Is It Worth Upgrading to the Pixel 2?

Well the day is finally here: the day Google brought to light its newest Pixel phones. While none of what was announced today was particularly surprising, it’s at least officially official. The real question here is, of course, should you buy a new Pixel phone?

What’s New in the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL?

With the first Pixel phone, Google tapped HTC to handle both models (the “regular” one and the XL). This year, HTC is again manufacturing the smaller model, but Google turned to long-time Nexus partner LG to build up the larger Pixel 2 XL. This is a questionable, though not uncommon, change but the differences in each model may suggest why Google chose each manufacturer to handle it the way they did. With Google’s recent purchase of HTC’s mobile division, however, I’m not sure we’ll see this sort of behavior again.

While the smaller Pixel has gone largely unchanged in terms of form factor and size, the larger of the pair has been bumped to an objectively enormous six-inch display. Fortunately, the smaller bezels seem to more or less make up the difference in overall size, so its footprint is essentially the same as the previous XL.

And that’s really the biggest change we’re seeing here: a much more refined, elegant look has been applied to both models, though the larger of the two definitely has more of a modern edge.

Speaking of edge, both Pixels have an interesting “squeeze” feature called “Active Edge” that allows you to invoke the Google Assistant by squeezing the sides of the phone. This was clearly a page taken from HTC’s U11 smartphone that was, like most HTC phones in recent years, kind of a flop. Hopefully this will do more for Google’s phones than it did HTCs.

On the inside, the phones are much more similar to one another. Each one is packing a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, 4GB of RAM, and either 64GB or 128GB of storage. The XL model packs a Quad HD display, while the smaller five-inch model sticks with a more humble 1080p panel. Both phones have improved cameras, improving on the already great experience from last year’s Pixel phones.

Otherwise, the overall design—especially on the back of each handset—is very similar to last year’s Pixel. Aluminum backing with a fingerprint scanner, Gorilla Glass on the front, and USB-C are all along for the ride.

But you’ll also notice one huge omission: no headphone jack. Google seems to have followed in Apple’s footsteps here by removing the headphone jack (though the company is including a USB-C to 3.5mm adapter with the phone), supposedly for waterproofing purposes. This pair of phones are the first from Google to feature IP67 water- and dust-resistance, so I guess that makes some sort of sense.

Then there’s the price. I hope you guys are sitting down, because this one is tough to swallow: the Pixel 2 will start at $649 for 64GB and $749 for 128GB, while the XL comes in at a whopping $849 and $949 respectively. Yeah, we’re basically looking at iPhone X pricing for the Pixel XL, which is honestly just kind of absurd.

With the details out of the way, let’s talk about whether or not you should buy one.

Should You Upgrade to the Pixel 2?

This, of course, depends on what phone you currently have. Here are a few of the most popular phones on the market, and what we think about your upgrade options.

If You Have a Last-Gen Pixel

Honestly, this one is kind of a toss-up. The 2017 Pixel phones are still great—arguably Google’s best phones to date—and they won’t be going anywhere for a while.

So, really, if you sprung for a Pixel last year and don’t feel like it’s getting long in the tooth (which it shouldn’t be), then you’re probably fine.  Unless you just need to squeeze your phone to do stuff, I wouldn’t bother with upgrading until at least next year.

If You Have a Nexus 6P or 5X

While last year’s Pixel phones will probably be going strong for at least another year, the last living handsets to bear the Nexus name probably are getting a little long in the tooth at this point—in fact, Google even omitted a handful of Oreo features that are available on the Pixel when it released the update for last-gen Nexus phones.

And that’s not even to mention the widespread bootloop problems that have plagued both devices. Ouch.

So, if you’re a holdout from the Nexus crowd, this is probably the time to make the jump from Nexus to Pixel. You won’t regret it.

If You Have a Nexus 6 or Older

Dude, just do it already. Seriously.

If You Have a Galaxy S7 or Other Non-Google, Previous-Gen Android Phone

Ah, now that’s a different sort of question, isn’t it? From my experience, users who are already on the Galaxy train, tend to stay on the Galaxy train—in other words, the logical upgrade path is from the S7 to the S8, or possibly even the Note 8.

If, however, you’re looking for something different—cleaner, more refined—then the Pixel 2 will be a great choice. You’ll be losing out on Samsung’s wireless charging, unfortunately, but that’s about it. Otherwise, the Pixel 2 should be better in pretty much every way.

Plus, you won’t have to wait for months to get software updates. That’s a pretty big perk.

If You Have a Current Generation Android Phone (Samsung Galaxy S8, LG V30, etc.)

Lastly, and this probably goes without saying, but if you’re already on a current-gen smartphone from another manufacturer, there’s little reason to dump that much money on a Pixel unless you’re really sick of the hardware (or there’s something about the phone you just kind of hate).

The only thing you’re really getting from upgrading to the Pixel is the promise of more timely updates. So it’s really your call what you do here—hopefully you can make some of that money back by selling your old phone, even though most Android phones don’t hold their value super well.

If You Have an iPhone

Without actually going hands on with the new Pixels, I’ll say this preemptively: The Pixel 2 phones are the best Android phones we’ve ever seen. If you’re on the fence about moving from iOS to Android, there’s no reason why one of these shouldn’t be the phone you pick up to make the change. These are literally Google’s iPhones, so you can’t go wrong. If you make the change, I think you’ll love them.

Cameron Summerson is a die-hard Android fan, Chicago Bulls fanatic, metalhead, and cyclist. When he's not pounding keys here at HTG, you can find him spending time with his wife and kids, spinning legs on the bike, chugging away on the 6-string, or being disappointed in the Bulls.