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Review: Google Pixel hobbled by Android 7.1

Galen Gruman | Nov. 3, 2016
The Pixel is a major step up for Google's Android hardware, but Android 7.1's networking woes overly complicate corporate usage

After that, Outlook worked fine, and the Pixel knew my credentials for the Office apps. Great! The OneDrive access in the Office apps was also set up, but the OneDrive app itself was not -- a disconnect that also occurs in iOS and Samsung devices.

Note that a later update to Microsoft's Outlook app added Office 365 settings to the Settings app's Outlook account setup. Clearly, Microsoft was the culprit there, not Google.

Then I decided to use Google's Gmail for both personal and work email, which is more convenient than switching apps. (I know: Many IT pros hate that idea.) I added my Exchange account credentials, then got an error message that my device's security settings needed to be updated. (Yet they had worked in Outlook.) I tapped the Continue button and got the same error. Infinite loop! It turns out the version of Gmail preinstalled on the Pixel has a bug, which an update fixed. Once I installed the update, Gmail could access my Exchange email.

It's clear that Android 7.1 is a work in progress, as are Microsoft's apps. That's not a good combination for business users.

Nice hardware isn't enough

Beyond the enterprise naïveté, how is the Pixel? Well, it's a nice phone, clearly inspired by the Apple iPhone and Samsung Galaxy S7 in its look and feel. It has all the specs that matter. It feels good in the hand. The camera is not quite as good as Apple's or Samsung's, but what does that matter in a business phone? We're way beyond good when it comes to phone cameras these days.

My only beef with the hardware is the positioning of the fingerprint scanner on the back of the device. The location makes it much harder to unlock the device and get going. You have to press the power button on the side, then get your finger on the sensor. On the iPhone or Galaxy S, you simply press on the home button to do both actions.

Plus, with the Apple and Samsung devices, you can quickly wake the device when it's on a desk via a tap on the Home button (which is also the fingerprint reader) without having to pick it up first. The Pixel must be picked up to be unlocked via a fingerprint. You can click the power button and enter your password, of course, without picking up the Pixel.

The location of the fingerprint scanner also makes it a little harder to use services like Android Pay and app unlocking. For fingerprint IDs, the Pixel is unnecessarily less convenient than its main competitors.

A nice touch comes with the Pixel hardware. The Pixel's wall charger is USB-C, but Google knows most of us have tons of USB-A chargers (and USB-A hubs and computers with USB-A ports used for charging our phones), so it provides a USB-A-to-USB-C cable and a USB-A-to-USB-C adapter for compatibility with your existing devices. (I wish Apple had been as considerate in its new MacBook Pros.)

 

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