Remember the incredible phone deal offered by Google Fi a couple of weeks ago? The deal was intended to last until midnight pacific time, but it died early. Apparently Google doesn’t have the ability to predict behavior nor the finances to cover a bad bet (I jest). You can read about the expired deal here: WOW! Get a Google Fi phone & travel gift card worth the phone’s price.
The deal was especially good for those who already use Google Fi phone service since it didn’t require porting a number to Fi. So, even though I didn’t need a new phone, I jumped in. I bought the most expensive option: the Pixel 3XL with 128GB for $999. In exchange, I should receive an email within 75 to 90 days with instructions for how to get my $999 Delta, Southwest, AirBnB, or Hotels.com gift card. Most likely I’ll get the Delta gift card and use it when my wife’s flights are expensed for work. In other words, the new $999 will be pretty much free after rebate.
Before the phone / gift card deal I had already switched phone service to Google Fi. Actually, the service was called Project Fi at the time to indicate that it was still being developed. And Fi did not yet officially support iPhones, but I was using it with my iPhone anyway. You can read about my experience with using an iPhone with Google Fi in this post: Google’s Project Fi abroad. 6 surprises: 3 good and 3 bad.
My new Pixel phone tried to arrive exactly a week after the gift card deal, but I was in London and couldn’t sign for the package (see: To London on a whim). FedEx tried again on Thursday and Friday, but I still wasn’t there. I arrived home on Saturday and then picked up the phone on Monday at a nearby FedEx store.
My plan was to use the Pixel phone for a few months to see if I liked it better than my iPhone 7 Plus. Then, I’d either sell the Pixel or the iPhone depending upon which I liked less.
I’ve used the Pixel phone for several days now. It took a while to get used to the Android OS and Pixel’s take on it. Now that I’m through that initial confusion, I’m happy with the way it works. The phone is fast, it’s intuitive to use, it has a big beautiful screen, and the battery lasts all day with ease. All of those things are true of my iPhone too, but at least the Pixel hasn’t disappointed me in any of those areas.
The Pixel’s camera is known to be best in class, so I did a quick comparison with my iPhone. Of course, it’s not fair to compare a two year old iPhone to a brand new Pixel, but those were my options. As you can see below, the Pixel is much better at capturing detail, and it captures colors more accurately. On the other hand, the iPhone photos are arguably more flattering. The Pixel also offers “Night Sight” mode where it can take very good photos in extremely dim light. That’s a really cool feature if you need it, but it doesn’t work if there’s much movement in the frame.
One oddity to the Pixel phone is that the fingerprint reader is in the back. It’s placed in the center horizontally and about a quarter of the way down from the top. The idea, I think, is that when holding the phone with one hand, your index finger will naturally find it’s way to the fingerprint reader. I imagine that I’ll get used to it eventually, but right now I find it annoying. Often the phone is flat on a table when I want to unlock it, and I have to pick it up and then adjust my grip in order to unlock it.
iPhone withdrawal symptoms
The hardest part about switching from iPhone to Android involves leaving iPhone features behind. Most of my trouble so far has been with iMessage…
When iPhone users text each other, the messages are sent as data over the internet rather than as text over SMS. iPhones are supposed to automatically detect whether the recipient can receive iMessages and change to SMS if they can’t. The key part of that sentence is “supposed to“.
Almost all of my friends and relatives have iPhones, and over the past several days they’ve been unable to message me. Worse… they didn’t know it. On their end, it appeared as if they sent me an iMessage. Only a very keen observer would notice that the message never showed the tiny word “Delivered”.
On my end, I got nothing.
I tried all of the solutions that a half dozen Google searches suggested, but nothing worked. Finally, I contacted Google Fi support. I clicked a button on the Fi website to have them call me, and in less than a minute I had Brandon, from Fi Support, on the phone. Brandon was great! He listened to what was going on and dug up a solution list. And, rather than monotonously talking me through the list, he emailed it to me. That made the conversation go much smoother. I was able to quickly determine that I had already tried solutions 1 through 3 without any luck. I hadn’t tried solution 4 yet: Change the Password for Your Apple ID. That did the trick, but not for the reason the support document suggested.
For those who may face a similar dilemma, here was the solution:
- Browse to https://appleid.apple.com and sign in with your Apple ID
- In my case, I was forced to change my password because it didn’t meet current standards. Fine. Done.
- Once you’re logged in, you’ll see the devices that are supposedly signed in. In my case, one of those devices was an old iPhone that I no longer use. And it was specifically registered to my phone number. That was why friend’s phones thought I was still on iMessage!
- I clicked the link for the old phone and clicked “remove from account”.
Then Brandon and I had a problem. He was able to verify that a new message sent to me from an iPhone worked, but we had no way to know if would work if an iPhone user replied to an existing conversation. So Brandon suggested that he could call me back in ten minutes after I tried it out. I then called my wife and asked her to reply to an iMessage conversation. It worked!
Brandon called back after ten minutes as promised. I told him the good news, but that I didn’t feel like the solution had been fully tested yet. He wasn’t about to pawn me off on someone else. He suggested that I take my time testing it out and reply to his email in order to contact him again. I thought that was great service.
Now, I think that my messaging functions are fully restored, but I’m still not 100% sure. Fortunately, I now know how to contact Brandon if I need more help.
WhatsApp: Where did my conversations go?
Over the past few days I’ve been steadily adding the apps to my phone that I use regularly. When I added WhatsApp I was surprised to find that none of my prior chats appeared in the app. I just assumed that they would all be “in the cloud” and accessible from any device. I’m sure there’s a way to move the old conversations over, but I haven’t had the time to mess with that yet.
iPhone features I’ll miss most
Airdrop: Apple’s Airdrop is awesome. When traveling, I find that almost everyone around me tends to have an iPhone. This means that we can seamlessly share with each other via Airdrop. Airdrop makes it super easy to share photos, videos, notes, etc. and you don’t even have to be connected to the internet to do so. One example was when my wife and I were on a small group tour of Tuscany. As we rode a mini-bus towards our final stop on the tour, we all started sharing our favorite photos from the trip — via Airdrop. That was awesome.
Yes there are apps that can do the same thing on Android phones, but until everyone has such an app on their phone it won’t be the great spontaneous sharing solution that Airdrop is today.
Share Wifi Password: When traveling around Germany and England with a group of 9, we used this feature frequently. One person would log into our Airbnb’s wifi by typing in the codes and then he or she simply shared the password with others nearby through some iPhone magic that I don’t understand.
Find Friends: Google offers a similar feature as part of Google Maps, but we need to make the effort to move to that. I mainly use Find Friends to see if my wife is close by when we arrange to meet somewhere. While she can now find me through Google Maps, she’s had trouble setting up her Google Maps to share with me. I’m sure we’ll get that sorted out soon.
iPhone Charging Cables: I’m not really going to miss Apple’s proprietary charging cables. But I definitely will miss being able to share charging cables with friends and family.
iMessage: iMessage has interactive features not available through SMS or MMS messaging. I may miss those features a little bit, but mainly I’ll miss receiving messages at all if it turns out that my solution didn’t really work.
First Impressions Summarized
I’ve been happy with the Pixel 3 XL so far, but moving from iPhone has been more painful than I expected. And here’s the thing: I’m not at all sure it’s worth it. While the Pixel works very well, I haven’t yet seen anything that’s better than a new iPhone — other than the ability to take pictures in the dark.
I’m planning to give Pixel a fair chance and spend the next few months using it as my primary phone. We’ll see whether Android and Pixel can win me over in that time. If not, I’ll probably sell both the Pixel 3 and my current iPhone and buy a new iPhone XS.
This is going to be interesting. What do you think? Will the Pixel win me over?