The best Google Pixel XL alternatives
If you've tried to snag a Google Pixel XL lately, you're probably a bit frustrated: The Google Store, Verizon and Best Buy have all sold out of the popular phablet. What's a fan of big, high-end smartphones to do? Here are a few of the best alternatives.
To review, the Google Pixel XL is a large phone with an excellent camera, strong battery life, sterling performance, the purest possible Android experience and a sharp 5.5-inch QHD display. It's also compatible with Google Daydream View, one of the leading mobile VR headsets. We'll start with the phones that echo those characteristics most closely.
Like the Pixel XL, the OnePlus 3T has a 5.5-inch display and an aluminum unibody build. While we wouldn't say its camera is as good as the Pixel's (especially in low-lit shots), the photography experience is decidedly high-end.
The phone runs stock Android; its UI is the same as stock Nougat, with a few extra features standing as the only differences between its OxygenOS and stock. It finally got its Android Nougat update recently, and if OnePlus stays consistent, we expect it will be reasonably responsive in rolling out new updates as they become available.
We were very pleased with this phone's buttery-smooth performance. It also has excellent battery life, beating out the Pixel XL and many other leading phones in New Atlas' testing.
So what is it missing? It doesn't have the Pixel's Google Assistant, relying on its predecessor, Google Now, instead (in fact, no non-Pixel phones have Google Assistant). Compared to the Pixel XL, OnePlus 3T also lacks some display resolution (1080p/FHD) and it doesn't support Daydream VR. And there's a major caveat for US buyers: It doesn't support CDMA networks like Verizon or Sprint, so it must be used on a GSM carrier like T-Mobile or AT&T.
Not only does this phone rival the Pixel XL, it costs $330 less. Its starting price of $439 is much wallet friendlier than the Pixel XL's $769 price point. Check out New Atlas' spec-by-spec comparison for more info on how these two phones stack up.
Apple iPhone 7 Plus
One of the Pixel XL's standout features is its elegant Android presentation – its hardware and software work together symbiotically. Where else can that type of unified relationship be found? Apple products.
Of course, if you're not an iOS fan, the iPhone is a no-go right away. But if you're open to it, the iPhone 7 Plus is certainly a rival to the Pixel XL in terms of camera quality, performance, display and overall user experience. It's also identically priced.
The iPhone 7 Plus offers a few benefits that the Pixel doesn't, such as a dual-lens camera with 2x optical zoom, more color variants and IP67 water resistance. However, it doesn't support any significant VR headsets, its battery is smaller, and of course, it lacks a standard audio jack.
Moto Z or Moto Z Force
If you like the Pixel XL for its size, operating system, and Google Daydream, you can also find those qualities in the Moto Z/Moto Z Force. Both have 5.5-inch displays and their OS is near-stock Android (similarly to the OnePlus 3T, it looks just like stock but has some extra features). And apart from the Pixels, Moto Z is the first phone to be Daydream-ready.
Beyond those commonalities, the Moto Z embarks on its own trajectory. It's an innovative modular phone with function-adding accessories that snap cleanly into place with powerful, low-profile magnets. But the setup costs a pretty penny. The phones are not cheap ($624 for Moto Z, $720 for Moto Z Force) and mods are sold separately. Current accessory options include Hasselblad TrueZoom for 10x optical zoom and other DSLR-like functions ($300), the JBL SoundBoost speaker ($80) and a battery-boosting Incipio Power Pack ($60).
Underneath the expansion options, the Moto Z has internals to rival any high-end flagship. It doesn't have the endearing simplicity or cutting-edge camera of the Pixel, but it is a gadget lover's dream.
Its headlining feature hearkens to audiophiles: 32-bit "Quad" DAC (for superior wired-headphone audio) and AptX HD Bluetooth codec (for superior wireless audio). If you have a premium pair of headphones, this phone will make them extra-worthwhile. It also has a removable battery, secondary screen with scrolling notifications and microSD.
Underneath those perks, the LG V20 is a good phablet with a camera that isn't far behind the Pixel's. It's available for about $650-$700, depending on carrier pricing.
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge
Don't let the Note 7 debacle obfuscate the inherent pleasures of a premium phablet from Samsung's Galaxy line. The S7 edge is a gorgeous, glassy, water-resistant sculpture of a phone – even if it's aging by smartphone standards.
It has a killer 5.5-inch AMOLED display (with the same sharp QHD resolution as the Pixel XL), superb low-light camera, expandable storage, good battery life, always-on display and fast/wireless charging. In terms of mobile VR, Samsung has its own headset, the Gear VR, created in partnership with Oculus. With its extensive content library and big, comfortable fit, many users think it has the Daydream trounced.
If rumors are true, Samsung will likely release new flagships in April, and there will almost certainly be a new and improved iteration of this phone. Still, the S7 edge will probably remain somewhat competitive with this year's releases, and newer versions will spur a welcome price drop for this ~$790 phone. Given this timeline, we are hesitant to recommend buying it at full price. If you can cop a good deal, it might still be well worth it.
If you're still deciding whether the Pixel XL is worth the wait, check out New Atlas' review. If you're considering a smaller phone, you could also re-examine its very similar little brother, the Google Pixel.