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I'm a diehard Pixel user, but I'm considering a change for two reasons (and I'm not alone)

With the Pixel 9 release on the horizon, I'm starting to wonder if it's time for me to jump ship to a different brand. Here's why and which phone I'm considering.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
Google Pixel 8a Gemini
Kerry Wan/ZDNET

I've been using Pixel phones since the very first iteration. The relationship has been filled with ups and downs. Some of the downs (such as call quality) have improved enough that they're no longer an issue. Google's overall track record with Pixel releases has nevertheless always been pretty shaky.

I remember, back with the Pixel 3, the call quality was atrocious. The Pixel 4 seemed to fix the issue, but the battery life was dreadful. The call quality on the Pixel 5 regressed, but the battery life was great.

Also: I changed 10 settings on my Android phone to dramatically improve battery life

With every step forward, there seems to be a couple of steps backward. At the same time, companies like Nothing are producing exciting phones and developing a reputation for consistency and quality. With the Nothing Phone 3 on the horizon, it's getting to be challenging to convince myself that the Pixel is still the phone for me.

Two things tend to keep me locked in with Pixel: quick updates and the camera.

That's really it, so I've been pondering a switch. Sure, the camera takes stunning photos and I can always count on my Pixel being as up-to-date as possible, but there are two issues that have started to get under my skin. For some, those reasons might not be enough to switch, but I'm confident there are plenty of others who will nod their head in commiseration.

Also: This $350 Nothing phone nearly made me forget about the flagships

According to a Stockylitis study, 57% of Pixel owners plan to switch to another phone brand. The study also found that Google has 23% more dissatisfied users than Apple or Samsung, without explaining why. Still, the numbers are telling.

It's not just me. Let me explain my two main issues.

Too much AI is a bad thing

This is my biggest issue with the trajectory of the Pixel phones. Google is unwavering in its commitment to AI, and I'm not okay with that. Yes, I understand AI has its place and can do very good things. The issue is that Google is pushing the Pixel into a position where the phone will do everything for the user.

Also: How to avoid AI Overviews in Google Search: Three easy ways

I don't want AI to write emails for me. In fact, I don't want AI writing anything for me. I don't want AI responding to messages or having access to all of my content all the time. Yes, I'm okay with AI being used to bolster a digital assistant and even processing photos. I'm also okay with using AI for research. But, for me, that's the extent of my needs.

Google seems to think AI is the solution to everyone's problems and has gone all in on the technology. The company has so deeply entwined the Pixel devices with AI that I don't believe there's any chance of going back, and I can only imagine how this is going to evolve.

Bland designs

This is my next problem with Pixel phones. They're just bland, bordering on ugly. I have seen the rumored renderings of the Pixel 9, which could change that. If history is any indicator, however, those renderings might be a distraction and the final results might end up being just another minor evolution of what Google has been producing. If so, I'm done. 

I know aesthetics don't make the phone, but they certainly don't hurt. One thing Apple has done is remain fairly consistent with its designs. You can't argue that the iPhone is about as sleek and modern a phone as you'll find on the market.

This is where companies like Nothing shine. Sure, the glyphs might be a gimmick, but the feature shows the company is trying to deliver something different. Google seems to think it can continue producing these uninspired designs that are hard to hold or keep clean.

Also: How to clear the cache on your Android phone or tablet

The only Pixel phone that avoided the bland design was the Pixel 4. At the time, that phone was one of the best on the market. Had Google been smart, it would have stuck with that aesthetic, which would have done more to win over new users than the aesthetic it wound up with. The Pixel 4 was such an elegant design, I didn't want to hide it. I was more than happy to tuck my Pixel 6/7/8 phones inside a case.

I'm convinced that those bland designs are a big reason why so many people are ready to ditch Google.

There are, of course, other issues, such as:

  • Inconsistent call quality
  • Rising costs
  • Terrible marketing
  • Even worse support
  • Lag/stutters with scrolling
  • Display issues
  • Unreliable Google Pay
  • Lack of third-party accessories

For me, however, the big issues are AI and the terrible aesthetic, and I don't see those changing any time soon. In the end, I'll wait to see what Nothing reveals with its next iteration, but I have a feeling that might be the perfect time for me to finally move away from the Pixel.

Also: The best Android phones to buy in 2024

Nothing, are you listening? If you deliver the goods, you might find yourself with a lot of new users.

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