I have the Google Pixel, and I'll never look back

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Well, a week or two ago I told you I was getting frustrated with my Windows phone, and last week I went ahead and took the plunge. I switched carriers and ended up getting a Pixel phone by Google, which I'd reviewed last November. (I liked it so much I did two different columns about it.)

The Pixel is an Android-based smartphone with a great camera. I love the camera, I love the rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, and it's just a good camera all around. It's the first time I've ever owned such a top-of-the-line phone.

My co-worker Carol said something to me about getting a case for it. I knew she was right -- I am (over the next couple of years) paying a lot of money for this phone, and I need to protect my investment.

It's one of the ironies of the smartphone age that Apple, Samsung and others fight to come up with the beautiful, gleaming smartphones -- it's a major news story when Apple introduces a new color, for heaven's sake -- which we then immediately cover up with a rubbery protective case which makes the phone twice as thick. The original case, the one which Jonny Ive (or whoever) spent so much time on, is never seen again. But I guess that's just a fact of life. And the case was a much better value than signing up for a protection plan which would cost me, each and every month, more than a third as much as I'm paying for the phone itself.

I also had to buy a new cable and some adapters. My old phone used a micro-USB connection for charging or data transfer, but the Pixel uses the newer (and better) USB-C connector. It came with one charger and one data cable, but I wanted a cable at work and one at home, so I ordered a generic USB-C cable online. I also ordered some little micro-USB to USB-C adapters that will allow be to use my cell phone booster batteries, which I used when I'm traveling or at some sort of special event and plan to take and post a lot of photos.

Anyway, now that I'm in the Android universe, I've enjoyed playing with apps, now that I have a choice of apps to play with. I downloaded the Subway app, for example. If you like Subway, probably one of the things you don't like is standing in a busy lunch line walking your "sandwich artist" through your various choices. I was able to pick all of my toppings and condiments from the app, sitting here at my desk at work, placed my order, and paid for it. Then I drove to Subway and just walked in and picked up my already-made sandwich.

Some fast food restaurants, such as Wendy's and Zaxby's here in Shelbyville, have a high-tech beverage dispenser called Coca-Cola Freestyle. You've probably seen or used one; it has a touchscreen from which you can mix and match a huge variety of beverage flavors and add-ins. I love the Freestyle, in part because it gives those of us who drink diet soda a lot more choices in terms of flavors.

Well, believe it or not, there's a Freestyle app. Once you've downloaded the app, you can play with various mixtures -- say, half diet ginger ale with raspberry flavor, half diet orange soda with cherry flavor. Once you've come up with a recipe, you nickname it and save it to your phone. Then, when you get to the restaurant and are ready to pour your drink, you fire up the app and point your phone at the QR code on the Freestyle machine. Suddenly, as if by magic, the Freestyle machine now has a temporary button on the touch screen that reads "John's Fruit Punch" -- or whatever you called your recipe. Once you figure out how it all works, it's quick and easy. And the app also works as a loyalty program, giving you rewards for using a Coca-Cola Freestyle machine X number of times.

Anyway, so far I've been nothing but pleased with the Pixel. I do miss a few things about Windows Phone, but it was time to move on.

--John I. Carney is city editor of the Times-Gazette and covers county government.