Google Pixel review

My last Android phone. the Samsung Note FE was a great phone. Unfortunately it was a tad too big to be carrying in my pocket as a second phone. Since my main phone is an iPhone 8 plus, I would like my second phone to be smaller and more mobile, suitable to be carried along while running or hiking. Hence why I had to let go of the FE and find a smaller and lighter phone.

What is the best Android phone there is in the market? If you’re a pure Android enthusiast, you’d say the Google Pixel 2 of course. But the Pixel 2 is still way too expensive for my budget. You can get a brand new iPhone 8 at the current price. What’s the next best thing after the Pixel 2? The Pixel one of course, which is what I got my hands on as my second phone for just 1,500 ringgit (second hand unit).

Design-wise, there’s nothing spectacular about the original Google Pixel. Released about the same time as the iPhone 7, it features an aluminum body with a little bit of glass panel for the top half of the back casing where the fingerprint reader and camera rest. Although not spectacular, the phone feels solid and light in my hand. There’s no physical buttons at the front which features a 5” AMOLED display. At the back you get the fingerprint reader, 12.3MP camera and LED flash. Like previous Google flagship phones, the Pixel still doesn’t offer memory card slots and I doubt they ever will in the future.

Powering the Pixel is a Snapdragon 821 chipset coupled with a powerful Adreno 530 GPU. You could choose between 32GB and 128GB of storage and both of them features a generous 4GB of RAM. Unfortunately unlike its peers, Google didn’t make the Pixel water-proof or water-resistant. It is only dust and splash-resistant (IP53) which is unacceptable for a 2016 flagship phone. Still that wasn’t much of a dealbreaker for me because the stock Android software experience more than make it up for me.

Google Pixel sample photos

The Pixel was running Android 7.1 Nougat out of the box, upgradable straightaway to 8.0 Oreo. This was my first experience with the latest stock Android OS and it simply blew me away. The swiping, tapping and gestures were buttery smooth. There were no lags at all and apps don’t suddenly stop responding like they did on the newer Samsung phones. Long-pressing the apps icon will bring up several app-specific shortcuts not unlike 3D touch on iOS. I love how you can say “Ok Google” and call up Google Assistant at anytime even when the screen is locked. Coming from an Apple fanboy, I must grudgingly admit Google Assistant is far superior than Siri in every way. Google Assistant actually understand most of your commands and show up answers you’d expecting it to give you.

I got the 128GB version of the Google Pixel so there’s plenty of space for me to install apps and store stuff. That said, Pixel users can store/upload unlimited photos and videos at full high resolution quality on Google Photos - no kidding. And it is not limited to photos taken with the Pixel only but other photos uploading to Google Photos using the Pixel. Pretty sweet deal eh? Talking about photos, the Pixel take pretty amazing photos and videos with its camera. Although no portrait mode yet, the regular photos taken with the Pixel are comparable to that of iPhone 7 plus and Samsung Note 7 if not better. The images are crisp and crystal clear even in low light conditions. It is the best photo I’ve seen taken from an Android phone period.

And now to the bad stuff. I don’t know whether it is because the Google Pixel I got is slightly over one year old but the battery life is simply woeful. On average I got about 4 hours of screen on time with the phone. I real life, every day use, the 2,770mAh battery will get to 20% by 4:00PM when fully charged at 7:30AM before I leave for work. Yes, the phone wouldn’t make it past the evening on normal use, forget about heavy use or gaming. I have to constantly charge the Pixel when the battery is at 50% or risk battery drain anxiety for the rest of the day. That is not the way to use a supposedly flagship phone made by Google. To make matters worse, the Pixel is not officially offered in the country so you can’t bring it to an official reseller or distributor to get the battery replaced. When I asked a couple of regular mobile phone accessories stores, they all don’t have a replacement battery for the Google Pixel. My only recourse is to go to Singapore and visit their official reseller store down there which is out of the question.

Before the Pixel 2, the Google Pixel is hands down the best Android phone you can get on the market right now. But if you’re thinking of getting the original Pixel or Pixel 2, make sure you get a brand new one or suffer the same terrible battery life. The Pixel XL theoretically should offer a better battery life but I won’t bet on it unless it’s a brand new unit. Another important thing you should consider before buying a Google phone is support and parts. Since Google never officially sell Pixel phones in the country, there’s no easy way to get your phone repaired, claim for warranty or when things go south, get a parts replacement. I learned that the hard way. The only way you can get a Pixel phone in this country right now is from a third party import and/or a second hand unit from somebody who bought it somewhere else. It still boggles my mind why Google only released their Pixel phones in a small number of limited countries (6 countries for Pixel 2 and 10 for Pixel XL 2). Is it limited manufacturing capabilities? Lack of offline support? No vision for the future? Unless Google begin offering their Pixel line in more countries, they will always lag behind the Apple and Samsung and Xiaomi of the mobile world.

Despite being the best Android phone I’ve ever used, I had to let it go just 3 weeks after buying it because of the poor battery life. My next phone the Xiaomi Mi A1 Android One phone doesn’t offer the best camera or all the glam and jazz of the Pixel but at least when the battery finally wears down, I can get it replaced at a Xiaomi service center near me.

Learn a new language with Duolingo

Live is short. There’s so much things I wanna do but with so little time available to me. That’s why usually spend almost every minute of my free time doing meaningful and purposeful things. I want to travel the world, climb many mountains, learn to play a guitar or speak new language. Now many of those things on my wishlist require a substantial amount of money. Not learning a new language though, thanks to Duolingo.

Duolingo is one of the best software or platform to learn a new language. It is easy to learn, accessible, fun and best of all totally free. There are over 27 languages to choose from, from the most spoken such as Spanish, French and Germany to less known languages like Hebrew, Esperanto and Swahili to fictional languages such as Klingon and High Valyrian (I kid you not).

Duolingo can be accessed directly from their website or used on their iOS or Android apps which are incidentally the most downloaded educational app on both app stores. Each subject are divided into several dozen modules which are further separated into smaller lessons which is just right since learners wouldn’t be too overwhelmed with too much information at once.

I made it an effort to do at least one lesson for half an hour every day. If I do it for several consecutive days I get a streak. And when I reach certain milestones, I will be rewarded with lingots which is their virtual currency. I can use these lingots to buy streak freeze or to unlock bonus skills for each language. As of writing, I’ve managed to maintain a 93 days streak which is 3 months in a row of learning Duolingo every night, not too shabby. I have finished all the French lessons which makes me 47% proficient in the language and currently at Spanish level 10. If you join now you can try catch up with me on the friends leaderboard 🙂

So what are you waiting for? It is now easier than ever to learn a new language right from your computer screen or smartphone app. It’s free, convenient and requires very little effort. If you need a headstart or cheat sheet for French or Spanish, I’ve documented all my lessons here and here so feel free to refer to them. If you need to know how to type accents or foreign characters, this website is pretty handy. You might not step foot in Spain or France ever but acquiring knowledge is never a waste and who knows it might even help you in school, college or work. Learn Duolingo today, together we can cure monolingualism.