Review: Google Pixel 2 phone challenges iPhone X, Samsung Galaxy and the results are amazing

Though you can buy the Pixel unlocked from Google or Best Buy and use it with any wireless carrier, Verizon is the exclusive seller among U.S. carriers.

I can recommend either Pixel phone, though there are some shortcomings worth noting.

A closer look:

Design and usability

The XL starts up quick and is snappy to use, with a fingerprint sensor on the back for unlocking the screen that is equally fast. It does not have the kind of gee-whizzy facial unlocking feature that Apple will be delivering on the iPhone X, though how well Apple’s Face ID will work is a big question mark.

The 6-inch display on Pixel XL is beautiful, though lovely displays have become the norm, at least for phones in this price range. I’m less wild about the physical design generally. The Pixels are not quite edge-to-edge as is the case on the all-screen Galaxy Note 8 or upcoming iPhone X. The bezels on the smaller Pixel are even wider, making the 5-inch display seem somehow smaller than it is.

While nitpicking, Google eliminated the standard headphone jack just as Apple did on recent iPhones. That means you have to rely on wireless Bluetooth headphones or on the USB-C adapter in the box to connect wired headphones.

At least Google added water resistance, a major omission on last year’s Pixels.

Photography

Here’s where the Pixels especially excel. I shot some terrific pictures even in low light. Google, following the lead of Apple, added a portrait mode feature that blurs the background while keeping the main subject of your photo in focus. The effect, which is very nice, works on both the 8-megapixel front and 12-megapixel rear cameras.

Two images are automatically captured when you take advantage of the portrait feature. You can toggle back and forth after the fact to choose the one you like best, or just keep both. Google accomplishes this feat with a dual-pixel sensor rather than a second rear camera like on the iPhone 7 Plus, 8 Plus or upcoming X or Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8.

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