From the Editor’s Desk: Being critical vs. starting a Pixel 2 XL witch hunt
We hyper-analyze these phones sometimes, and we do it inconsistently.
If there’s one thing we’ve discovered by closely following the technology space the past few years, it’s that no consumer electronic device is perfect. That’s become extremely clear in the smartphone space in particular: smartphones are such a crucial part of our daily lives, and they continue to get more expensive, in turn leading to ever-higher expectations. When a company demands $900 for a phone, we want it to have exactly what we need — something no phone can do for everyone, of course.
This brings me to the Pixel 2 XL and its screen. #screengate #burngate #bluegate or whatever else you want to call it — this thing doesn’t have a great screen. At best, I think, you could say the Pixel 2 XL has an average display. But what I’ve seen in response to the Pixel 2 XL’s display woes has gone far beyond demanding that a $900 phone be great, and well into the “witch hunt” category — befitting of this Halloween weekend.
Looking on Twitter, in our forums and through comments on our Pixel 2 XL articles, it’s amazing the amount of utter disgust people have toward this display. Reading these remarks, you’d think the Pixel 2 XL was unusable — like sandpaper rubbing on your eyeballs every time you turn on the screen. People CAN’T BELIEVE that Google would ship a phone with such a display. (Many of them, of course, having at best seen the phone for 15 minutes in a Verizon store.) I’ve seen demands for refunds and outright recalls.
The Pixel 2 XL’s screen deserves much of the ire it’s been getting. But the display is fine. Not great, maybe not even above average, but fine. It has characteristics that set it a notch below the competition, and I agree that Google should’ve sourced a better panel. People are right in noting that it just doesn’t offer the same great screen experience as a Galaxy Note 8 or even a less-expensive HTC U11. But there’s the thing: you can point to dozens of things the Note 8 or U11 don’t do as well as the Pixel 2 XL … but I don’t recall the hoards of people with pitchforks chasing down those phones.
Some criticism is warranted — but this vitriol is way beyond the actual issues at hand.
The Pixel 2 XL may be unique in how poorly its display performs for the price. But it’s hardly unique in that it’s a high-end phone with a flaw that is going to make some people choose to buy one of the competing phones in the space. And it’s a “flaw” many people will look past and buy anyway.
If you look at our Google Pixel 2 and 2 XL review, or our list of the best Android phones, you’ll find that we currently have a disclaimer at the bottom that we’re not recommending the Pixel 2 XL at the moment. Provided that Google follows through on its software changes outlined in detail this week to mitigate some of the 2 XL screen issues, that disclaimer will be going away. This doesn’t mean that I think the Pixel 2 XL has a great display — and if you read my review, which hasn’t changed since it was published, I never thought it was all that good. But it means that we’re looking past the witch hunt trying to find any and every issue seemingly destined to torpedo the Pixel 2 XL, and recommending it for what it is: a fantastic phone in so many respects, but one you’re going to have to put up with a relatively average display on.
And with that, a few more thoughts on the week:
- It’s no secret that I’m using the new Gear Sport smartwatch and Gear IconX 2018 earbuds — be ready to see a review for both this coming week.
- The Gear Sport is far and away a better overall watch than the Gear S3, and that really just comes down to its size and weight. It’s gone from “ridiculous and unnecessary” to “totally manageable on a daily basis.” That’s super important.
- The Gear IconX 2018 earbuds have fixed issues, but aren’t poised to be a huge seller. The insistence on being focused on fitness, combined with the $199 price, make them a niche product.
- So … OnePlus 5T eh? Looks like OnePlus is going to change its script once again, opting for a design change for its “T” variant rather than just a spec bump. We’ll know more in just a couple of weeks, if rumors hold true.
- I know the new Moto X4 didn’t get a ton of attention thanks to its price and mid-range specs, but that thing is a great phone for $400. I won’t be hesitating to recommend it to people who want to spend less than all of these high-end phones today.
Have a safe Halloween, everyone — whether you’re out partying, or taking your kids around the neighborhood for some free candy.
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