Photos is the Pixel’s iMessage lock-in

With the recent launch of the OnePlus 5, I was giving very strong consideration to selling my Pixel XL and picking up the new OnePlus device with the proceeds.  The specs on the OnePlus 5 are fantastic, but the more thought I gave the idea, the more I realized one thing – I can’t give up one of the main benefits of being a Pixel owner; that being the automatic and full resolution back up of my photos.

Padlock Icon On Computer Screen Showing Safety Security And ProtectedThere are many people who say that they want to make the switch from an iPhone to an Android device, but end up not doing it because of one app – iMessage.  It’s so much better and easier to use than anything that Android currently has to offer and so omnipresent that it becomes the single reason to keep people “locked into” the Apple ecosystem.  This is the “lock-in” effect many people commonly refer to with Apple and their iMessage product.  Turns out Pixel owners may also have a lock-in; Google Photos.  Let’s explore why.

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Google confirms 2 and 3 year software support timeline for their Pixel phones

Google has recently updated their “end of life” page, which details how long owners of the specific Google branded or made devices can expect software support.  This is useful for both buyers and current owners, as it gives a good idea of when you might want to consider investing in a new phone if software support and security patches are things that matter to you.

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Google Pixel XL – 6 months later

Here we are 6 months now since the release of a new paradigm for Google – a phone designed by and sold under Google’s own branding.  The Pixel isn’t your father’s Nexus device; and boy, does it show.  Starting with the pricetag on down, the Pixel and Pixel XL are premium devices that are different than anything that Google has done before.  Literally, as they’ve never really done a phone by themselves before.  Knowing that, it’s 6 months later – how is the Pixel doing today?  Let’s find out.

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Mobile phone cases 101

Again, since its a new year, I thought I might try something new and go with a basic review of some things that we get a lot of questions about: mobile phone cases.  There is a lot of confusion about the style of cases and the materials that are used, so I shot a quick video now published on our YouTube channel (be kind, as I’m pretty sure I hadn’t showered and my hair is a wreck); its about a 6 minute discussion around a few different styles of cases, what they are made of, and the one I’m using right now and why.

Check the link, and hopefully we’ll be doing more of these…so feel free to click the subscribe button to subscribe to the Silicon Theory channel on YouTube.

Feel free to leave comments and if you have anything else you’d like to see us review, hit us up here, on Twitter (@silicontheory) or at our inbox at

[Opinion] 5 things I love about the Pixel

So I’ve had the Pixel XL as my daily driver for a little more than a month now, and couldn’t be more happy with it.  And it appears to be a home run for Google, as Fortune recently reported that analysts anticipate and almost 6 billion dollar revenue bump over this year and the next from Pixel sales.  While some will argue that that’s only a drop in the bucket in terms of overall sales figures (compared to iPhone sales, and that is correct) for Google to have sold around 3 million of its new handsets in such a short time since release is a good sign for the search giant’s burgeoning mobile device business.
Having said all that, I wanted to give a quick follow up of the 5 things I enjoy most about being a Pixel owner, and perhaps help convince some who might be on the fence about purchasing the device.  All this assumes you’ve already read our Pixel XL review, but if you haven’t, start there.  Then read on…

5 Things I love about the Pixel XL
  • Size & form factor:  the feel in hand of the device is great.  Its weighted correctly, the solid aluminum chassis has a solid feel to it without being overly heavy (168 grams, or 5.93oz) and the chamfers around the edge give it a easy to hold corner surface.  Its big without being BIG, and the bezels on the top and bottom recede when you’re actually using the device in landscape.  While its only a slightly smaller footprint than the last Google flagship in the Nexus 6P, the slight reduction in width and height makes this 5.5″ display device much more of a one handed experience (and that’s a good thing)
  • Display: the size is good, at 5.5″ overall (slightly less viewing area with the bottom portion taken up by the on-screen keys) and the Quad HD AMOLED panel makes colors pop and blacks deep and true.  Its great for watching darn near anything multimedia, especially streamed video.  The viewing angles are good and if there was one nit to pick, it would be the…nits.  Of brightness.  Its a little dim for viewing in direct sunlight, but fortunately this isn’t something that happens for me that often.  The display is definitely a solid performer.
  • Camera:  as has been mentioned in just about every review of the Pixel devices, the camera (with a Sony IMX378 sensor driving it) is a very solid performer, and among the best available in a mobile smartphone today.  It launches quickly, focuses quickly, and snaps the photos quickly.  HDR+ processing generally returns a high quality image (with the vibrant punchy colors common in HDR processing) with good detail in both good light and low light areas.  I’ve personally taken some very good images in low light, and have only experienced any difficulties when trying to catch focused images of constantly on the move toddlers.  If you want an above average all around performer in your phone’s camera, this is the one to pick.
Photo courtesy the Verge
  • Battery life:  this is an area where the Pixel XL truly shines.  Battery life is impacted by a number of factors – your signal strength, usage and type of usage, and brightness settings (just to name a few) – but for me, I can get through a normal day without even a thought of running out of juice.  Even days when I am taking quite a few photos, the battery will hold strong during down times/idle times, and its not uncommon for me on the weekend with light to moderate usage to go 2 days between charges.  And rapid charging via the USB Type-C will buy you some extra time if you are worried you’ll be away from a wall for a longer than normal period of time.
  • Speed/fluidity:  the Pixel XL has a combination of the latest Snapdragon processor from Intel (the S821) and the Android 7.1 Nougat operating system, which has been optimized specifically for the Pixel devices.  And man does it show.  Animations for launching apps, opening the app drawer, scrolling between home screens, everything moves with a responsiveness that is noticeably missing on many Android devices.  The clamor of those who scream that “Droids don’t work like iPhones do!” are probably going to be surprised that the Pixel phones do exactly that.  Couple that will updates for 3 years and Google’s commitment to monthly security patches as well, and you’ve got a software experience that is going to be tough for any other phone maker to match.
Those are the 5 things that I love the most about being an owner of a Pixel XL.  If you own one as well, and have some thoughts, make sure to leave a comment below.  Cheers!

[Podcast] Episode 15 – All the Pixel XL talk!

Great news everyone!  The latest episode of the Silicon Theory podcast is uploading, and in it we talk about the latest smartphone offering from Google, the Pixel XL.  We cover out first impressions and hands on time with the device, and discuss whether we feel like Google got it right or not on their first attempt. By way of disclaimer, there is some mature language used in the pod, so listener discretion is advised. 
But if you are interested in what this device might have to offer, you can now read our review or listen to the podcast – whatever your media consumption preference might be.  Check it out, and make sure to subscribe to the podcast to get all of the latest episodes as they drop.  Links will be added as soon as the pod is available…cheers!

[Review] Google Pixel XL – Extraordinarily ordinary

I’ve spent the last 7 days with the Pixel XL from Google, and used it as my daily driver for the last 3 of those.  And I can honestly say its the best Android phone I’ve ever used (and I’ve used a LOT) – but the strange thing is – the Pixel does it by not standing out.  The phone gets out of the way of the end user to such a degree that it feels like there is nothing standing between you and what you are trying to accomplish with the device.  Where other devices try to impress with quality screens, amazing cameras, or cutting edge specs (and the Pixel has all of these) the Pixel goes beyond gimmicks and hardware features to a place where Android is showcased in the best possible way – a polished and smooth user experience that’s simply a joy to use.  Fellow tech seekers, let’s talk about the Pixel XL.

What I like:
*Overall Specs

For it’s flagship device, Google didn’t skimp.  They put the latest CPU (Snapdragon 821) and paired it with 4GB of RAM, and either 32 or 128GB of speedy UFS 2.0 internal storage.  It’s the end of 2016, and Google tasked HTC with getting the best of what was available, and they did it.  This also includes the display, which in the standard Pixel is an AMOLED display with a 1080p resolution, and in this Pixel XL jumps to a QHD AMOLED panel with 1440p resolution.  Colors pop, blacks are jet black, and details are sharp.  The included wallpaper picker app puts how good this display is front and center.  It’s plenty bright indoors, but this falters a little outdoors in direct sunlight.  I’m not an engineer, and I could post stats about how many nits of brightness the display gets, but instead I’ll say this – its a great looking display.  If you prefer a display to have a more “true to life” look to it, you’ll want an LCD similar to the one found in the current generation iPhone.  If you prefer the punchy vivid colors of an AMOLED display, the Pixel has got you covered.

What I don’t like:
*Price point
*Lack of water resistance
*Overall design
The fact that the Pixel starts at $649 for the 32GB model is a problem for some people.  When you factor in that the extra storage is $100 more, the problem grows.  These are iPhone/Galaxy phone prices, and Google hasn’t really shown that it can do that kind of phone just yet.  But I think that the fact that Google is willing to finance the phone themselves and allow you to pick it up through Verizon or Best Buy in a similar fashion is a step in the right direction.  If you are concerned about the price, try thinking of it in terms of basically $30/month instead, and its a bit more reasonable.
Reports of the reasons behind why the Pixel and Pixel XL aren’t water resistant are surfacing, and rather than detract from the devices, to me, it adds more to them.  If this is what Google did with HTC in only 9 months, its pretty damn impressive.  And while it doesn’t necessarily excuse the lack of what is quickly becoming a “standard” feature, it makes it more understandable.  This is probably also the reason behind why (beyond the window on the back) the design of the Pixel is fairly bland and very generic.  Well, to be fair – its not generic in the way it looks very much like an iPhone from the front, but generic in the way that it doesn’t immediately distinguish itself as NOT being an iPhone.  The Pixel is Google’s brand – it should and deserves to stand out in a way that nothing else does.
What I love:
*Size/form factor
*Fluidity of use
*Battery life
I make fun of Sean P. for being a Samsung and Note fanboi (and he freely admits this is true) and so conversely, I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a Google fanboi.  This phone is in a lot of ways what I’ve been waiting for, for a while.  The size of the XL is just right – not too big, not too small, and feels well built and solid but also light enough to comfortably hold for long periods of time.  The Nexus 6P is a great phone, and also represents the best that Android had to offer for its time, and the Pixel XL is just better.  Its a little smaller, but still has a size that makes it a great choice for a portable multimedia device.

Left: Pixel XL, Right: Nexus 6P
Left: Pixel XL, Right: Nexus 6P
Android 7.1 is showcased to full effect on the Pixel XL hardware.  Touches are registered quickly, scrolling is smooth and snappy, and you get to everything quickly.  Folders open quickly, apps launch quickly, and the app shortcuts built into the newest version of Android ensure that you’ll get the most productive use out of your new Pixel phone.  Plus you’re guaranteed to get at least 2 years worth of software updates direct from Google and another year of security patches after that.  Battery life has been quite good on the Pixel XL.  Most folks use “screen on time” as a measure of how efficiently a phone is using its battery, as well as the total amount that a device can be off a charger in mixed use.  

With my Nexus 6P I was typically getting a full day of use (around 16-18 hours off the charger) and getting about 2-2.5 hours of screen on time (SOT) from it.  While that’s pretty good, the Pixel XL absolutely smashes it, without breaking a sweat.  I’m consistently hitting the 2.5 hours SOT mark after a day…with about 40-50% of the battery life left.  Extrapolating that, you should be able to use the XL for a full day and achieve somewhere between 4-5 hours of SOT.  For my money, that’s excellent.  My day typically consists of about 2 hours of streamed podcasts, about 45 minutes to an hour of streamed video, and the usual texts/email/Twitter/Instagram/Facebook reviews throughout the day.  I’m comfortable in saying that the Pixel XL should get you through a full day easily if you have similar use and are on a mix of LTE and WiFi at some point.
The camera – what else can be said that hasn’t already?  Like highest rated rated smartphone camera ever reviewed by notable site DXOMark?  Check.  It can match or beat the iPhone 7 and Galaxy S7 cameras in most areas?  Also check.  Its a well thought out and executed camera experience?  Yup.  If you are looking for something that will start fast, focus fast and take great pictures fast, this is the mobile camera in a smartphone for you.  For those with families (especially those with small children, like me) having a camera that takes great quality photos quickly is a huge plus.  Side note: being a Pixel owner means you’ll have all your photos backed up to Google Photos for free, in an unlimited quantity and in the original resolution.  This is a HUGE selling point, and one that can’t be overlooked when considering whether or not to purchase one of these devices.   See the below for a few sample shots, and check out our Instagram feed (@silicontheory) for some more pictures taken with the Pixel XL’s camera.  You’re gonna like them.

Other thoughts:
I’ve said a lot of things that I like or love about the Pixel XL device.  It’s not a perfect phone…it doesn’t have front facing (or stereo) speakers, and the bottom firing speaker while adequate in volume  does come off a little tinny.  Audio output from the headphone jack seems to be good though, and for those of you with wired headsets, you should enjoy that.  I don’t have the smaller Pixel phone to test in terms of battery life or display, but the review of the device over at Droid-Life here should satisfy some of those curious about it.

So what does all of this boil down to?  If you are an Android person, the Pixel or Pixel XL is probably a device you would really, really like.  If you are an iPhone person, and are thinking of making the switch – the Pixel is probably the phone you should choose.  Its the most “iPhone-like” Android device out there – it even looks like an iPhone from the front.  Google is taking the Pixel phone seriously, from the hardware and software, to the marketing, to its vertical integration with all the other forthcoming hardware products (like Google Home, WiFi, and Daydream View)  Will next years device be better?  Almost certainly yes, but next year’s version of everything is always better.  So…there’s that.  It’s pricey, but if you’re in the Google ecosystem, the Pixel and XL are probably worth it.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again; I for one welcome our new Google overlords.  Hopefully they are here to stay.  If you’ve got any questions I didn’t answer in the review, hit us up at or on Twitter @silicontheory

[Review] 48 Hours with the Pixel XL

So, as mentioned, we have a Pixel XL (in Very Silver) and are taking it for a test drive.  We’ll have a full review up in the next few days, but for those of you who are interested in both the XL and its smaller Pixel sibling, we wanted to give a few thoughts after using it for the first 2 days.  So, read on for my impression of the Pixel XL after 48 hours…


  • The Pixel XL feels nice in the hand.  The glass window on the back does take a little bit of getting used to though.
  • The size of the phone does not seem to match the size of the display (at 5.5″) – it just feels smaller than it should be.
  • It noticeably smaller than phones with a similar display size (namely the iPhone 7+)
  • While its solidly built, it feels very light in the hand – but no bending, creaking, or flexing on the XL – its well made and it shows.


  • Smooth, smooth, smooth.  The newest version of Android is so polished, it almost feels slow, if you get what I mean.  Commonly referred to as the “iPhone effect.”
  • Depending on where you are, you might get a faster version of LTE (only available in some markets) – unclear if Southern California is one of these, but I’ve seen noticeably faster download times for installing new apps.  Installation is fast as well.
  • The fingerprint scanner (Pixel Imprint) is fast, and sets up quickly – the ability to swipe up and down on it to effect the notification shade is a nice touch as well.
  • Swiping on the display is a pleasure.  The glass is responsive, and light and smooth to the touch.  Input is registered quickly and accurately as well.
  • Early battery results are encouraging.  Using the stock charge of 75% I’ve taken it down to 20% on LTE mostly, with about 2.5 hours of screen on time.  And over 30 hours since the initial boot and stock charge were fired up.  I’d say that falls in the “very good” category.

  • Shooter loads quickly, and is ready to go insanely fast.  Almost before you are ready to take the picture – both launching from the app shortcut and from a double press of the power button.
  • Focus was good, and the detail in the pictures after taking them is fantastic (good lighting)
  • The few low light pics I’ve taken so far (both with and without flash) were good but more testing to come in the next few days.
So far, so good for the Pixel XL.  I’ve got a few sample photos up already on our Instagram and Twitter – we are @silicontheory for both of those – go check them out, and will be posting more in the days to come.  Stay tuned for our full review soon!

[News] Early reviews of the Google Pixel are in…

And so far, I think its safe to say that things are looking up for Google.  Like they needed any help?  But still, the high price point and “internet hates” that the Pixel and Pixel XL seemed to be getting hasn’t stopped it from selling out on the Google Play Store.
If you are into Android, and thinking about getting a new device, check out the below to read up on what the first week or so has been like for those lucky sites getting review units (most reviews are of the Pixel XL that I’ve seen, so take the battery comments with a grain of salt)

Here’s where you should start:

And if that isn’t enough to convince you, then well….I don’t know what would be (or why you’d even be reading this website article in the first place) – So there you have it!  We’ll have a review of the Pixel XL ourselves up in the next week or so as the review unit comes in and we get a chance to test things like battery life, camera quality, and overall look and feel as well.  Keep an eye out for that coming soon!

[Guide] So you can’t get the Note 7 – now what?

So we’ve received a few questions about the Note 7 and for those who were looking to upgrade, its now off the table (sorry Samsung) – but the question becomes, okay – now what do you buy?  We’re glad you asked!  Without further ado, here are some thoughts on what you might want to consider if you are wanting or needing to pick up a new smartphone this year.

If you were already using the Note 7 (or are using another Note size device) we’ll assume for the moment that you want something with a similar size and are already using Android.  So, with that in mind, the options would likely be:

Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
Why choose the Galaxy S7 Edge?
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking – Samsung just basically quit on the Note 7 because well…it was catching fire and stuff.  I get that.  But the Galaxy series (in both the S7 and the S7 Edge) have been out for a while now, and there’s no shenanigans going on with them.  We have a S7 in the house and its a great, great phone.  The S7 Edge is probably going to be the way you want to go if you 1) want a great display (at 5.5″ instead of the Note’s 5.7″), a great camera, SD card storage as an option, and IP68 water resistance.  The S7 Edge ticks all these boxes, and then some.
Why *not* choose the Galaxy S7 Edge?  
If you just don’t trust Samsung anymore AT ALL, I get it.  I’d say that’s a bit silly, but you’re entitled to your opinion.  If you aren’t in love with the dual curved displays, that’s another reason.  It does make the phone a little slippery in hand to hold, so if you go that route, be sure to get a good case.  If you want to ensure you get timely updates on Android directly from Google, you might want to avoid the S7 Edge as well, as Samsung hasn’t had a great track record with this either (but I hear that Android Nougat 7.0 should be coming soon) – that’s pretty much all that’s not to like here.
Photo courtesy of – the Pixel XL

Why choose the Google Pixel XL?

Google is getting into the hardware game with their own branded mobile device.  In the Pixel and Pixel XL, people are being told this phone will represent the best that Google and Android have to offer with a great hardware and software experience.  The Pixel XL will be the way to go if you 1), want a solid display (a 5.5″ QHD AMOLED display – rumored to have come from Samsung current generation displays), 2) a highly touted mobile camera, and 3) a clean, fast, stock Android experience including new features like Google Assistant and free unlimited native resolution storage of all your photos – forever.  The Pixel XL is available for pre-order but won’t be released til the end of October.
Why *not* choose the Google Pixel XL?  
The Pixel XL isn’t available yet, as noted above.  So if you need a phone NOW, you won’t be going the Pixel route.  If you can wait, you still might be put off by the high price tag (the XL 32GB starts at $769) and the lack of things like water resistance or SD card external storage (neither of which the Pixel has, but you could purchase a 128GB base storage model if you chose, for a whopping $869)  The Pixel is also mostly an unknown commodity, so if you aren’t keen about being an early adopter, then you should probably hold off on the Pixel XL as well.
LG V20

Why choose the LG V20?

LG’s latest big boy flagship is going to be out there soon, in stark contrast to the earlier released LG G5 which was not met with a ton of enthusiasm.  However, the V20 has got a lot going for it.  You might consider the V20 if you want 1) the same size display as the Note 7 (the V20 sports a 5.7″ QHD LCD display, 2) SD card storage, 3) are REALLY into audio (as the V20 has an internal DAC and amplifier), and 4) want or need a removable battery.  The V20 has an all metal chassis and also sports a dual camera setup on the back for regular and wide angle shots.  
Why *not* choose the LG V20?  
Like the Pixel XL, the V20 won’t be available until the end of October in most places, so if you need a new phone NOW, scratch the V20 off your list.  Its also rumored to weight in at the healthy $800ish price point, so you might avoid it if you can’t take the sticker shock.   It’s not going to have a better display than either the S7 Edge or Pixel XL, but it does have a secondary display like a ticker across the top which has some nice functionality.  But its still an LCD display, so that means its not likely to have colors that pop or deep blacks in its color gamut.  Its big – bigger than both the Edge and XL, so if you want something a little more….svelte?  Try one of the others.
There you go – some options for those saddened by the demise of the Note 7 and looking for other options this year.  If you’re interested in another device we didn’t mention (the iPhone 7 Plus) well, that’s because we assumed above you were using a Note Android device, and the iPhone doesn’t run Android (obviously) – but if you want our thoughts on that phone as well, hit us up at and we’ll give you some feedback.
Cheers, and hope that helps!