The Google Pixel 2 XL is great software, bad design

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
The Google Pixel 2 XL is great software, bad design
The Google Pixel 2 XL could have been the best Android phone out there. It could have been the best phone, full stop.

But it is not.

There are a few things that put the Google Pixel series of phones on the radar of everyone looking for a great Android phone and they are all about the software.

The good


First, the Pixel not only runs a clean version of Android that is not riddled with countless useless gimmicks, it is - most importantly - brilliantly optimized to run smoothly, a sore point for even more expensive Android devices such as the Galaxy S8 that stutters much more than you’d expect of a premium phone.

Secondly, the Pixel gets software updates. It’s a phone that will last (Google promises to update it for 3 years, an eternity in Android terms). And unless you jump to a new phone every year or so this matters. The Pixel is guaranteed to not only get software updates on day 1 (while other Android phones take close to half a year to get an update), but it is guaranteed to get Google’s precious attention and get critical bugs fixed quickly.

Thirdly, the Google Pixel series have - hands down - the best camera for night time photos on a phone, and one of the best for daylight picture and videos.

Add solid battery life to the equation and you would think that Google has finally figured out how to make great phones.

After using the Google Pixel 2 XL for a while, though, I am more convinced than ever that Google spoilt an outstanding software effort with a truly underwhelming design.

The bad


The Pixel 2 XL is often said to be a “bezel-less” phone. It is most certainly not. The phone actually has bigger side bezels than most flagship phones of the past few years and the top and bottom bezels still exist.

This is something that you can see in pictures and something that sticks like a sore thumb when you actually start using the phone.

The Pixel 2 XL is also bulky in a cumbersome way. It lacks any ergonomical features: while other big phones like the OnePlus 5T have a very pronounced curve with a reasonable thickness, the 2 XL has almost none of that and is extremely hard to handle with a single hand.

While the industry has moved to sleek glass designs and has perfected various aluminum finishes, the Pixel 2 XL features a surprisingly coarse back that almost feels unfinished. Yes, it is solid, cold metal, but it does not feel premium as you’d expect for a device with a hefty price like the Pixel.

Final Words


Yes, you could get used to using the Pixel 2 XL despite all of its design flaws. But whenever you use another phone - the Samsung Galaxy S or Note series, the LG V30, the iPhone X, the Huawei Mate 10 Pro or the Essential Phone for instance - you will immediately notice the difference in design and build quality.

And while many people rightfully criticize the Pixel 2 XL display for burn-in issues and for that blue tint you get when you tilt the phone, the underwhelming design of the phone seems like an even bigger show-stopper for what could have been the best Android phone ever made.

Related phones

Pixel 2 XL
  • Display 6.0" 1440 x 2880 pixels
  • Camera 12.2 MP / 8 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, Octa-core, 2350 MHz
  • Storage 128 GB
  • Battery 3520 mAh

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71 Comments

2. bucknassty

Posts: 1325; Member since: Mar 24, 2017

Why do you guys keep saying gimmicks????? damn its annoying, this is the reason airwave is gone... i use to love that on my note 3... now is gone forever because... its a gimmick. it was so easy to just wave my hand up to advance to the next page when reading stuff

3. josephnero

Posts: 778; Member since: Nov 16, 2011

Overrated and overpriced. I'M a Sony fan but I'd rather get S8 for much lower price than pixel XL2. Except the camera quality S8 is superior in every aspect and please don't start on timely updates because Samsung experience on nougat has all the things pixels may get in android P. Btw this is coming from someone who loves light Xperia UI.honestly pixel UI is too barebone

17. Penny

Posts: 1847; Member since: Feb 04, 2011

I'll disagree with the Samsung updates. My Note 5 never made it past Android 7.0. All I've gotten in the last 6 months or so are security updates.

22. luis.aag90

Posts: 272; Member since: Aug 12, 2014

You are doing great on security updates for a 2 year old phone. Nothing to complain about. Compare that to other OEM non Google phones from 2 years ago. Also it's believed the Note 5 will get Oreo. Not too shabby for a phone thag was released with Lollipop pre installed

34. Penny

Posts: 1847; Member since: Feb 04, 2011

Sure, we're doing fine for security updates. Not so well with feature updates. I can only remember getting upgraded in Android version 1-2 times through the life of this phone, and even then far later than more stock Android phones. I'm not disappointed or anything; it's what I expected. Just saying that it's hard to argue that the software experience of a specific version of Android is better on a Samsung device, because it's usually behind in version, which makes the argument moot.

23. josephnero

Posts: 778; Member since: Nov 16, 2011

I didn't say Samsung provides updates I said Samsung has a richer experience than bare bone android

33. Penny

Posts: 1847; Member since: Feb 04, 2011

Fair, but I pointed that out because while in your estimation Samsung Android 7.0 might be richer than stock Android 7.0, the reality of updates makes that comparison more like Samsung Android 7.0 vs. stock Android 8.0.

24. danny_a2005

Posts: 358; Member since: Oct 06, 2011

I completely disagree, I could agree if you get a Sony phone, I think they have less lag than samsung, I've seen the S8 and It is sooooo laggy, you never get that kind of issues with Pixels, I am sorry but, I don't care all the functionality if it is going to be laggy as hell, Pixel has functionality and speed, it has always been the same

26. josephnero

Posts: 778; Member since: Nov 16, 2011

I have a XZ on Oreo buddy

51. Odiin

Posts: 373; Member since: Apr 23, 2013

+1 well said, I'm a Sony fan too like their design to UI. But Samsung Experience on nougat is really feature rich n beautiful then stock android.

5. IAMBLCKJ3ZUS

Posts: 402; Member since: Sep 29, 2015

As a owner of pixel XL 2 I think it's a great phone, but I think the problem is Google should actually focus on the core of Android instead of trying to profit. Work with their oems partners to make leaner and more premium products with timely updates. The new Google is a ADHD child. Make the slogan true be different not the same. Also not to interrupt Samsung greatest OEM of all time.

7. sgodsell

Posts: 7207; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

Samsung likes to go their own way. Look at Bixby or Gear VR. The Pixels have Google Assistant and Daydream VR.

8. Cat97

Posts: 1861; Member since: Mar 02, 2017

Finally someone stating the obvious things other sites are reluctant to say !

9. bucky

Posts: 3776; Member since: Sep 30, 2009

if i went back to Android for daily use, it would definitely be a pixel. Software/updates and camera alone.

10. Jyakotu

Posts: 867; Member since: Dec 12, 2008

Honestly, I feel that if you're looking at the Pixel 2 XL, you should opt for the LG V30 instead. Unless you absolutely want stock Android and timely updates (as many should), I feel that the LG V30 is the better option.

11. therealestboy

Posts: 82; Member since: May 03, 2013

I am buying the OnePlus 5T next month. It's the best phone for the price.

28. Trickzter

Posts: 83; Member since: Apr 21, 2015

Yeah. If I were buying a new phone right now, it would be OnePlus 5T. But I will hold out for the OnePlus 6 which hopefully will be announced in a few months time. Hopefully it will have the under display fingerprint sensor.

12. jove39

Posts: 2145; Member since: Oct 18, 2011

Couldn’t agree more...and may I add: Ignorance of audio output (headphones) quality by google. It’s not worse but it’s not best either. iPhone has more balanced audio output in comparison.

39. vincelongman

Posts: 5677; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

45. DareDevil01

Posts: 65; Member since: Jan 15, 2012

What audio output?? There's no jack...

13. Whitedot

Posts: 771; Member since: Sep 26, 2017

I found it too the worst year for pixel phone hardware too though they had it only two iterations. For a such hefty price I would expect no less than Galaxy phone quality except weirdly placed finger print reader. Although even weirder and more obstructive notch looks on iphone it is way more ergonomic phone. I love Android to bits but I still don't think best software on the phone ever deserves that bad hardware treatment.

14. superguy

Posts: 448; Member since: Jul 15, 2011

Does this criticism hold true for the Pixel 2, or just the 2 XL?

16. Victor.H

Posts: 1056; Member since: May 27, 2011

The two are clearly very different, but of course most of the points hold true for the smaller Pixel as well. It's hard to justify such a dated design from flagship products when we see so many well designed new phones.

19. Anonymous.

Posts: 423; Member since: Jun 15, 2016

"It's hard to justify such a dated design from flagship products when we see so many well designed new phones." Good point, though I wonder why this wasn't said about the recycling of a same design from iPhone 6 to 6S all the way to the 8+.. Not talking about a mere mention of the dated iPhone 8 design, but making it lose points by highlighting said dated design as a con!

25. bucky

Posts: 3776; Member since: Sep 30, 2009

you are taking the date part literally....He means the actual design, regardless of how long its been out, doesnt hold up against other phones.

55. superguy

Posts: 448; Member since: Jul 15, 2011

At least for me, the design doesn't bother me. I don't care about bezels one way or another. I care more about functionality and ROM support than design but I want the hardware to work and work well. The Pixel 2 seems have had less issues than the 2 XL, but I also attribute that to HTC generally having more experience making phones, and being a bit more conservative than LG. I'm needing to get a new phone as my HTC 10 is dying, but I've been really underwhelmed by what's been out in general. They all seem to have one deal breaker. OnePlus seems to like to keep sending data to China, so I don't trust them. The Pixel 2 series has been problematic (always reading about some bug/issue). SGS8 has a curved screen, and the Exynos version doesn't cover all the bands - plus I think the phone's a pain to use (wife has it). And all to boot cost as much as the ultrabook I just bought ($900). Hope something good come soon. I'm just tired of "meh".

15. XperiaFanZone

Posts: 2277; Member since: Sep 21, 2012

You missed out the fact that Google decided to go for a poor man's Samsung for their XL device

18. DFranch

Posts: 533; Member since: Apr 20, 2012

Exactly why I got the V30 instead of the 2 XL. Why they added the huge side bezels in order to include squeeze to launch (gimmick) I'll never know.

20. EC112987

Posts: 1214; Member since: Nov 10, 2014

I'm rocking both a note and a pixel. The fact the designs are different makes me appreciate them both. The panda pixel looks amazing.

29. hado86

Posts: 177; Member since: Oct 15, 2014

Bring back nexus program so I can have a Xperia nexus premium or nexus note.

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

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