeing with these thoughts needs some remedial viewing time of conference presentations on CCC.de. Summary: Hackers rule, IT Security "Experts" drool. The ratio of practical expertise isn't even close. Hubris is one of the root causes of so many IT security flaws.

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Pint

Re: Wanna buy a Pixel?

"...if you transfer from one network to another..."

Of course.

But think about same network / new phone.

Many will have gone through more phones than carriers.

Others vice versa.

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Re: Wanna buy a Pixel?

erm .. no. IMEI is on the phone, not the SIM. This is why operators block IMEI numbers from stolen phones.

Technically the phone never needs to know it's own phone number - there is space in the SIM card for this to be stored - but this is for information only - it can be anything you like.

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Cracking software certificates?

If you think that's such a simple thing to do, how come we aren't reading about people cracking Google and Apple's HTTPS certificates? Sure, once in a while someone fools a registrar into issuing something they shouldn't, but it is pretty simple to give each carrier its own carrier level certificate (which they are responsible for securing) making them the ONLY issuing authority for user certificates (i.e. software SIM) You can load up any number of SIM certificates from whatever carriers you want, and select them in the Settings menu (however iOS/Android handle the GUI for this)

If someone finds a way to crack public key certificates, we have way way bigger problems than being able to impersonate someone's phone. Like being able to impersonate POTUS and give orders to fire nuclear weapons kind of bigger problems.

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Re: Wanna buy a Pixel?

Damn fawdman, you're right. I was thinking of the IMSI. The IMEI and IMSI were connect by the database record.

Good catch. You can tell it's been a while since I did this. Have an up vote.

Still, my point is that the SIM is still essential for various and good reasons by providing identity of user, carrier and geolocation of carrier system and type.

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Re: Wanna buy a Pixel?

You're right that a SIM is essential for various reasons. But there's zero reason that SIM has to be hardware when public key encryption has made software certificates that provide the same level of authentication a solved problem for decades.

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Re: Wanna buy a Pixel?

The IMEI is the (supposed to be globally unique) handset identifier.

You may be thinking of the IMSI, the Subscriber Identity, that the SIM card securely vends. The SIM also contains bits like encryption keys for the network. The "phone number" in this world is known as the MSISDN (Mobile Station International Subscriber Directory Number... snappy).

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FAIL

Re: Wanna buy a Pixel?

That's what I get for posting late at night after a hard day at the coal face! Thanks for noticing!

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Re: Software SIMs are a superior solution

I don't recall ever actually being able to swap a SIM.

I do and I don't. The SIM from my last Nokia, a 6610i, went into my LG, then into my Orange San Francisco (ZTE Blade) without a squeak, then into my Huawei Ascend G330. It was only when I changed to an Honor 6 that I needed to change sizes.

I suppose it all depends on what you are swapping with.

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Not worth reading.

I wish the author would have mentioned "idiot tax" at the beginning of the article... I wouldn't have wasted my time reading it... reviews by google trolls... who still need to learn that "you get what you pay for"!

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Re: Not worth reading.

Personally, I'm quite happy to pay the idiot tax - mainly because I'm not happy about giving away all my data and personal information to Google so that they can troll me with advertising.

Don't get me wrong - I'm delighted for Android to exist (a healthy, competitive, ecosystem benefits us all). But I'm also old enough, and hopefully wise enough, to realise that what works for one doesn't work for all - so isn't it great that you can pay a little extra for iOS if you want a little privacy? Or pay a little less, for Android, if you're the sharing type.

On a separate note, I'm not a fan of freemium. I'd rather pay developers for their efforts upfront - but once you start doing that the prices rise dramatically. Which is one reason that iOS costs more out of the box. I also have a clear understanding of what these devices cost - and bear in mind that the cheap devices are either/both made at a loss or/and made in sweatshop conditions beyond the worst that Apple has ever been accused of.

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Re: Not worth reading.

You do realise Apple have their own advertising/data mining program don't you?

Its just as intrusive as Google's - at this point all you are doing is choosing who is going to spy on you...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not worth reading.

You do realise Apple have their own advertising/data mining program don't you?

Citation needed.

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Re: Not worth reading.

@Chet Mannly Actually no, they don't. And they make a big point about not collecting data for the purposes of monetisation. There are a few edge cases where data is used for the purposes of providing the service - but it is heavily anonymised and discarded as soon as possible.

If you know otherwise, and can provide evidence, then you have the scoop of the decade - a scoop that could conceivably bring down Apple (and which would make fascinating reading for everyone else). Otherwise you are just regurgitating the shite that your mate Dave told you down the pub, along with other tall tales of how wifi causes cancer and the moon landings were faked. At best, this claim is bullshit, tinfoil hat wearing Trumpism.

I guess you have an Android phone. Excellent and good for you. I genuinely hope that it does all you want (and I suspect it probably does). Android is an excellent OS - but it isn't the right choice for everyone. One day, when the haters (of any OS based religion) grow up, they might realise that (in computing at least) platform wars are so 1980s - and you and fans of competing systems can both be right (as long as your choice does what is required of it)

Computing ecosystems are at their healthiest when there's plenty of choice. And I love playing with operating systems of all varieties. This is a great time for computer users everywhere.

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Coat

fast charging...

I was recently on a trip and the conference ran long days, so I had to recharge my Nexus 6P, before the evening.

1) Since nougat, battery life has got worse.

2) Fast charge does what it says - and better still , it *tells* you how long on the screen...

3) Google Fi is very cool - the phone picks up signal from a range of carriers, and worked perfectly on my trip to Vancouver. Better still there's an app (Fi Info) which shows a list of all cell towers and phone companies you connected too!

So google, Nexus us not bad. fix 1) and we'll see about the rest...

The Pixel doesn't look "enough better" to prompt an upgrade...

P.

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K
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Re: fast charging...

Screen is to small - I love large screens, I took a gamble going from the Experia Z Ultra (6.7 inch) to the 6P, it worked well, but I think Google has made a mistake going smaller than this.

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Re: fast charging...

I'm not so sure. When it came to tablets I was happier with a bigger size; I couldn't stand the 7" form that seemed so prevalent, but with phones I'm not so happy with larger sizes. I've gone from very small stuff like the old candy-bar phones through the diminutive ZTE Blade which was a bit too small, then to the Huawei G330 which was a great phone size-wise. While my current Honor 6 is a good beast for much of what I do, the 5" plus bezel can be a bit too big on occasion.

Horses for courses, methinks...

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Convert ahoy

As a previous Nexus zealot, I ridiculed the Pixel for a high price and so-so design.

Once I saw the camera samples coming through I had second thoughts... finally a "not-Samsung" that has iPhone like camera performance...

I thought I'd give it a whirl and needless to the say the camera is so good my Nikon Powershot compact was sold on eBay last week. I look forward to seeing what Google can do with computational photography. They have obviated the need for OIS in most cases.

The blazing fast performance and "good for a hard day" battery performance are the icing on the cake.

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Re: Convert ahoy

It's interesting you say that, the mrs got a Huawei P9 instead of the iPhone 7 and I got to play with it before she got her hands on it. (She's a bit of a technophobe) - Awesome camera on that, trumps my Samsung Galaxy S6 (which I found very impressive from day one) but they seem to have left out 4K video recording, this is a shame. The screen is only 1080p as well, but it's extremely quick. (Oh, and I ripped the Huawei launched out and put the Google one back on... Huawei's is awful).

I have flashbacks to my Note 3, which had 4K video recording (60Fps as well?) I believe, absolutely blinding bit of kit considering the age of that handset now. (MicroSD, removable battery....)

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Re: Convert ahoy

Bet your Nikon Powershot didn't have the famous lens flare issue the these HTC built Pixels have.

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Re: Convert ahoy

But... Lens flare is all part of the 'must have' things that the Selfie generation requires.

Fact : More people die while taking selfies than from shark attacks. {not a fan of Selfies}

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Re: Convert ahoy

Reading your comment on my note 3, still my main phone (and a 2nd for backup). Haven't found something good enough to entice me to switch yet. 160Gb of total flash storage, finally enough that I don't feel constrained.

I've never recorded 4k video and the camera has never been set beyond the 8Mp setting (14Mp max I think? )

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Re: Convert ahoy

Hit submit on accident and can't edit posts on mobile.

Wanted to say only complaint about camera is low light. Though i generally work around that by recording a video in low light then taking a screenshot of the video.

Long live android 4.4

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Stop

Missing ..

I often go down to basics and i'm generally getting shot for it .. but , with all the gadgetry around the basic phone questions are often overlooked , how well does it actually carry voice , voice quality , clarity , how easy is it to find the " sweet spot " to actually hear anything when answering ? How sensitive is the mic to background you don't necessarily want the other end to hear ? Seems reviews of phones are more about their gadgets than down to ground questions like : how well does it handle calls.

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Re: Missing ..

Also missing the first question any sane person will ask: can you root it?

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Re: Missing ..

I have rooted my phones before but why would you want to root a pixel? It already gets fast software updates for the next 2 years. Is it that you want something like cyanagen mod or some other custom rom with bugs? I stick with stock android till they stop sending updates 2 years from now. Then I root it.

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Re: Missing ..

I root my phones in order to be able to install a true adblocker (for all programs not only browsers), a good firewall and remove Google and third party crapware I don't use. My phone, my rules.

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Re: Missing ..

Also all reviews of phones do not test how good is it as a phone, usually no mention or testing of the phone's Radio ( Phone Reception and Transmission. Two years ago I was in an area with poor signal, both my wife and I had same carrier Sim, her Blackberry Z30 could do phone calls, Whatsapp, BBM, SMS, mine a Microsoft 640XL was useless, could not even sent a text message ).

GPS performance is also usually not tested ( except in the notebookcheck.net ), this is important if you use your phone often for navigation.

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