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Instagram introduces new suicide prevention tools

If a friend is having a hard time or even in danger of hurting themselves, sometimes the first warning signs appear in social media. Instagram can now help you intervene anonymously with some new support options. If you report a post that worries you, your friend will get a message saying, “someone saw one of your posts and thinks you might be going through a difficult time. If you need support, we’d like to help.” They’ll then get the option to talk to a friend, contact a helpline or receive tips and support.

“We understand friends and family often want to offer support but don’t know how best to reach out,” Instagram COO Marne Levine told Seventeen. “These tools are designed to let you know that you are surrounded by a community that cares about you, at a moment when you might most need that reminder.” Instagram parent Facebook unveiled its own suicide-prevention tools earlier this year, and has a team that reviews reports to flag serious cases and weed out false reports.

These tools are designed to let you know that you are surrounded by a community that cares about you, at a moment when you might most need that reminder.

To craft the feature’s language, Instagram collaborated with folks who’ve experienced eating disorders or self harm issues, and worked with the National Eating Disorders Association and The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. “We listen to mental health experts when they tell us that outreach from a loved one can make a real difference for those who may be in distress,” Levine said.

However, mental health experts feel that Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social networks cause social pressure that can make users, especially teens, sleepless, anxious and depressed. And while it’s admirable that Facebook, Instagram and others have tools to help troubled users, they still haven’t properly dealt with the bullying and harassment at the root of many problems.

For those in crisis and in need of immediate help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or call 1-800-273-8255. UK users can visit the Samaritans website or call 116 123. You’re not alone.

Via: Refinery 29

Source: Seventeen


Spotify App Not Coming to Apple TV ‘Anytime Soon’

A conversation thread on Github between a few developers and Spotify project leader Samuel Erdtman has confirmed that the streaming music company isn’t looking into developing an app for Apple’s fourth-generation Apple TV “anytime soon” (via AppAdvice).

In the thread, which began as a feature request for the Spotify SDK to support tvOS, Erdtman eventually closed out the comments saying that building support for Spotify on Apple TV has been “down prioritized.” That might not be an official confirmation that Spotify will never arrive on Apple’s set-top box, but Erdtman’s wording hints that it’s far from Spotify’s top priority at the moment.

To support tvOS has been down prioritized, You should not expect a release supporting it any time soon. I’m sorry about that.

Although Spotify users might like to take advantage of a tvOS app for Spotify, it’s not entirely surprising that the two companies may never reach an agreement on how such an experience would work. Over the summer, Spotify and Apple quarreled over the 30 percent cut that Apple now takes from iOS App Store subscriptions, which has caused Spotify to charge $12.99 for subscriptions purchased through the App Store, a $3 premium over subscriptions purchased on the web and $3 more than the price of Apple Music.

Spotify claimed Apple was using such a tactic as a “weapon to harm competitors,” while Apple accused Spotify of “resorting to rumors and half-truths” to gain public opinion in its favor. Apple’s new music royalty proposal for streaming services also adversely affects the free tiers of companies like Spotify and YouTube.

A potential Spotify tvOS app would likely be a free download users could use as a companion app to stream their music, but with so much bad blood between the two companies, it still seems likely that Spotify will simply avoid creating an app for tvOS at all. Amazon is also refraining from launching an Amazon Prime Video app on Apple TV, reportedly until Apple presents it with “acceptable business terms.”

For Spotify users frustrated with the news, Apple’s AirPlay feature can still be used to stream music from Spotify on an iPhone or iPad through a connected Apple TV.

Related Roundups: Apple TV, tvOS 10
Tag: Spotify
Buyer’s Guide: Apple TV (Caution)
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Full-Device Skins Causing ‘iPhone’ and Regulatory Labels to Peel Off Back of Jet Black iPhones

While full-device skins can be a good solution for iPhone owners looking for scratch protection without using a full case, those with Jet Black models should exercise caution when applying or removing the plastic wrap.

A small number of iPhone 7 Plus owners with Jet Black models have noticed the text printed on the back of the device, such as “Designed by Apple in California,” becomes transposed onto the skin upon being removed from the device.

MacRumors forum member ksyu found out the hard way when he removed a full-device skin from his iPhone 7 Plus and noticed the letters transferred onto the plastic. Under bright light, all of the rear markings, including “iPhone” and the required regulatory labels, are easily distinguishable.

“I had a normal protector on for about 1 minute and took it off,” he said. “The writing peels right off.”

MacRumors reader Keith experienced a similar situation when removing a Slickwraps from his iPhone 7 Plus:

The writing actually came off onto the clear Slickwraps just like pulling silly putty off of a newspaper comic strip. If you’re one of the people hoping to keep their phone in brand new out of the box condition this might cause a problem for you. I don’t know if the writing came off because the wrap is sticky or because it was a wet install meaning getting your phone wet then drying the phone could lead to the writing rubbing off.

The fine print does not completely come off the iPhone, but it does become faded. This type of issue has not affected previous iPhone models, nor does it appear to affect Black, Gold, Rose Gold, or Silver colors.

Apple says the high-gloss Jet Black finish is achieved through a precision nine-step anodization and polishing process, but it remains unclear why the letters are rubbing off for some users. Fortunately, the problem does not appear to be widespread, but full-skin aficionados should be extra careful.

Related Roundup: iPhone 7
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4 ways to enjoy iced coffee from home – CNET

If you prefer your coffee cold, you have likely noticed that it’s often priced significantly higher than its piping hot counterpart. The reason for this varies by shop, but typically comes down to increased labor, longer preparation times, a higher coffee concentration or a combination of the three.

If you don’t mind putting in a little time, you can replicate cold coffee at home while saving money in the process. Below are four different ways you can prepare your own iced coffee at home.

Slow chilled

The most popular way to brew iced coffee is by brewing it hot and chilling it overnight. This is the way iced coffee is typically made in coffee shops.

coldbrewpitcher-1.jpg Chris Monroe/CNET

This process gives you the same strong flavor and full acidity of hot coffee without the burned tongue. It also means the prep time is anywhere from 6 to 10 hours, not mere minutes.

To brew this coffee at home, brew your coffee as you normally would — in an automatic brewer, pour over, French press and so on. But consider upping the dose of ground coffee by 30 to 50 percent to adjust for dilution from melting ice. Alternatively, you can freeze some of the coffee in an ice cube tray and add those instead of regular ice to avoid diluting your coffee.

Once the brew process is finished, move the coffee to a pitcher or carafe and place in the refrigerator, covered, until cool.

If you prefer your coffee sweetened, it’s best to add sugar before chilling.

After it has cooled, you can serve it black over ice, with cream and sugar or, my favorite, over ice cream.

Flash chilled

If you don’t have time to wait, you can make iced coffee in the same amount of time it would normally take to brew a cup or pot.

To do this, you brew a higher concentration coffee, replacing some of the water you would normally use to brew with ice.

flash-chilled-coffee.pngflash-chilled-coffee.png Taylor Martin/CNET

In other words, I typically brew with a 1:15 ratio, meaning for every 1 gram of coffee, I use 15 grams of water. For iced pour overs, I replace 1/3 of the water with ice. So if I were brewing with 30 grams of coffee, I would use 450 grams of water. For an iced pour over, however, I would use 300 grams of water and 150 grams of ice.

There are several variations of this style of brewing, which is often referred to as Japanese-style iced coffee. And while it provides the best results with the pour over method of brewing, it works with other brew methods, as well, such as the AeroPress, Clever Dripper or automatic brewers.

The result with the Japanese-style iced coffee is generally a much brighter cup of coffee which could be mistaken for being weak. If done correctly, it should produce a cup of coffee which is comparable in intensity and acidity to one that is slow chilled, but with much brighter tasting notes. This flash chilled style of brewing works best with medium to light roasts, as it tends to highlight floral- and fruity-tasting notes, and sometimes drinks more like a tea than a coffee.

Cold brew

While it’s been around for decades, the ease of the brew process and much lower acidity is making cold brew an increasingly popular choice for those who drink their coffee cold. It’s also among one of the more expensive menu items at coffee shops around the world, not only due to the long preparation times, but because it’s often brewed at much higher concentrations.

A hot-brewed coffee might be made at a 1:15 to 1:25 coffee to water ratio. Cold brew is often brewed at a 1:4 to 1:8 ratio. Even after cutting the concentrate with water, it’s a very strong coffee that’s costly to make.

coldbrewcapsulephotos-7.jpgcoldbrewcapsulephotos-7.jpg Chris Monroe/CNET

Unlike other brew methods, cold brew coffee requires room temperature water. As the name suggests, the coffee is never heated during the brew process. Instead, coarse coffee grounds are added to water and steeped at room temperature or in the refrigerator for anywhere from 12 to 24 hours. (If you steep in the refrigerator, the lower temperature will require a longer steep time.)

CNET’s own Brian Bennett explains that you don’t need any special equipment to make cold brew at home. As long as you have a way to filter the grounds from the coffee after brewing, you can make it in any pitcher or even a mason jar. That said, the filtering process and cleanup is much easier if you use one of the dedicated brewers, such as the Takeya Cold Brew pitchers or a Toddy Cold Brew Coffee Maker.

Cold brew coffee usually tastes more nutty and chocolaty than cold coffee brewed with the other methods. It’s also more forgiving when it comes to the beans used, and it’s one of the easiest ways to make lots of coffee in one, large batch. You could make one batch on Sunday and have coffee to drink all week, versus having to brew coffee daily.


While not a brew method in and of itself, if you’re more of the blended-ice coffee drink kind of person, you can use one of the above brew methods to add coffee to your morning smoothie. Iced coffee pairs very nicely with tons of flavors and ingredients: berries, citrus, caramel, nuts, vanilla, chocolate, cinnamon and, of course, pumpkin.

Not only will this add a jolt to your daily pick-me-up, it can also save you a costly trip to the coffee shop on your way to work.


Google Pixel XL: Hands on, early impressions, and camera samples

Announced at a San Francisco event on October 4th, the Pixel and Pixel XL are the two new smartphones from Google for 2016. The pair of phones are the first to offer the Google Assistant software technology and look to head further down the path already started by the nexus line.

What makes this year’s effort different from those in the past? As it turns out, plenty. Not only is the Pixel line smarter and more capable than all other phones, but it also packs a world-class camera experience, too. Indeed, the Pixel offers up a rear camera that bests all previous smartphone shooters.


Digging into the hardware, the Pixel boasts a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, among the first smartphones to do so. Clocking in at 2.15GHz (four cores) and 1.6GHz (four cores), the handset also benefits from having an Adreno 530 GPU. Toss in 4GB of memory and you’ve got the making of one of the most well-rounded phones of all time.

Storage comes in the form of 32GB and 128GB options but you won’t find a microSD expansion card slot. This might push some away as some of us have come to rely on external storage for housing our media. But, before you get out the pitchforks, know that the Pixel and Pixel XL give customers unlimited lifetime storage of photos and videos at full, original resolution. Yes, that also means the 1080p and 4K videos you’re starting to see emerge.


Available in three distinct colors, the Pixel line can be had in Very Silver, Quite Black, and Really Blue. Prices start at $650 for the Pixel and $770 for the Pixel XL with availability through a number of online retailers. At start, Verizon Wireless will be the exclusive service provider to offer the phone. Don’t let that scare you off, though, as the unlocked models will work with other carriers, too.

Pixel versus Pixel XL

What’s the difference between the Pixel and Pixel XL? In short, it’s a larger display; 5.5-inches at 2560 x 1440 pixels instead of 5.0-inches at 1920 x 1080 pixels, and a bigger battery. The Pixel packs a 2,770mAh power source while the Pixel XL gets a 3450mAh unit.

A Qualifying Statement

We’ve spent the last few days with the Pixel XL and are ready to offer up some initial impressions. While we wish this was a full-on review, there’s simply no way to get that much feel for a device after only four days, two of which span a weekend.



The phone takes a very minimalistic approach which starts at the box itself. With very little printed on the outside of the box, it feels somewhat like how Apple might package the device. Gone are the days of flashy boxes with all sorts of specifications and photos; this one is as bare bones as it gets.

Sliding the box out of its shell and opening it up we are greeted with the phone on the left and power supply and cable on the right. Underneath we find the additional cable and an OTG USB adapter for transferring files from another device It’s worth noting that we did not receive any headphones with this device so we cannot attest to whether this is the norm. Our box did not have any Verizon branding on it but we did receive a Verizon sim card to use for testing purposes. There was no extra space for headphones; they are not listed as included in the box on Google’s website.


Looking the phone over it definitely has a quiet and simplistic design. It is altogether very basic and boring yet still a little bit refined and unique. The bottom black is more than pictures suggest and the top is a little shinier in person. Both materials, however, are soft and slippery to the touch.

I’ll be honest, I would prefer the Silver version over the Back or Blue. In my time with the demos at Google’s press event, I found it to be in line with my preferred style and generally more stylish. But, given that I will ultimately protect this black one with one of Google’s Live Cases at some point, that color becomes a non-issue.

At a distance of a few feet, the black Pixel XL looks like a very utilitarian an almost uninspired slab phone. Pick it up, though, and you can feel the design choices in the material. The glass feels strong and secure and not prone to pick up fingerprints. The back, smooth and premium, also comes across as well-intentioned and thought out. But, were it not for the shiny upper third, the phone might be construed as generally boring – in black at least. Again, the Silver and Blue models felt “new” where this color is just “meh”.


The power button is located to the right of the display with the volume rocker sitting almost halfway up on the same side. Up top we find the 3.5mm headphone jack while below the screen is the USB Type-C port and speakers. Well… one speaker; more on that below.


Whereas the screen does have a slight bezel to both the left and right of the display there is a much more pronounced one above and below the screen. I am not certain as to why there is so much going on below the screen as there are no soft buttons or physical buttons to be found. To be sure, it does feel like a lot of wasted space. My gut tells me it has something to do with having a uniform or mirror approach where the top reflects the bottom.

Staying with the topic of the display, the ever-so-subtly curved edge around the screen is quite nice. And, when you factor in the Gorilla Glass 4 and protective, oleophobic coating that keeps it from getting smudges and fingerprints, we can surmise that this display will take a decent beating and still look sharp in the process.

As far as the picture quality goes, the 2560 x 1440 pixels image is sharp and vibrant. We’d expect nothing less in a flagship phone with a 5.5-inch screen, especially in late 2016. Given that, it’s easy on the eyes with a well-balanced color.

Around back we locate the fingerprint reader which is about one-third of the way down from the top. It is essentially in the same spot as the Nexus 6P and feels very natural when reaching for it. Above and to the left of the fingerprint reader is the rear camera and its flash and Phase Detection Autofocus (PDAF) and Laser Detection Autofocus (LDAF).



Then, of course, comes the branding of the device. Gone is the “Nexus” that emblazoned the flagship line of phones. Also gone is any mention of the word “Google”, too. In fact, the only thing you’ll find now is the stylized G which represents the brand itself. If you squint, the bottom displays a “phone by Google”, but it’s not outwardly obvious.

Android and UI

Powering on the device we are greeted with a very stripped down approach to Android. Nothing that is startling, mind you but it is quite refreshing to go back to a stock Android experience that is only what Google wants you to have. You won’t find any bloatware of carrier-branded software or services. This is as raw as it gets, and you’d be silly not to want for it.

To us, there’s nothing quite like the default vanilla Android builds. We’ve reviewed plenty of Android phones over the years and one common thread that skews scores more favorably is how the Android OS works. Google’s vision of Android is something we’ve always come to love. The stuff we’ve seen in this version of Nougat is no different. Hell, it’s better than ever.


The Android 7.1 build is very easy to learn navigate. Having tested every version of Android so far this one feels the most intuitive and user-friendly. The round icons are nice and uniform for the most part, however there are a few that stick out such as Allo and Keep. And, once you start to install other applications, that cute uniform user interface doesn’t look so uniform.

A few weeks from now, when we have a bunch our daily driver apps, the app tray won’t look as pretty. Call us silly, but this is where a custom launcher and icon pack can make all the difference in the world.


Going through the initial setup is a breeze, and Google does an excellent job of walking customers through the process. If you are migrating from one platform to another, Google will hold your hand as you make the jump from iOS to Android. Not only is the software there to support you, but there are cables in the box to assist as well.

If you already have an Android device, this setup makes it easy to get your phone back up to where you want in no time at all. And, if you are brand new to smartphones altogether, the Pixel and Android 7.1 are smart, intuitive, and comprehensible. The best part? You’re getting into an ecosystem (Google) of which you are likely already familiar and not one put forth by a wireless provider with an agenda.

Carried over from previous versions of Android, the launcher brings up all of your relevant news and information with a simple swipe to the left panel. As somebody who is quite fond of Nova Launcher and custom launchers, I am actually not in a hurry to get rid of the default Google setup. There is something very appealing about the way Google designed the interface.

With that said, I like the way in which users can swipe up from the bottom row of the phone to access the app drawer. No longer are you required to tap a specific icon; this is refreshing and comes across as “why didn’t they do this all along?”. The general color scheme, icons, and other Material Design cues work better than ever and come across as cohesive.

Google Assistant

We’ll be honest, it takes a little bit of time to understand what Google Assistant can really do for you. It is much smarter than a simple Google search or using Google Now. While you might be familiar with asking very specific and explicitly defined questions in the past, the Assistant is much smarter and more forgiving.


We like that we can use this from anywhere on the device and get help on just about anything. We even relied on it to help us find certain settings in the software on our phone. If there’s one are we’ve slowly eased yourself into with Google Assistant, it’s being able to talk more normally.

Look up Red Lobster, for instance, and then you can follow with, “how late is it open?” instead of, “how late is Red Lobster open?” Moreover, follow that with, “navigate me there” and you’re handed off to Google Maps.

Other Software Touches

Playing around with the settings, we found the “moves” and gestures to be rather helpful. Users can toggle one of three settings to make the overall experience quicker or more intuitive. One will let you double tap the power button to quick to launch into the camera while the other one lets you flip your wrist to go from rear-facing to front facing camera. It is not unlike what Motorola does to launch into its camera application.


The one we like the most, however, is this swipe for notifications. Users can swipe their finger down the rear fingerprint scanner to slide the notification shade down. Slide up, and they go away. It is very simple to unlock your phone and check for all notifications with just one finger.


In terms of battery, we think this one is a real winner. The standby time and talk time have been spectacular in these first four days, and we’ve only had to charge the phone twice. This includes using the charge that came out of the box which was roughly ⅔ full.


Plug the Pixel XL into the wall four a half hour and you’ll find you are back up and running with damn near a full day’s worth of juice again. Google claims 15 minutes of charging equates to seven hours of mixed use battery life.


While it might appear that the bottom of the phone houses stereo speakers, it’s really a case of one speaker and a placeholder cutout to match it. Indeed, the one on the right side is a dummy that doesn’t put out any sound. With that said, the lone speaker does provide a rather loud experience that’s clear and full. Watching a video in portrait will put the sound out in your right hand and, depending on how you hold it, could be muted by your palm.


Let’s talk about that camera, eh? We’re not experts in the area of photography, but we were seriously blown away by what the Pixel XL delivers. It’s super fast and color accuracy is as good as anything we’ve ever seen in a phone. And Google wasn’t lying when it said that HDR was enabled by default.

Google Pixel XL Camera Samples

Was the camera perfect? No, we still had blurred images, for instance, when trying to capture a moving dog in lower lighting conditions. Moreover, there were traces of noise in night shots, too. But, when zoomed out and stacked up against other phones, the Pixel has already become a favorite still shooter around here. You can take a look at the embedded images below to get a feel for how the camera performs on the Pixel XL.


We’ve only loaded a few of the daily driver applications on this device so we can’t speak to the long-term viability, but we are quite optimistic. Things move about very quickly in all aspects of this device. The screen responds to our touch quickly, the apps load instantly, and Google Assistant never wastes time and getting you the right answers. The same goes for the camera shutter and fingerprint scanner.

Early Conclusion

All things considered, we’re very pleased with the Pixel XL thus far. There’s nothing here that alarms us, but it’s still not a perfect device. We’ll always champion for external storage and a waterproof coating is one of those features which should be standard by now. But, a few quibbles aside, it’s one slick piece of kit.

When you look at how much phone you can get for $400 today, it begs the question of whether the Pixel or Pixel XL are worth the extra money. To us, that comes down to a personal use case. Do you want or expect to take a lot of photos or video? If so, the Google line is one to keep an eye on.


With unlimited cloud-based storage, you’d easily spend money on another service for that kind of hosting. Ask a photographer or media creator how much they’d like to have 4K video service that houses things for them.

How important is it to you to have the Google Assistant? What about the latest release of stock Android? The 7.1 Nougat definitely has its advantages in both departments.

First time smartphone buyers might not necessarily head for the best of the best when it comes to devices. But, should they want to dive in head first, the Google Pixel and Pixel XL are worthy contenders. This goes double if you need a helping hand; the built-in 24×7 support is something you won’t get elsewhere.

We’ll spend another few weeks with the phone and circle back to provide you with our full review.



Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 Release Date, Price and Specs – CNET

Premium wireless noise-cancelling headphones from Bose, Sony, Sennheiser, Parrot and others tend to cost at least $350 (about £285 or AU$455). But not everybody wants to pay that much for a headphone, which is where Plantronics’ BackBeat Pro 2 comes in.

Priced at $200, £230 or AU$250, the BackBeat Pro 2 is being positioned as a premium headphone for less. The original BackBeat Pro was, too — and it was a good headphone for the money, despite being pretty bulky and not all that stylish. Nevertheless, it had a strong following among techie types who cared more about how it performed than how it looked.


What you get in the box.

Sarah Tew/CNET

With this new model Plantronics has slimmed the headphone down by about 35 percent, reduced its weight by about 15 percent, and made it more attractive. It also sounds great for a Bluetooth headphone, with relatively clean, dynamic, well-balanced sound that rivals the quality of its higher-priced competitors.

It’s comfortable, too, and has sensors that pause and resume your music when you take the headphones off or put them on. And while the noise-cancelling isn’t as effective as the Bose QuietComfort 35’s, it does a decent job muffling ambient noise without creating an audible hiss.

I’ve been using it in the office for the past few days and haven’t suffered any listening fatigue — from either the sound or the fit. It’s definitely a good work headphone and is ideal for an open-office environment if you want to shut out noisy co-workers. And it also played well outside — in the streets of New York in my case — though it will make your ears steamy on warmer days.


The controls on the left ear cup.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The control buttons, including a ring for adjusting volume levels, are on the left earcup, along with a button that you can switch on to activate an open microphone mode that allows ambient noise into the headphone and lets you hear your surroundings better.

As you might expect from a Plantronics product, the headphone is designed to receive calls. It works very well as headset, with a sidetone feature that lets you hear your voice in the headphone as you talk.

Battery life for music playback is rated at a healthy 24 hours at moderate volume levels. There’s an included cable so you can use this as a wired headphone, and it comes with a nice cloth carrying case. Plantronics also makes a special-edition model that costs $50 more and includes a hard carrying case. It also has NFC tap, so you can pair the headphone with devices that support it.



Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 (pictures)

All in all, this is a significantly improved headphone over the original BackBeat Pro. It’s an excellent alternative for those who don’t want to spend $350 or $400 on full-size noise- cancelling wireless headphones from Bose, Sony or Sennheiser.

I’ll have a full review after testing it for a little longer.

Specs and features

  • The headphone can connect to two devices at once
  • Battery lasts for 24 hours of continuous listening time and up to 21 days on standby
  • It’ll hibernate for up to 6 months if it’s left on by mistake
  • 100-meter (328-foot) range if you pair it with a Class 1 Bluetooth device

Google Pixel XL review – CNET

The Good The beautifully designed Google Pixel XL features a superb camera, an expansive display and the robust Google Assistant.

The Bad The XL is Google’s priciest phone yet. The camera Lens Blur feature needs improvement and it’s not as water resistant as its top-tier rivals.

The Bottom Line Get Google’s fantastic Pixel XL if you can cough up the cash and simply want more pure Android goodness on a bigger screen.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

It’s the Google Pixel XL’s time to shine. With Samsung’s $3 billion, exploding Galaxy Note 7 fiasco painfully out of the picture, the 5.5-inch Pixel XL is the premier high-end large-screen phone to get.

Its overall excellent camera and deep integration with Google’s new Assistant software give it an edge over the OnePlus 3. And though we’re waiting on LG to formally release its premium V20, preliminary benchmark tests and battery times on the V20 are already giving the XL a lead.

Samsung’s Galaxy S7 Edge remains an outstanding 5.5-inch phone as well, but the Pixel XL (and smaller, somewhat cheaper Pixel) compels us with that pure, unadulterated Android experience.

I can (and do!) heartily recommend the Pixel XL for large-screen users who want a top-notch camera and pure Android with prompt updates. To save a little cash, opt for the smaller Pixel.

This review answers your major Pixel XL questions, but because both Pixel phones are so incredibly similar, you should read my complete Pixel review for all the nitty-gritty details.



Google’s Pixel XL serves up more pure Android goodness

Wait, what happened to the Nexus?

For the past six years, Google partnered up with other phone makers like Motorola, Samsung, and most recently Huawei and LG, to make its Nexus phones. But Google is ditching that sub-brand and starting over. Now, it’s folding these two phones into its family of in-house designed products, known as Pixel (which already includes a tablet and laptops). And though HTC assembled the Pixel phone and Pixel XL together, Google designed and engineered it.


Goodbye Nexus, hello Pixel.

Josh Miller/CNET

What’s the difference between the Pixel and Pixel XL?

Google’s two new phones are nearly identical. The only hardware differences are the XL’s larger, sharper display (with a higher pixel density) and bigger battery. It’s also pricier, at about $120, £120 and AU$190 more than the Pixel. Everything else, including the processor, camera and design, are the same.

Because there’s so little difference, choosing between the two really comes down to size — if you like a larger phone, get the Pixel XL. Otherwise, the Pixel’s just fine. Unlike the case of the Apple iPhone 7 and dual-camera iPhone 7 Plus, you won’t miss any features by going smaller.


The Pixel (left) and the scaled up Pixel XL (right).

Josh Miller/CNET

Google Pixel vs. Google Pixel XL

5-inch; 1,920×1080 pixels 5.5-inch; 2,560×1,440 pixels
441 ppi 534 ppi
5.66×2.74×0.34 (at its thickest) 6.09×2.98×0.34 (at its thickest)
143.84×69.54×8.58 (at its thickest) 154.72×75.74×8.58 (at its thickest)
5.04 oz; 143g 5.92 oz; 168g
Android 7.1 Nougat Android 7.1 Nougat
2,770mAh 3,450mAh
$649 (32GB); $749 (128GB) $769 (32GB); $869 (128GB)
£599 (32GB); £699 (128GB) £719 (32GB); £819 (128GB)
AU$1,079 (32GB); AU$1,229 (128GB) AU$1,269 (32GB); AU$1,419 (128GB)

What’s so special about Google’s Pixel phones?

Two things. First, it comes with “pure” versions of the Android 7.1 Nougat software out of the box, and will be the first in line for future updates. Second, the Pixels have Google Assistant, an AI bot that uses machine learning and Google’s vast search database to answer all kinds of questions. It can look up facts and places to eat, schedule reminders, translate phrases and more.


Misfit Phase Release Date, Price and Specs – CNET

How many fancy fitness watches can the market sustain?

Building the basics of fitness tracking into everyday watches has been happening for several years now. The Withings Activite, Garmin Vivomove, and several of Fossil’s watches already do it, and higher-end watches from others are getting into the same game.


The Misfit Phase and some of its color variations.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Misfit announced the Phase, its latest fitness tracker, and it’s going for the same idea. A roughly 42mm-size round watch with analog hands has automatic step and sleep tracking (no heart rate, though). The watch is water-resistant to 50 meters, and uses a replaceable coin battery to last six months. It syncs automatically via Bluetooth to your Android phone or iPhone. The watch straps snap out from the back and can be replaced with any NATO-style 20mm field band.

misfit-phase-14.jpgmisfit-phase-14.jpg Sarah Tew/CNET

To check fitness goal status, one of the two buttons on the case makes the hands spin around to show your percentage (on other competing watches, a second, smaller dial is often used). Another button triggers Misfit’s smart-button controls for connected devices, just like its other trackers.

The Phase vibrates, and it also has a notification indicator of sorts: a small cut-out hole that turns various colors. Called a “color window,” it’s not an LED light. It’s literally a mechanical part that swaps out color discs. Odd, yes? Eventually, these will be able to be customized in Misfit’s app to correspond to different sources. If one of three contacts calls, the minute hands will spin to one of three locations, and the color eye will turn a certain color. It’s like something out of a weird ’60s spy movie.


The “color window” is a little hard to see, and it’s not a light.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Phase will cost $175 when it debuts in November. But the problem is, there are already so many watch-like fitness trackers being released lately — including some from Fossil, which acquired Misfit — that unless you’re smitten with a particular design, you’re better off passing. The Phase has a clean design, and a thick but nicely built watch case. But it’s also more expensive than many alternatives like the Withings Activite Steel and Garmin Vivomove. We’ll review one when we get one later this fall.


Google Pixel review – CNET

The Good The Google Pixel has a fantastic camera, especially in low light. It’s elegantly designed. Google Assistant takes one of the most natural, human approaches to answering your voice.

The Bad The phone’s display is dim in outdoor sunlight and its camera’s Lens Blur feature is shoddy. It’s splash-resistant rather than dunkable, and it’s pricey compared to previous Google Nexus devices.

The Bottom Line If you’re wary of Samsung or looking for a worthy iPhone alternative, the Google Pixel is the high-end Android phone to get.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

With the Pixel, Google stepped up to bat, called its shot and knocked it out of the park. And the timing couldn’t be more fortunate with Samsung in the midst of an explosive crisis.

After six years of partnering up with device makers to create its Nexus phones, for the first time Google has stepped out on its own. The Pixel and Pixel XL are the latest additions to its line of in-house products. And while HTC may have put the phones together, it was Google that designed, engineered and branded them.

The gamble paid off. Starting at $649 in the US, £599 in the UK and AU$1,079 in Australia, the Pixel is fast, with an elevated, smooth design. Heavy investments in its camera resulted in a nimble shooter too. Though its special portrait mode is poor, it otherwise takes amazing shots that rival the Apple iPhone 7 Plus.



Google Pixel: Quite, really and very good looking

It’s also the first phone to have the search giant’s new, thoroughly robust voice and search service, called Google Assistant, built in. It’s the most natural voice assistant I’ve experienced, and comes closest to giving me that Jarvis from “Iron Man” experience all these assistants appear to be chasing.

The Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge are still the best overall Android phones, but if you’re wary of Samsung, this is the premium Android phone to get.

Why the Pixel is one of the best Android phones right now

So what’s so great about the Pixel? Aside from the premium hardware, like the camera and processor, it packs new software features that are handy to use day-to-day. Read on to find out more.

The camera is (mostly) awesome

As you can tell from its name, Google makes a big deal about the Pixel’s camera, and it is superb. It takes even better shots than the already stellar iPhone 7 Plus, which I consider to be the reigning champion of camera phones. If you want the full scoop on how these two compare, check out CNET’s feature, Google Pixel vs. iPhone 7 Plus: Which camera is better?

The camera is fast, images are in focus and colors look vibrant. Close-up shots appear especially sharp and refined. Landscape scenes retain an impressive amount of detail and depth, even with objects that are far away.


The phone’s 12.3-megapixel shooter.

Josh Miller/CNET

Photos taken in dim lighting understandably weren’t as sharp and had more digital artifacts. But the camera did a good job at capturing available light and brightening up scenes. The flash made skin tones looked natural as well, and if it hadn’t been for a few reflections in eyes, it would’ve been hard to tell in the photos that it was even used.

The front-facing camera is excellent too. It has a wide enough lens to fit a lot of content (read: faces) in each frame, and it softened skintones enough to look appealing without appearing too airbrushed. To see the images I captured, check out the slideshow below.



Just how good is the Google Pixel’s camera?

The camera can shoot 4K video and though it doesn’t have optical image stabilization, it uses a combination of the gyroscope and software to steady your videos all the same. This feature works well and it’s useful when you’re moving while recording footage. But it does give your videos a sort of surreal, almost drone-like quality.

Google Assistant helps organize your day

The Pixel is deeply integrated with Google’s search services and it’s the first hardware device to have Google Assistant baked in. Assistant is an AI bot that uses machine learning and Google’s vast search database to answer all kinds of questions you throw its way. It can schedule reminders, look up facts and places to eat, set alarms, give directions, translate phrases and more. And the more you use it, the more it’s supposed to learn about you and become more personalized.

Unlike Google Now (the company’s previous iteration of a digital assistant), Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana, Assistant is genuinely conversational. You can use your voice to speak to it in a natural, back-and-forth way, and it has a chat-like interface. After every interaction, there are suggested follow-up queries you can tap on to keep the conversation going.


Firing up Google Assistant (left) and asking Assistant where to find Japanese tapas nearby (right).

Lynn La/CNET

Like with most voice assistants, you forget that they’re there. But when you do remember, Assistant can be useful. It doesn’t hear every question correctly every time, but when it does, it works relatively fast. Compared to Siri, which sort of checks out after it finishes each task, Assistant builds upon my previous queries, so it made me interact with it longer.

Android Nougat packs some sweetness:

  • The device runs a pure version of Android 7.1 Nougat. It’s the first to have Google’s messaging service Allo and its video calling app Duo preloaded (you can uninstall them if you want).
  • Launcher shortcuts, aka Google’s take on Apple’s 3D Touch, lets you long-press on some apps to call up additional menu options.
  • You can send gifs inside Google Keyboard, for all your giffy delights.
  • To reduce eye strain from viewing a bright, bluish display at night, there’s a Night Light setting that tints the screen yellow. (Other Android phones and the iPhone already do this.)
  • On the back is a fingerprint reader for added user security and services such as Android Pay. It works quickly, and as a bonus you can use it to slide down notifications on the screen.

It looks and feels great

The Pixel and Pixel XL are nearly identical, but the latter has a bigger, sharper display and a bumped up battery. Other than that, they’re the same. Both are polished and well crafted, and their sleek, one-piece aluminum design make them more elegant than previous Nexus devices.


The Pixel is one sleek piece of tech.

Josh Miller/CNET

Granted, the Pixel does sort of look like the iPhone, but it has chamfered edges and it’s wedge-shaped, which likely keeps the camera flush and avoid an unsightly bump. I also have to agree with what CNET’s Stephen Shankland wrote about the Pixel earlier: it hits a Goldilocks area of weight and heft. While the Nexus 6P was too heavy and the 5X felt too hollow, the Pixel feels just right.


Google Pixel + Pixel XL review


OK Google, make me a phone.

The quick take

The Google Pixel and Pixel XL deliver what we’ve always wanted from a Google Android experience: an attractive design, lightning-fast performance and unique Google features you won’t find on any other phone. Meanwhile the Pixel nails the essentials, with good “all-day” battery life, cameras that go toe-to-toe with the high-end competition, and update support unrivaled in the Android space. Though expensive, and lacking water resistance, these are great phones with a long life ahead of them.

The Good

  • Speedy performance
  • Latest Android, with fast updates and thoughtful software additions
  • Excellent build quality
  • Great, fast camera that excels in video

The Bad

  • No water resistance
  • Eye-watering SIM-free price
  • Google Assistant is still learning
  • Back glass prone to scratching

The Google phone

Google Pixel Full review

The “Google phone” has been a long time coming.

The rumors of such a device — a true Google smartphone to directly take on the iPhone — predate Android as we know it today. In the years it took for the OS to rise to dominance, we’ve seen the T-Mobile G1, Moto X and various Nexus phones attempt to match up to that original promise — with mixed success. Only last year’s Huawei-built Nexus 6P came close to living up to the hype.

It’s time for a change of strategy. So here are the Google Pixel and Pixel XL, marketed quite forcefully as phones “by Google.” No co-branding, no compromises. Two size options for what amounts to a single high-end Android experience, presented with new and unique software features from Google that won’t come to other phones anytime soon.

The Pixels go hand-in-hand with Google’s evolution into something more than just a search engine. In Sundar Pichai’s October 4 presentation, it was very clear what the move to an “AI-first” computing environment meant for the future of the company. The new Google Assistant is a big part of that, and a major pillar of Google’s hardware push, building upon the past several years of predictive search and voice interactions. At the same time, Google has made some bold software design changes, painting a clearer picture of its vision of Android.

The Pixel phones are a bold product, one that competes with not just Apple, but Google’s own Android partners. The price tag is a far cry from the wallet-friendly Nexus products of yore. And the exclusive software experience is sure to grind the gears of fans and Android manufacturers alike.

So has Google at least made a good phone this time? Read on to find out.

pixel-specs-front-review.jpg 143.8mm154.7mm pixel-specs-side-review.jpg
69.5mm 75.4mm 7.31 mm 8.6 mm
  • Display:

    • 5-inch Full HD / 5.5-inch Quad HD
    • AMOLED
    • Gorilla Glass 4
  • Camera:
    • 12.3MP rear camera
    • ƒ/2.0 lens, PDAF, Laser, 1.55µm pixels
    • 8MP front camera, ƒ/2.4 lens, 1.4µm pixels
  • Battery:
    • 2770 mAh / 3450 mAh
    • Fast charging
  • Chips:
    • Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor
    • Quad-core 2.2GHz
    • 4GB RAM
    • 32-128GB internal storage

About this review

We’re publishing this review after six days of using Google’s Pixel phones. I (Alex Dobie) have been using a rest-of-world spec Google Pixel XL (5.5-inch, 32 GB, “Quite Black” color) in Manchester, UK, and while traveling in Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Shanghai, China. In the UK, we used the EE network. In China, we roamed on the China Mobile LTE network through Vodafone UK. Our review device was running Android 7.1 Nougat, build NAE63P, with the October 5, 2016 security patch.

Daniel Bader has been using a North America spec Pixel (5-inch, 32GB, “Very Silver” color) in Canada on the Rogers network. His review unit was running Android 7.1 Nougat, also with build NAE63P and October 5, 2016 security patch. Portions of this review, where specified, were written by him.

Since much of the experience of using these phones is the same, we’re presenting a combined review of both Pixel and Pixel XL here, noting any major differences as we go.

Watch and learn

Google Pixel Video walkthrough & unboxing

We’ve got many words ahead to break down our thoughts on the Pixels. But if you’re in a hurry, watch our full video review! When you’re done, take out some time for our full written review below to get the full explanation of what the Pixel and Pixel XL are all about.

And if you’ve still got some stamina after that, stick around for Daniel’s unboxing video, which goes from cardboard to setup and everything in between!


Made by Google

Google Pixel Hardware

You could easily argue that we’ve reached peak black rectangle in the past 12 months, and that phone designs are becoming boring as a result. It’s increasingly difficult to put a screen on the front of a 5- to 6-inch metal slab in a way that actually turns heads and opens wallets. Being (in a manner of speaking) a new player in the phone hardware game, that’s a central challenge for Google. But at the same time, the company has the experience of six years of Nexus partnerships to draw from. It’s a newbie, but it’s had plenty of practice.

A simple, pleasing design that feels like a relatively safe choice from Google.

The fruit of Google’s labor is a phone that’s pleasing to both the eyes and the hand, yet at the same time feels relatively safe and non-risky in design terms. Google and behind-the-scenes manufacturer HTC (you won’t find its logo anywhere on the phone) follow a well-worn path: a metal unibody with subtly curved extremities, made more grippable by flattened edges, and rounded off by display-framing chamfers at the front. And although the back is mostly flat, there’s an ever-so-slight, barely noticeable top-to-bottom “wedge” shape going on, with the top section being ever so slightly thicker than the bottom. In terms of overall weight and heft, it’s not a totally svelte, hardly-there design. There’s a certain substance to it, meaning that while it’s relatively light, the overall package is nicely balanced.


The “Quite Black” model I’m using cycles between black-ish and a more muted grey depending on the ambient lighting; if you go for the lighter “Very Silver” variant, expect a traditional, bare, brushed aluminum finish with a white face and matching antenna lines around the sides and back. (The vibrant “Really Blue” is a whole other retina-searing question.)

The much-discussed iPhone similarity is kinda there, I guess, though I feel like this has been largely overstated. Sure, the Pixel’s spartan front face looks a bit like an iPhone with the home button chopped off, but then there’s only so much you can do with a rounded rectangle of tapered 2.5D glass. The most obvious inspiration seem to have come from phones like the HTC 10 and One X9, with a little Nexus 6P DNA snuck in. What’s more, the Pixels feel nothing like their Apple-built rivals in-hand.

Scratched-up back glass is going to be A Thing with these phones.

The front face is deliberately bare, so as to not distract you from the display. And so as a counterpoint the back has become slightly more showboaty. The large glass section dominating the top third of the chassis is a controversial inclusion, perhaps made for design reasons, perhaps an engineering concession to improve antenna reception. Either way, it’s a big visual differentiator in a space where most competitors look fairly samey. I’m mainly neutral on the aesthetic qualities of the glass “window,” aside from the unfortunate fact that it picks up hairline scratches incredibly easily. I spotted at least two or three in just the first few days of using the XL, even while taking extra care handling it. Other reviewers I’ve spoken to in recent days have picked up similar abrasions (scratches are much less obvious on the white-backed “Very Silver” model, for what it’s worth). So let’s just say this: scratched-up back glass is going to be A Thing with these phones.


That glass area houses the Pixel Imprint (neé Nexus Imprint) fingerprint scanner, which I’ve found fast, accurate, and thankfully resistant to triggering in my pocket like some other phones. It’s relatively large, but that, combined with its placement, makes it easy to hit with your index finger. Setup, as with Nexus Imprint, was quick and painless.

The window is also home to your NFC antenna, and like the iPhone the very top of the back section is where you’ll need to waggle the phone to pay for stuff with Android Pay. That’s a good thing, leaving little ambiguity about what you need to point at the payment terminal.

In other areas, a standard loadout of ports and buttons awaits — an HTC 10-like textured power key up top on the right side, above the volume rocker, a single nano-SIM tray over on the left, headphone jack up top and USB Type-C charging port down below, flanked by two speaker facades. As is smartphone tradition, only one of those grilles actually has a speaker behind it, and the Pixel doesn’t do stereo audio through its earpiece like some rivals. Regardless, the quality is loud and clear at most volumes, only showing signs of distortion at the highest output levels.


The displays, both AMOLED panels, manage to impress as well. The regular Pixel packs 1920×1080 colored dots into a 5-inch panel — a perfectly reasonable 440 ppi display density — while the XL ups it to 2560×1440 over 5.5 inches, for 534 ppi. The AMOLED panels in Google’s Nexus phones were decent but never trailblazing, with the Nexus 6P in particular being disappointing in bright daylight.

The Pixels’ AMOLED screens are really good, and give Samsung’s latest phones a run for their money.

The Pixels’ screens are a big step beyond the previous generation, coming close to matching the quality of Samsung’s latest phones. Even under the bright sunlight of southern China, I had no problem using the Pixel XL outdoors. (And the display looked fantastic in the comparatively gloomy UK.) The smaller Pixel’s screen is equally bright, though it doesn’t quite match that of the Galaxy S7 in subjective outdoor tests.

Samsung’s latest panels look more vibrant, and maybe more pleasing to the eye as a result, but that probably has as much to do with display tuning as anything else.


On the inside, Google provides a loadout of leading Android hardware — Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 821, a beefed-up version of the 820 chip powering many 2016 flagships, along with 4GB of RAM. There’s no expandable storage, so you’ll need to choose wisely between the 32GB and 128GB options. (There’s a hefty $100 premium to pay for the latter, whichever Pixel you pick.) I’m using a 32GB Pixel XL, and after a week of solid use I’m down to just under 16GB of space remaining. Your mileage will vary, and of course Google Photos can help you free up space by offloading older pics to the cloud.

A smorgasbord of top-notch Android hardware, but choose your storage capacity with care.

After the surprisingly good (but painfully slow) Nexus 6P camera, Google has doubled down on photography in the Pixels — more on that later in the review. But from a design perspective, the standout feature is the lack of a camera bump. In a year when the iPhone’s photographic protrusion is more pronounced than ever, it’s an easy “victory” to flaunt over Cupertino.

There is a case for saying this doesn’t really matter. In fact, I’m fine with the camera bumps in the Galaxy S7 or iPhone 7 Plus. (On a glass-backed phone like the Pixel, a slight camera bump would’ve propped the phone up, likely countering the constant hairline scratches we’ve been seeing.)


Depending on whether you opt for the 5-inch Pixel or the 5.5-inch XL, you’ll either get a phone that’s an easy one-handed fit, or one that requires a bit more manual manipulation, but is still easy enough for anyone who’s handled larger Androids.

Having wrangled a Nexus 6P in recent weeks, the Pixel XL is so, so much easier to juggle around without using a second hand. In the case of the smaller Pixel, you’re getting top-notch specs in a pleasing, compact design that’s considerably less slippery than an iPhone 7. That’s rare thing in the Android world.


Google Experience

Google Pixel Software

Google’s Nexus phones were defined by their software. Now that Google itself is in the hardware game, the same isn’t quite true of the Pixel phones. Nevertheless, the Google software experience remains a huge part of what makes these Google phones.

The Pixel handsets run Android 7.1 Nougat out of the box, a new version of the OS that’s so far exclusive to Google’s own phones. A final code drop of Android 7.1 for other devices won’t happen until December, after which we’ll start to see 7.1 appear on other devices.

The Pixels ship with Android 7.1 — months before any other phones.

Android 7.1 is the first maintenance release for Nougat, adding features like “night light” mode for reducing eye strain at night, by adding an orange screen tint, and new app shortcut options through a long press at the home screen. The former builds into the base OS a feature we’ve seen in third-party apps for some time, and something Apple recently added to iOS. And the latter is basically a one-dimensional copy of Apple’s 3D Touch implementation, letting you jump to specific areas of an app more quickly. (And it also makes moving your apps around feel a bit weird, at least until you get used to it.) Other features include minor tweaks like enhanced wallpaper metadata, letting developers and artists provide more information about the pictures on your home screen.

That’s alongside all the features of Android 7.0, like split-screen multitasking, bundled notifications, enhanced “doze on the go” for battery life improvements, and data saver mode for making your allowance go further.

The rest of the new stuff in Google’s phones makes up what we’ll call, for want of a better term, the “Pixel experience.” The UI, visuals and features you see on the Pixel phones are a far cry from the barebones Android experience of the Nexus 6P. Google has brightened up its color scheme, switched Nexus teal for Pixel blue, added a new home screen launcher, fresh icons and a handful of new apps and services.


The most important of these is the new Google Assistant, which we’ve been trialing in the Allo chat app for the past month or so. Essentially, Assistant is meant to be Google personified — an AI with access to all the data on your Google account (Gmail, Calendar, location, etc.), as well as Google’s immense knowledge graph. In an ideal world, “your own personal Google” would always be at your beck and call, enhancing your life with its wisdom.

Assistant is, so far, very much a version 1.0 product.

The reality is that Assistant is, at the time of writing, very much a version 1.0 product. When it works, it works well — Assistant is generally smart about the way it handles questions or requests about the data Google already collects. But it can be hit and miss about things you’d expect to work: For example, “Play the new album by [band name]” in Play Music. Or “Show me my next trip.” Or “Who’s the guy from the Mobile Strike ads?” Or “How long does it take to get to Camden?” When it fails, usually it fails pretty intelligently, offering up a web link that would probably be helpful in the place of a personalized answer from Google’s vast data reserves.

The central problem here is that the goals of Assistant are so lofty, and the scope of the things it could potentially do are so wide, that it’s almost impossible to judge what it reasonably can do right now. And when it fails, there’s a frustration factor — the info you needed could’ve been gotten more easily via an email search, or checking your calendar app, or opening Maps and checking transit times. Instead Assistant offers a vague web link saying “This came back from a search.” (In a tone which implies a ¯_(ツ)_/¯ at the end of that sentence.)

And there are additional frustrations for anyone using multiple Google accounts (for example a work account), since Assistant ties into just your main Google account at present.


For Assistant to be the killer app that Google wants it to be, this mixed success rate needs to be improved upon. Still, there’s a ton of potential, and Google is surely going to refine its AI over the coming months.

Where Assistant really impresses is with its speed and speech recognition. In a week of using the Pixel XL, I’ve yet to have a single query misunderstood, and Assistant is always ready to go instantly, waiting behind a long press of the home key. What’s more, the new action for getting to Screen Search (formerly Google Now on Tap) gives the impression that that feature is faster too. The intelligence and information retrieval may need to improve, but the experience is promising.


Speed is also a big part of the overall Pixel picture. As well as having the latest Qualcomm processor, the care taken to tune performance and enhance touch responsiveness is evident in every second of use. These phones absolutely fly, to such an extent that even the iPhone — with its big, swooping, silky animations — sometimes feels like a laggard. We’ll have to see how that performance holds up over time, but at week one it’s pretty clear — there’s nothing out there faster in the Android world.

Google Assistant is sometimes useful but often dumb, and very much still learning how to assist.

The handful of visual customizations in the Pixel UI bring some of the biggest changes since the beginning of Material Design. Front and center, you’ve got the new Pixel home screen launcher, which does away with the iconic Google search bar (after all, Google is way more than just Search now, right?) and rearranges the app drawer to live behind an upward swipe of the favorite apps tray.


App icons are smaller across the board, and Google will display the current weather at the top of the main home screen, assuming you have location history turned on. It’s not a million miles away from the Google Now Launcher, but it is different, and feels slicker and more modern. Google Now still lives off on the left, under its new name as your personal Google “feed.”

Other visual flourishes can be found in Android’s soft keys, which now look a little different — filled-in icons, save for the home icon, which is now encircled to indicate the presence of Assistant. (Tap it and you’ll get a neat little pulse of colored orbs in the Google primary colors.)


And for better or worse, most Google app icons (and in fact many third-party app icons) are now circular. Circular icon support is part of the Android 7.1 spec, but the implementation in these early days is patchy at best, even among Google’s own applications. Take Gmail for instance, which uses the regular grey and red envelope icon on a white background. Or Maps, which crops the full-sized Maps icon to fill a circular cookie cutter. The look isn’t entirely consistent, and that’s before you open your app drawer to reveal a mess of squares, circles, rounded rectangles and other shapes of different sizes. Google’s end goal is a more unified gallery of app icons, like the iPhone has had since Day 1, but it’s going to take us a while to get there.


It’s also early days for app shortcuts — right now the feature letting you jump to specific areas of your apps with a long press is basically unsupported outside of a handful of Google apps.

Other handy features include gestures in the new “Moves” menu, which let you swipe down on the fingerprint scanner for notifications (a feature borrowed from Huawei), double-tap the power key for camera access (borrowed from Samsung and others), and double-twist the phone to jump between the front and rear cameras (hello Moto, and also in the latest Nexus camera app). And built-in customer support in the Settings app is a feature many power users will dismiss, but something which surely forms a central part of Google’s longterm plan for Pixel devices. It’s all part of Google’s push to make the Android experience more friendly to a mainstream, non-tech-enthusiast audience.

The Pixel’s unique new live wallpapers are gorgeous and highly compelling.

And that polish extends to some phenomenal live wallpapers, just when we thought Google might’ve forgotten about this feature, first introduced way back in 2010. Along with a selection of gorgeous static wallpapers and live-updating “daily” wallpapers from various categories, Google has gone all-out with a selection of jaw-dropping animated offerings.


Live Earth gives you a subtle satellite-style 3D overview of notable places, including a live view of the Earth itself, centered on your current location, shaded to reflect the day/night cycles, and updated with realtime clouds. Or for a more abstract approach, Live Data lets you show geometric animations reflecting the current time and weather. That includes the default “Aurora” animation, which animates soothing colored gradients based upon the weather, temperature and time of day.

This is all stuff you wouldn’t find on a Nexus, were Google still making them. The Pixel offers a freindly, approachable Android UI that goes beyond just delivering a responsive, bloat-free, fast-updated experience.


Previous Nexus phones have been “pure Android.” The Pixel phones are different — they’re “pure Google.” Some of the changes between the two are subtle. Others, like Assistant and the new icon scheme, hit you right between the eyes. It’ll be fascinating to see how the relationship between this new Google phone and rest of Android plays out in the months ahead. For now, the Pixel is off to a great start with some genuinely useful features, and a prized place as king of the hill for Android updates.


Pixel pics

Google Pixel Cameras

It’s been just a couple of years since Google was genuinely bad at smartphone cameras, but the company is learning (and improving) at a rapid pace. The Pixel phones pack a 12-megapixel rear camera with dual-LED flash, laser autofocus and 1.55-micron pixels behind an f/2.0 lens. If that sounds familiar, it’s because the Nexus 6P also boasts all those specs.

But let’s be clear about a few things: to start, this is an upgraded version of the sensor from the 6P (Sony’s IMX378, as opposed to the older IMX377.) And that gets you native phase-detection autofocus and SME-HDR technology for faster HDR exposures. All this stuff, combined with a faster processor and improved tuning, elevates this year’s Google camera to new heights.

Google’s new camera can stand proudly alongside the GS7 and iPhone 7.

For the first time, Google has a camera that can stand proudly alongside the Galaxy S7 and iPhone 7. I was skeptical about the lack of OIS, but between the upgraded sensor, the beefier CPU and ISP (image signal processor) and some welcome software tweaks, Google has a highly impressive camera setup. Captures are quick, there’s plenty of fine detail in a wide variety of lighting conditions, and Google’s Auto-HDR+ trickery produces photos with excellent dynamic range in situations where many rivals stumble. Colors are punchy, but not excessively saturated. And even in challenging lighting conditions, such as dark restaurants at night, a good amount of fine detail and color detail is preserved.



We’ll have a direct comparison with the Samsung Galaxy S7 coming up soon, but on the surface the main difference is in how the phones handle low light shots. Samsung tends to capture sharper looking images, through with a yellowish tint and some loss of color, while Google’s photos are a little softer, but with more accurate colors.

The Pixel’s camera is mind-blowingly fast, and takes better-looking pics than the Nexus 6P.

Like the rest of this phone, the camera is mind-blowingly fast. As in, so much faster than the Nexus 5X and 6P it’s not even funny — especially while focusing and taking HDR+ shots. If you’re used to stabilizing shots and carefully timing things just right to get great photos on the 6P, prepare to get even better-looking images with zero shutter lag on the Pixel. There’s still a short pause before you can view your photos in the gallery, but processing times are significantly quicker too. And at the same time, the Pixel’s camera is far easier on the battery life than its forbearer.

Google’s redesigned camera app gives easy access to modes like Panorama, Photo Sphere (360-degree photos), Lens Blur effects (since that’s suddenly all the rage again, and slow-mo video.

Speaking of video, you’ll be able to record at up to 4K resolution with gyroscope-based software stabilization — a new feature that is possibly the single most impressive thing the Pixel can do. In an almost magical way, the phone manages to scrub out unintended jitters in moving shots, and the results are never clearer than when filming with the phone in one hand, on a ride through bumpy rural roads. In reality, the viewfinder is bouncing around all over the place, yet the resulting footage is silky smooth. The spell is briefly broken when the software tuning overcompensates for intentional motion, sometimes leading to artificial-looking pans and sudden movements. Even so, the Pixel makes for a highly impressive video camera.

The gyro-based video stabilization is so good it seems almost magical.

One small camera bugbear to report: like some other phones with laser autofocus, the Pixel sometimes aggressively favors focusing foreground when maybe it shouldn’t. An easy way to show this is to try taking a picture out of a window, or shooting video through a car or airplane window. The laser autofocus all too often wants to focus on muck on the window as opposed to the scenery outside.

On the front, the 8-megapixel selfie camera also benefits from HDR+, evening out exposures and producing surprisingly decent shots even in relatively poor lighting. The front camera sits behind an f/2.4 lens, which isn’t the brightest we’ve seen in a selfie shooter, but Google’s lens blur feature helps out to some extent, artfully blurring backgrounds while leaving your mug in the clear.

One fortunate/unfortunate omission depending on your proclivity for digitally enhanced selfies: There are no built-in beauty modes to be found here.


So is it the best smartphone camera ever made, as Google claims, holding its DXOMark score of 89?

That’s going to depend on how you use it. In many situations I still favor the Galaxy S7. But Just the fact that this discussion is a discussion is a measure of how far Google has come. There’s no doubt in my mind that this is a top-tier phone camera, and will remain one in the year to come.


Pixel power

Google Pixel Battery life

You’re looking at a 2770 mAh battery in the small Pixel, or a 3,450 cell in the larger XL model. In the former case, that’s a little on the small side. (But then again, the same is true of the phone itself, and its screen resolution.) In the latter, the XL’s fixed cell is about in line with high-end Android phones of that size, like the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge.

In both cases you’re likely to get a decent, full day of use out of the Pixel and Pixel XL, with the Pixel faring a little better on heavier days.

The XL never failed to get me through a full day of regular use, with a typical day getting me 14 to 16 hours off charger with 4.5 to 5 hours of screen on time. That’s with mixed use across LTE and Wi-Fi, and approaches what I’ve gotten out of the Galaxy S7 edge earlier in the year. That’s unremarkable for a high-end Android phone, but the major difference I noticed with the Pixel XL was how it weathered heavy use that much better than many rivals.


The camera, for instance, didn’t tank the battery anywhere near as much as the GS7 or LG G5, to say nothing of the battery-guzzling Nexus 6P. The same was true of using the XL in areas with patchy or rough cellular coverage — where some of the year’s earlier flagships would hemorrhage power, the XL didn’t get as hot to the touch, nor drain through its battery as quickly.

A solid day of use, with high-powered, intensive tasks less likely to tank your battery.

Daniel Bader has been using the smaller Pixel for the past week, and has found its performance generally good, though more susceptible to battery drain from heavy usage.

On the smaller Pixel’s battery life

By Daniel Bader

I had no shortage of anxiety going from a phone with ample battery life, the Moto Z Play, to one that was considerably smaller and less capacious. Fortunately, the Pixel managed to last an entire day most of the time, reaching the dreaded “red exclamation point” between 11 p.m. and midnight.


These were days that I was pushing the phone pretty hard, too, which leads me to believe that once things settle — in my life, and with the phone — it will last a bit longer. That said, there isn’t much breathing room for a really busy day, or an errant app using too much juice in the background. As I type this, it’s 5 p.m. and I’m down to 40% with just over four hours to go. That’s the fundamental problem with a phone like the Pixel: despite the improvements made to Doze, and efficiencies gained from the Snapdragon 821’s 14nm process, a 2770 mAh battery just isn’t enough to comfortable end the day in the black.

As long as you’re willing to top up the phone once or twice a day, even for a few minutes, the smaller Pixel’s battery life should be fine, but if you’re a truly avid user — and who among us isn’t? — then the Pixel XL, or a diminutive battery pack close at hand, is probably a better option.

Both Pixel models support quick charging through the USB-PD (USB Power Delivery) standard, with the bundled plug and cable charging at up to 5V/3A or 9V/2A. The move up to 9V quick charging allows a dead Pixel to return to life (around a half charge) faster than last year’s Nexus 6P, while the crossover in charger specs means the Pixel will happily charge rapidly with a 6P or 5X plug.

Finally, it’s worth noting that the Pixels (like the last Nexus phones) use a USB-C to USB-C cable to charge with the bundled adapter, so it might be worth investing in a few spares cables, since most Android phones still use a USB-A connector in the power brick.


Big or small?

Google Pixel vs. Pixel XL

By Daniel Bader

Google’s Pixel has made me fall in love with small phones all over again. Before we get into which one you should consider, let’s go over the two main differences between the two devices: the screen size and resolution; and the battery.

The first is not important: both phones have high-quality AMOLED screens, and are plenty dense for most people. The Pixel’s 1080p resolution gives it a density of 440ppi, which is lower than the larger phone’s 534ppi, but unless you’re really scrutinizing you won’t notice the difference. And while I haven’t spent a lot of time with the XL, I noticed a small amount of color fading when holding the Pixel at off-center angles, a minor criticism common in AMOLED screens. Still, the Pixel’s screen is vivid, responsive, and stunning, with saturated colors and perfect blacks.

Google’s Pixel has made me fall in love with small phones all over again.

The second, battery life, is certainly more important: the Pixel has a cell 25% smaller than its larger counterpart, which probably doesn’t scale linearly given the XL’s higher screen resolution. You shouldn’t expect a 25% difference in average uptime, but it probably won’t be too far off: if you use your phone a lot — and primarily for media consumption and gaming — the Pixel XL is a better choice. Another reason to go for the Pixel XL: Nougat’s multi-window multitasking mode is much more comfortable to use on the 5.5-inch display of the Pixel XL.

But let’s go back to my original statement: The Pixel has made me fall in love with small phones all over again. After using devices that often took two hands to comfortable handle and safely operate, I found myself constantly elated to regain the natural ability to use the Pixel with just a thumb, three fingers wrapped around the back with a pinky to steady the metal chassis.

Even more liberating is the knowledge that the smaller Pixel, aside from the two main differences listed above, is identical to its larger counterpart, and could be considered a flagship in its own right. The phone is incredibly fast: I have never used Android like this, and there is something joyous about being able to do all this on a one-hand-friendly handset.


Bottom line

Should you buy the Google Pixel XL? Yes

The Google Pixel XL is my new daily driver. As for the smaller Pixel, I know it’s going to take a lot to tear Daniel Bader away from this compact Android powerhouse. (Ed: True.) Both are excellent smartphones which we can wholeheartedly recommend, even with their sky-high price tags. The question of whether a smartphone can be worth $700 to $1,000 in 2016 is a debate altogether. But if any phone is worth that amount of cash, the Pixels are. Just as that same argument can be made for the iPhone 7 or Galaxy S7.

The chassis is attractive, though some may say it’s not as bold as Samsung’s glass and metal designs. The software is fast and mostly good-looking. It’s always going to be up-to-date with the latest Android software, and exclusive tricks from a new and highly ambitious AI-focused Google. The battery easily lasts a day, and charges quickly. The camera matches the Galaxy S7.

The main argument against the Pixel, besides its price, comes down to the one or two high-end features it’s lacking. Both the iPhone and GS7 boast water resistance. The Pixels do not. There’s also the question of whether the camera — which is already great — would be superlative with the addition of OIS (optical image stabilization), which is increasingly seen as table stakes for flagship smartphones.

I can’t think of a better phone to buy going into 2017.

On the other hand, the Pixels’ status as Google phones, with the backing of a major platform holder, allow them to ship with Android 7.1 months ahead of rivals, and pack exclusive features like Google Assistant which, though imperfect at present, will undoubtedly improve throughout the long life of these phones.

With Pixel, the company finally delivers on what we’d wanted all along from a Google phone. With each cycle of Nexus handsets, it used to be a question of “What would they screw up this time?” We’re far beyond that with this new, singular vision of what a Google Android phone should be.

And I can’t think of a better phone to buy going into 2017.

See at Google

Google Pixel + Pixel XL

  • Google Pixel and Pixel XL review
  • Google Pixel FAQ: Should you upgrade?
  • Pixel + Pixel XL specs
  • Understanding Android 7.1 Nougat
  • Join the discussion in the forums!

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