back to article Google Pixel 2 XL: Like paying Apple-tier prices then saying, hey, please help yourself to my data

Much has happened since Google unveiled the Pixel 2 before Christmas, when it was instantly crowned the best cameraphone on the market. Like the magic fairy, Google has activated the phone's previously dormant Visual Core chip, speeding up HDR+ images and machine learning routines. Google either forgot about this at launch – …

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This article has given me the final push to put lineageOS on my S6 this weekend.

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I've been using LineageOS/CyanogenMod without GApps on Galaxy S series phones since the beginning and can heartily it to recommend others. I'm currently using the LineageOS MicroG variant (same can be achieved by manual configuration but why make work for yourself.) Adding F-Droid gives plenty of useful (and not so useful) apps, including Yalp Store which gets you into Google Play without your own account.

tl;dr - Do it! You won't regret it.

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Most of the slurp is in Settings > Google and in Google apps like Photos, and we have to trust Google do what the toggle switches say and nothing else not covered by them (like, eg. find out your location anyway as was revealed not long ago).

There's an alternative for every single Google app, but Play Services is the huge binary blob in the room.

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I have switching it, uninstalled a lot of apps but can't but help think that privacy boat leaks like a sieve.

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Me too. I heartily second your recommendation.

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ZTE and Huawei - the tip of an iceberg?

The US has effectively destroyed ZTE for supplying phones to Iran and are now coming after Huawei on what may or may not be trumped up charges. The unanticipated side effect may be that Chinese manufacturers start to build a totally non-US phone system, which, given the nature of the Android system, could involve their own fork of Linux and their own middleware. Perhaps they would be more enthusiastic about it than Samsung are with Tizen. Perhaps they could have a word with the people at BlackBerry or one of the Finnish alternatives.

I know I'm going to be told that all this can be avoided by using iPhones, but many people run Google services on iPhone.

To a certain extent China holds the US hostage - the threat of closing down an Apple factory or two on health and safety grounds, for instance - and a complete meltdown is very unlikely, but the Google strategy at a time when Facebook is having to answer hard questions could come back and bite someone.

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Re: the threat of closing down an Apple factory

Apple does not have any factories in China. All their manufacturing there is done by other companies.

This is well recorded by this fine site in many articles.

"Apple, the Foxconn rebadger" or words to that effect have been used many, many times.

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Re: ZTE and Huawei - the tip of an iceberg?

While it might take time and money to spin up new or find replacement facilities China is just as much at the mercy of their biggest consumer if they wish to keep their growing middle class happy. As far as closing any of the Foxconn facilities, they make stuff for all the major IT companies so that is a no go also.

This saber rattling between the two is amusing to watch if it wasn't so dangerous to the worlds stability.

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Re: the threat of closing down an Apple factory

Apple isn't the legal owner, but they gave Foxconn a load of money to cover the cost of building the factory in exchange for the right to receive stuff produced by it, so in economic terms, it is basically their factory.

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Re: the threat of closing down an Apple factory

katrinab,

We don't know Apple's contract terms. One of the things Tim Cook did very well, when he was Steve Jobs' chief elf, was to deploy Apple's vast cash reserves as a way of making manufacturing cheaper. He'd buy up a few billions worth of components in advance, to bugger the opposition and get a fixed price - or lend money to suppliers in advance to get cheaper overall costs.

And I'm sure they still do that. But leaving Foxconn probably isn't more than a year's work. They may even be able to do it quicker - as they often test out other manufacturers and suppliers.

Apple have over $100bn in the bank. If the excrement hits the fan they can just buy themeselves a manufacturer - or buy a plant off one, as that wouldn't require all the regulatory approval and paperwork. It would wipe a hundred billion off their share price, and maybe as much as $10 or $20 billion off their revenue for a year - but they'd survive. China might find itselft with a few million suddenly unemployed and unhappy workers on their hands though. It might have no effect, or it might bugger China's economy in the way that all the various seizures of corporate assets have knackered Russia's.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: the threat of closing down an Apple factory

But it's designed by Apple not Foxconn. Who cares where it is made.

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Anonymous Coward

Re:Who cares where it is made.

Anyone with at least a little empathy?

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Re: the threat of closing down an Apple factory

Apple does not have any factories in China. All their manufacturing there is done by other companies.

Yup and with Foxconn moving to Wisconsin (They must either like Cheese Curds or they didn't care for Illinois' politics) The phones could be manufactured in the US...

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Re: the threat of closing down an Apple factory

"Apple does not have any factories in China. All their manufacturing there is done by other companies."

But that does nothing to invalidate my argument, which was not about whether or not Apple is the de facto owner of a Foxconn factory, but about how much trouble there could be between the US and China in a trade war. If it pleases you to pick nits, of course you are free to do so, but your post doesn't actually shed any light on anything of importance.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: the threat of closing down an Apple factory

Someone mention empathy? Pretend it didn't happen, i can't be arsed to look it up.

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"Non US phone system"

You haven't been paying attention, China created their own non US phone system half a decade ago. Very few Android phones sold in China include Google anything - they take the open source part of Android and layer Chinese alternatives like Baidu, WeChat, etc. Google lost that market years ago, and even if China and the US became better friends than the US and UK they'll never get it back. The Huawei and ZTE situation will not affect this at all, because it can't get worse.

As for Apple, I'm sure they've got contingency plans on contingency plans for what happens if the Chinese government created a disruption to iPhone manufacturing. While it would undoubtedly be painful for them in the short run it would be 1000x more painful for China in the long run! They'd leave China behind, which even for a company the size of Apple would just be a blip on an economy the size of China's, but they would be the tip of the spear.

Companies relying on Chinese manufacturing would realize if they're willing to interrupt manufacturing for a company the size of Apple, they'll do it for anyone. There would be a stampede of companies taking their manufacturing out of China, and their economy would crater. China knows this, which is why it won't happen.

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Re: the threat of closing down an Apple factory

"The phones could be manufactured in the US…"

Yes, but they'd still be made from parts sourced in Asia on machines made in Asia. The saddest thing about the US manufacturing sector is it has been losing the ability to make things as companies shift manufacturing to places such as China. For any manufacturer it's most convenient to be close to most of their suppliers. The US has been hemorrhaging everything from raw material supply to modern electronic component manufacture. President Trump may be trying to correct some of that, but his methods are generally ham-fisted and it may also be too hard to accomplish in one elected term which is about the maximum amount of time that anything can take to do before the next herd of incompetents moves into the capital and does their best to undo what the last batch did. American consumers are so used to buying imported crap at this point that they may have forgotten what real value is.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "Non US phone system"

"...which is why it won't happen."

In a trade war, anything can happen.

I'm not sure why people think economic retaliation, ie sanctions or embargos, are only a trade war. It's WAR, just without the violence. With all the people of those countries, not just their rulers.

And one day, affected countries will wake up and realise this and retaliate with force. Just like Germany did.

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It's not for me then...

No headphone jack, no removeable memory, no removeable battery, & priced like a kilo of cocaine? Not for me then.

And that always listening & you can't turn it off bit? I can see how well THAT would play in places where $Vocation-Client privacy are a legal issue that Google *will* lose against. Go ahead, tell that lawyer how you literally recorded their every word, uploaded it to your servers, & have deep mined the hell out of it to "provide a better experience". Guess what? Not only will the lawyer NOT be impressed with that argument, they legally *can. not* allow you to get away with such a thing. And that client you've just recorded without their knowledge & consent? You had better hope they weren't a violent person on the hook for something attrocious, they may decide *you* are the next victim to add to their list. I'm not advocating that violence, merely pointing out that such a thing is possible if the client is mentally unstable, a psychopath, sociopath, or similar.

Or anywhere that has a Security requirement. Normally places like that tend to just ban *all* electronic devices to be sure, but if they do allow you to take your phone in, how happy would they be to find out that your phone just engaged in (industrial) espionage? You were talking to the lead researcher on the project & discussing the details of $SuperSecretNotYetPatentedGizmo & suddenly find out that one of Google's affiliates has beat you to market with your own stuff?

Or you go into that CxO-only level meeting, lay your phone on the desk, & have it upload the fact that you've all just admitted to being guilty of something? How well would that go over?

Obviously this phone isn't for me, I'm not the target market (rich & stupid?) so will be voting with my wallet.

I'll get my coat, it's the one with the "dumb" phone in the pocket... with the headphone jack, SD card slot, & swappable battery that lasts over a week on a charge. *Blows a feisty raspberry*

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Re: It's not for me then...

A mate of mine who does R&D for the Ministry of Defence was issued an iPhone running Blackberry management software. Prior to that, they'd given him a Blackberry phone.

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Re: It's not for me then...

Except of course you can turn off the always listening stuff. And the "now playing" feature, which the reviewer said this about, is local to the device: it uses a database of signatures on the phone and does not communicate with Google servers (it even works in airplane mode). But you can turn it off anyway.

Of course if you actually want it to respond to "OK google" then it will have to listen for the keyword, but that's the same as any other voice-activated assistant (including the fact that it only starts to send data after it detects the keyword). And that can all be disabled as well (forget incompetents on reddit saying they can't, they obviously just don't know how to do it).

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Re: Except of course you can turn off the always listening stuff.

Yeah, of course you can. Just toggle that little switch in the settings.

Wanna buy a bridge?

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Anonymous Coward

"priced like a kilo of cocaine"?

You need to introduce me to your dealer.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It's not for me then...

No headphone jack, but this means it's not a £900 smartphone sporting a 2c integrated DAC. You clearly don't understand how important a quality DAC is for serious music. Listen to a pixel2 with the bundled inline DAC and compare it to literally anything with an integrated DAC and it's not only significantly better, it's also upgradeable...

No removable storage. I guess you never tried managing application storage locations ehen low on space or having to shuffle stuff around, or waited for dog slow (about 10x slower) SD storage interface... Who even needs more than 64gb??? Are you seriously trying to store your entire digital life on your phone? Do you know how dumb that is? Have you not heard of selective sync in Android apps?

No removable battery. Really? Enjoy your chunky turd. As long as it's cheap enough to replace, who cares if you got to take it into toen for 10 minutes in 3 years time...

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Re: It's not for me then...

"but that's the same as any other voice-activated assistant"

Hopefully it doesn't have a security bug like the Amazon Echo that allows malicious apps to eavesdrop on everything.

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Re: It's not for me then...

"Listen to a pixel2 with the bundled inline DAC and compare it to literally anything with an integrated DAC and it's not only significantly better"

I have, it's not. But even if is was, it still has all of the other annoying issues that come along with Bluetooth.

"Do you know how dumb that is?"

No, and you haven't explained. Why is it dumb?

"Enjoy your chunky turd. As long as it's cheap enough to replace, who cares if you got to take it into toen for 10 minutes in 3 years time..."

My current Galaxy has a replaceable and is no thicker than other high-end smartphones on the market. And, you're ignoring use cases where carrying a spare battery for extended runtime away from a place you can charge is useful. (Battery banks can do this, but come with the downsides of being bulky and having to wait for the phone to charge.)

I get the these features aren't useful to you, but to claim that they aren't useful to lots of other people is just incorrect.

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At the AC, Re: It's not for me then...

You're telling the blind guy about audio quality? Do you also try to teach your grandmother to suck eggs?

You say my desire for an SD card is stupid because the interface is slow, but then extoll syncing to a cloud. I'd like some of whatever it is you're smoking, I'll have it tested to find out what colour it is in your world.

You call my phone a "turd"? At least MY dumb piece of shit lasts a week on a normal charge, came with a headphone jack, that SD card slot, a removeable battery, AND was able to have the integrated screen reader turned on by the manager of the store when I bought it. A pseudo smart phone that has none of those hardware features, a non Haptic touch screen, and couldn't be made to have a workable screen reader by that same manager, that costs 10x as much *if not more*, is the REAL piece of shit.

I can see where others would want a smartphone that didn't need the accessibility bits turned on, didn't mind being required to recharge their headphones to listen to music/movies in private, didn't care that they *had* to have a viable cell signal in order to change the files currently available for their movie/movie play list, & think nothing of having to recharge their phone twice a day, oh an can afford to drop nearly $1K on a phone would think those bits are acceptable. I can see that this phone would be for them. Which is why I titled my post the way I did.

I may be the blind person in this discussion, but *YOU* are the one that refuses to see that such a device is notfor everyone. It's certainly not for me. You know, like I titled my post?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It's not for me then...

It's actually off by default. Funny that wasn't mentioned....

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It's not for me then...

"I have, it's not. But even if is was, it still has all of the other annoying issues that come along with Bluetooth."

Huh???? It's clear you don't even know what a DAC is, this is nothing at all to do with Bluetooth, it's to do with moving the important part of the WIRED signal path outside of the phone..

It's obvious you weren't comparing onboard DAC to inline DAC, as you thought it was something to with Bluetooth. Go back and try the listening test when you understand it.

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I wonder how this plays in places that require consent from all parties for a conversation to be recorded? There are a few such "two-party" states in the US. I may have consented to have myself recorded, in a click-through agreement, but the guy chatting with me hasn't.

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Re: It's not for me then...

Calm down, there. We're talking about bluetooth earphones replacing wired earphones. With the Pixel 2, the DAC must be in the bluetooth earphones. I was in no way saying that the DAC was part of the bluetooth communications protocol itself.

"It's obvious you weren't comparing onboard DAC to inline DAC, as you thought it was something to with Bluetooth."

No, it has something to do with the bluetooth earphones that devices such as the Pixel 2 require -- they require an inline DAC. You're right, that concept is distinct from Bluetooth itself, but they both exist in the same piece of equipment in this case. I was talking about the equipment overall.

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Re: It's not for me then...

"No headphone jack, no removeable memory, no removeable battery, & priced like a kilo of cocaine? Not for me then."

+1

While I could in worst case do without an headphone jack, I like to be able to replace and aging battery and absolutely need the ability to add a microSD card to my phone...

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Re: It's not for me then...

"Which is why when someone decided to rampage at YouTube, I was disappointed at the low body count."

Stupid remark, and in poor taste.

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Meh

Re: It's not for me then...

Some people seem to think the "post anonymously" button is for when you want to behave like a dick.

It's not. Stop it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: behave like a dick

Sorry for being an asshole. I'm not getting any so I take it out on random strangers on the internet.

Yes, I'm aware how pathetic that is.

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Re: It's not for me then...

Are there any high end phones with removable batteries these days ?

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Re: It's not for me then...

Or you go into that CxO-only level meeting, lay your phone on the desk

I wonder if Trump has one of these? I know he had Samsung phones at one time (almost certainly as bugged as these phones)..

I bet the Secret Service are having 500kg kittens at the prospect.

(Mind you, anything he thinks ends up geting spaffed all over Twitter anyway so the damage might not be as severe as I first thought)

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Re: It's not for me then...

> It's actually off by default. Funny that wasn't mentioned....

That's just on the review versions they know they'll be giving out to journalists. :-)

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Re: It's not for me then...

So your argument is that it's best not to have an internal DAC, because there's a small percentage of purchasers (that consider themselves "audiophiles") that would like to use an external one? Well that's convenient for the rest of the population.

You imply that external DACs are often better, this often isn't the case. What method of clock locking is possible between the Pixel2 and an external DAC for example? The protocol (I2C for example), What's the type of crystal and accuracy in the Pixel2?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It's not for me then...

"... use cases where carrying a spare battery for extended runtime away from a place you can charge is useful. Battery banks can do this, but come with the downsides of being bulky..."

Indeed, hiking the Appalachian Trail, the advantage of a replaceable battery over a battery bank is well over 10x on weight per charge. This is an environment where hikers spend large amount of money to save a few ounces using high-tech lightweight gear.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It's not for me then...

External DAC are always better. There is already an internal one in the pixel2, as it got speakers, and it's the same integrated WCD9xx that is part of the main Snapdragon (or whatever) SoC. It's cheap and nasty and just good enough. An external DAC is infinitely better.

We aren't even talking adapters here anymore, there are now native USB-C headphones on the market, so those that don't even understand the technical advantages of having a key part of what makes audio sound great, part of your headphones and not your phone will eventually understand...

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Re: It's not for me then...

You should go back to Pink FIsh or whatever asylum of "golden eared" snake-oil consumers you come from.

Not heard such a crock of shit for quite a while. Let me guess, you think vinyl sounds better too?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It's not for me then...

Yes, but does a DAC float in water?

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Re: It's not for me then...

"Listen to a pixel2 with the bundled inline DAC and compare it to literally anything with an integrated DAC and it's not only significantly better"

How about an LG V30 with it's quad DAC? You can keep your bluetooth mate, I'll stick with 24bit wired connection thanks...

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"The Apple "tax" is the price you pay for privacy"

If you genuinely believe that then you've really drunk the kool aid. iPhones track 'significant locations' just the same as android does. Siri has the ability to listen constantly as well. Apple (and Microsoft if anyone had their phones) are just as invasive to your privacy as Google and that's even before we start considering that most people have Facebook and a whole myriad of other tracking apps installed. At least Google are upfront about the data they collect and what they use it for.

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re: At least Google are upfront about the data they collect and what they use it for.

Unless you're at the top levels of Google management how could you know that?

I think kool aid is more popular than you think.

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Re: re: At least Google are upfront about the data they collect and what they use it for.

Likewise for Apple. Sometimes it's 'better the devil you know...'

Personally I'm looking forward to GDPR. Journalists all over Europe will be asking tech companies to divulge exactly what they're storing about us. I suspect we'll be horrified (if unsurprised) at the results.

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Anonymous Coward

Yup, Apple are collecting the same stuff and monitizing it the same was as Google are. You only have to read both privacy policies to see there is literally no difference. Apple know that nobody bothers and nobody will call them out on their privacy claims (and if they do, they have plenty of sweeteners)

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Mushroom

@Oddlegs

Actually Apple does collect a lot less data about you than Google does.

Its a well known fact. Yes FB and other app providers also slurp data, however you can control which apps you put on your phone and its not the underlying OS that is doing the slurping. So its Caveat Emptor

As to your comment about Siri, you have to push the button to get Siri to listen. Not always on.

@Andrew Orlowski, while I like your article and writing, this is a few years too late.

Everything you've printed is true and it has been well known for years.

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