The Google Pixel XL, and its smaller sibling the Pixel, were released in October 2016. At the time of their launch, they were lauded by many as the benchmark for other Android phones. Samsung at the time was still dealing with the debacle that was the Galaxy Note7 while companies like Huawei had solid phones but less-than-stellar user experience in EMUI 4.0. Even the younger kids on the block like OnePlus were touting their phones but from an overall experience, none of them matched the Pixel XL.
Fast forward six months. Is the Pixel XL still a benchmark device? In my opinion, absolutely. It is from many perspectives: Performance, photo quality, and perhaps most importantly, the upgrade experience. If there is one thing that the Google Pixel lineup offers that virtually no others do, it is a pure, as Google intended it, Android experience. Others are close – Motorola and OnePlus – but none are unadulterated Android. When the Pixel was announced, the immediate response was “iPhone copycat” and, to be fair, it is a bit true. If you hold a Pixel up to an iPhone 7, minus the Home button, they look strikingly similar on the front. Is that a bad thing? I don’t think so. Apple, love them or hate them, has done a great job of selling iPhones these past few years and it is a proven look for a smartphone.
Unlike deep dive reviews of phones I’ve done here on the site, I’m not going to do that with the Pixel XL. Instead, I’m going to highlight three key areas that I think make the phone a benchmark by which to measure other phones in the market. You may feel different, and that’s okay. We are all adults and can have a healthy debate on it.