Over the past few months, I haven’t been shy about sharing my excitement for the Pixel 2 XL. Having awarded the first Pixel TechnoBuffalo’s best smartphone of 2016, to say it was hotly anticipated would be an understatement. Heading into today’s event, I was once again ready to proclaim a Google-made flagship the best of the best. But, following today’s announcement, I’m much less enthusiastic.
That’s not to say I’m not pumped to try the Pixel 2 XL. There are many reasons why it’ll be a strong competitor when compared to devices like the Galaxy Note 8. But when viewed from a neutral point of view, I don’t see it standing a chance against Apple’s iPhone X. Google can take jabs at Apple all it wants during live presentations—last year it joked about Apple removing the headphone jack, but followed suit—but it’s clear which device is the more advanced.
The main differentiator is the iPhone X’s Face ID technology, which industry insiders are claiming is years ahead of the competition. The Google Pixel 2 XL only has a fingerprint sensor which, according to Apple’s data, is less secure and more susceptible to attacks compared to facial recognition. More than that, it shows a clear divide in where each company sees the market going.
Whereas Google is content to focus on machine learning and experiences like Google Lens, Apple is developing machine learning and introducing new ways to interact with your device, taking the market in a new direction. Apple has been criticized heavily for failing to innovate, but the iPhone X is proof there are still ways to differentiate in the mobile market, despite what Google’s Rick Osterloh says about all devices feeling the same.
The Pixel 2 XL does make some slick moves, introducing an active frame and front-facing speakers. But most people considered the HTC U11’s squeezable features gimmicky, while front-firing speakers will only appeal to a small niche of buyers. The iPhone X’s Face ID will change how you interact with your device, securing payments and recognizing when you’re alertly looking at the phone.
Beyond that, the iPhone X features a sleeker, more refined design, and offers more in terms of water and dust resistance, wireless charging, and its dual-camera setup. Google made a big deal about how the Pixel 2 XL can capture portrait photos without a dual-camera arrangement, but having two cameras is more than that. Two cameras provides users with one telephoto lens, too, providing iPhone X owners with a more flexible shooting experience.
Additionally, the iPhone X’s screen is a truer edge-to-edge experience, while the Pixel 2 XL left a lot of chin and forehead space due to the front-facing speakers. Again, I’m guessing the average consumer would prefer Apple’s approach simply because it looks more futuristic, but take nothing away from the Pixel 2 XL, because it still looks sleek as hell.
And I hate to say it, but Google didn’t introduce anything nearly as fun as Apple’s Animoji feature, which is either going to be the most brilliant use of the TrueDepth technology or the lamest. I’m sure younger audiences will eat it up—as will children who swipe mom or dad’s phone while sitting in the backseat of a car. And all of it is powered by Apple’s A11 Bionic chip.
The thing about comparing two unreleased devices is we don’t know how they’ll perform in the real world. Face ID, the iPhone X’s big new feature, could very well stink—and we could miss having a home button more than we think. Getting acclimated to iOS using gestures could also prove challenging, while you’ll instinctively know how to use the Pixel 2 XL.
With so many other exciting phones on the market, it will be interesting to see how the new Pixels perform. It was recently reported last year’s models only grabbed 0.7-percent of the market in the U.S., so there’s obviously a major mindshare hurdle Google still needs to overcome. Apple’s iPhone X is easily this year’s most anticipated phone despite being $999.
Put it this way: There doesn’t appear to be a compelling reason to upgrade the Pixel 2 XL from last year’s Pixel XL. But for many iPhone 7 Plus owners out there, the iPhone X looks like a very worthwhile trade.
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