Preamble: This is written over several days rather than all at once so
Well, it took a month but it finally arrived – it appears that when parcels are sent over the Christmas period that customs are a lot more intense in their random checking – I guess when people try to smuggle things through the post they send it through during Christmas time in a hope the with the urgency of getting things delivered will mean that corners will be cut so then even if 10 parcels were sent through and 2 are found then 8 will at least make their way through. It appears that customs in New Zealand have cottoned onto that not to mention the introduction of charging GST on all imported stuff (there used to be an allowance) – making sure that what people declare in terms of value actually corresponds to the actual value. The two occurring at the same time during the Christmas season results in the delays – I only wished that NZ Post/YouShop would communicate that better.
Before I could do anything on the phone I first had to get my G-Suite account up and running again; setting up the DNS settings in WordPress so then I can start using G-Suite with my custom domain. Part of that also involves moving data from Apple’s iCloud over to G-Suite while also re-organising emails into a more coherent order. One fo the site effects of the Apple mail is the fact that even though you can create a label and then drag and drop it in Apple Mail (labels are seen as directories on Apple Mail) on the destination the label isn’t being applied to the message resulting it all being dumped into the ‘All Mail’ directory thus necessitating the process to be done in batches then reorganising after each batch. I’ve got with G-Suite Business which gives me 1TB of storage – enough space to back up all my music (both original back ups in the form of FLAC and the compressed version I copy to my phone to listen on the go).
Anyway, it was delivered (today) and the first thing I did was plug it in to my old Samsung charger which has a USB-C connector (in the box it came with an adapter for the US. While charging up I installed all the updates from Google – thing to keep in mind that Android don’t roll up their updates in a cumulative fashion but instead if you buy a Pixel 4 XL it downloads each monthly update separately thus requiring a reboot after each one. It isn’t a major issue but just something to keep in mind. After updating I completed a system reset (I didn’t register my device, just risked through the setup wizard with no configuration apart from adding my wifi settings) then put my SIM card in from my iPhone where the phone picked it up and was able to achieve a strong 4G 700MHz signal (New Zealand uses Band 28 as part of LTE Asian-Pacific Telecommunity band plan (APT) – which is incompatible with the 700Mhz LTE plan that they use in the United States. One of the things you need to keep an eye out for when importing a phone is ensuring that the frequencies on the phone match up with the frequency used by the carrier that you operate through.
The Android setup wizard started and the process was completed promptly with updates for the various components downloading in the background – the process is pretty much the same any other Android vendor other than maybe certain OEM’s adding extra steps for their own software and services to get the customers login and configure. The first thing you’ll notice, after everything is setup and updated, is how buttery smooth the whole Android experience is on Pixel when compared to other Android vendors. It is one of the reasons why I am disappointed that Google hasn’t bought the Pixel to New Zealand given that right now the only experience that New Zealanders get when it comes to Android is Huawei and Samsung (the two biggest sellers). They don’t exactly set the best standard when one considers the abysmal lack of after market support such as not only timely upgrades to Android but more importantly the monthly security updates that Google provides but seem to take OEM’s months to deploy to customers – in some cases in New Zealand they’re 2-3 months late when compared to other countries (not that the users in those countries are getting it any better – I guess they’re getting a ‘less worse’ experience).
After updating the software phone (including the software through the Play Store), putting the SIM card and configuring I then put in the leather wallet style case from Snake Hive (link) since I use it to replace my wallet (I don’t carry cards around and instead use Google Pay for everything). This is what it looks like – sorry for the poor quality since I was using my webcam to take the photos:
The feel of the leather is wonderful, a smooth suede on the outside and on the inside a traditional brown leather with three slots and a slot behind to put some notes or additional cards. The loop is held in place by a magnet and holds pretty firm. The great thing about leather is that if it is taken care of then over time as it ages it remains presentable rather than it looking badly warn it retains a aged character not to mention how well leather holds up over the long term to the rigours of every day life.
The one thing you’ll first notice, when coming from other Android OEM’s, is how all the software integrated are deployed through the store and regularly updated. Where as many Android OEM’s insist on re-inventing the wheel, Google instead uses the bog standard applications – the phone application also give a more reliable integrated experience with Microsoft’s new phone companion application, the messaging application has web based integration (you can turn into a PWA if you want to have the integrated experience without the browser UI) and once RCS has been deployed world wide then it should mean that the RCS service will be automatically made available to those using said application. The benefit of applications getting updated in a piecemeal fashion means that there is an opportunity to push out fixes and improvements when the individual teams are happy rather than holding back or bringing it forward to meet some sort of deal line aka monolithic releases akin to what one observes in the world of iOS.
The battery life is around the same as my iPhone XS Max but keeping in mind that I am not a heavy user of my phone – I primarily use it for listening to music, surfings the net, reddit and twitter, messaging via WhatsApp, watching YouTube videos. With all the latest updates I haven’t experienced any of the issues that the early adopters talked about. The performance and reliability of ones wireless signal is a lot better than with the iPhone XS Max – although I don’t have a benchmark of the iPhone XS Max, I do have the result of the Pixel 4 XL:
The download and upload speed is around 3 times faster, the wifi speed based on downloading updates and applications is also faster as well – not as noticeable as with the mobile performance. It is good to see that a well tuned modern can produce great results – something that Apple should focus on now that they have their own modem team rather than focusing on gimmicky features with constant promises that ‘this year will be the year that [insert feature] will take off!”.
There are some things that one has to get used to when using a Mac and having an Android phone – Android File Transfer for example is the preferred way of transferring files although if you’re willing to lay out some cash to bring about a more seamless experience there is always Sync Mate (link) which integrates in with iTunes so that you can leave it up to the application to keep your phone synchronised with your music library rather than dragging and dropping. For me I’m happy with dragging and dropping music but there are options there who would like a drop in replacement for the iTunes/iPhone experience.
Regarding the SoC – to be blunt, I don’t care about the benchmarks and they have never been a factor when purchasing a device, be it iPhone or an Android phone, if it is running the flagship SoC then it is plenty fast enough for what I need so unless you’re playing games on the phone then there is more than enough power and memory. The downside is the lack of a microsd slot but for most people they’ll find 128GB more than enough but it is something to be aware of when buying it. Pricing wise, best to grab it is when it is on special, I got it when it was $200 off and given that Amazon and Google like to have regular sales the best thing to do is wait until a special rolls around because at $200 off the RRP it is pretty good value for money.