Let me get straight to the point. Google’s Pixel 2 XL is the first smartphone I have tested in recent months that I could see replacing my Samsung Galaxy S8+. It’s so much fun to use!
Before I jump into the fun stuff though, let me cover a few of the basics of the Google Pixel 2 XL. The XL is larger of two models of the Google Pixel 2. The “regular” Pixel 2 is about 5.7″ tall and has a 5″ display. The Pixel 2 XL (the model I tested) is about 6.2″ tall and has a 6″ display. If I were to purchase the Pixel 2 on my own, I would definitely go for the XL model since it wastes very little space with the display.
The Pixel 2 XL has some of the core features you would expect from an Android phone these days like being water resistant and utilizing a fast-charging battery. It also has high definition stereo speakers and unlimited photo storage via Google Photos.
The camera and new AR stickers
Like the previous Pixel model, Google retains its claim to have the best smartphone camera. I’m sure iPhone owners would argue this but, regardless of what you think, the Pixel 2 XL has a pretty darn good camera. It shoots well in low light situations and can take really good selfie portraits (without the need for two cameras).
But quite possibly the best feature of the camera, in my opinion, is the AR stickers. There really is no practical use for these but I don’t care. They are really fun to use!
If you are not familiar with AR stickers, they work something like this. You open up the camera app and point it somewhere. For example, I pointed my Pixel 2 XL at the entrace to my home office. Then you select AR Stickers from the camera options. The Pixel 2 XL includes Star Wars stickers, Stranger Things stickers and even dancing donut and coffee cup stickers.
To use a sticker, you just drag it from the top of the camera display and drop it wherever you want. The sticker will then spring to life and react as if it was really standing right in front of you. I chose the Storm Trooper sticker and it took me a few seconds to convince myself that a 6-foot Storm Trooper wasn’t really guarding my office! I also selected Eleven from the Netflix series, Stranger Things, and enjoyed watching her eat waffles in my house.
Here’s a couple videos showing more how the AR Stickers work:
If you can not see the embedded video above please use the following link: Google Pixel 2 | The Last Jedi AR Stickers
If you can not see the embedded video above please use the following link: Playing with Stars Wars AR Stickers with Google’s ARCore
Google Assistant and Google Lens
As you would expect, the Pixel 2 XL has the new Google Assistant baked right into the smartphone. You can activate it the usual way by saying “Okay, Google” or a brand new way by squeezing the bottom sides of the phone. I found the squeezing method more preferable as I didn’t have to speak anything to activate the assistant. The Pixel 2 XL even allows you to set the “squeeze sensitivity” so it always recognizes when you want to activate the Google Assistant.
The Google Assistant also includes Google Lens, an option which lets you search Google using the smartphone’s camera. You can aim the camera at a plant to have Google help identify what kind of plant it is. You can aim the camera at a product or a barcode to shop for that product and/or compare prices. You can aim the camera at a book cover to look up that book online. You can even scan text to translate it into another language or scan a business card to add the information to your phone’s contacts.
To round out the list of fun features on the Google Pixel 2 XL, I discovered a seemingly hidden feature called Now Playing. You have to enable the feature (Settings > Sound > Advanced Settings > Now Playing > toggle switch on) but once you do, your Pixel 2 XL will automatically listen to any music it hears in the background (ex: at a coffee shop or at your friend’s house) and display the song title and artist on the lock screen.
Google says this feature works offline without sending any information to Google. I tested it out and found it works with some songs but not all of them. This is because the song must be part of the offline music database stored directly on the Pixel 2 XL. I liked the feature enough though that I kind of wish Google would go online with it so it worked more like the Shazam app. Or at least give me the option to enable online lookup.
Finally, here’s Google’s official Pixel 2 video if you want to see some of the features I mentioned in action:
If you can not see the embedded video above please use the following link: Meet Google Pixel 2 | More, more, more
Note: The Pixel 2 XL in this review was provided to me by Verizon Wireless and can be purchased at your local Verizon Wireless store or at www.verizonwireless.com.