Pixel2ated

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On November 10, 2017, I did the almost unthinkable, and switched from an Apple iPhone 6s to a Google Pixel 2. There were a number of reasons behind the decision, but chief among them was the superior quality of the Pixel 2's camera. Most of the other functions are pretty much like any modern phone -- it makes and receives calls and texts, and you can surf the web and waste time on Facebook.

I chose to go with the "standard" size, with 128GB of on-board storage, as I keep a lot of music and photo files on my phone most of the time, and I've added a Zagg screen protector and the new Moment Pixel 2 case and their new Tele lens (so far).

The camera really is amazingly good, especially given how physically tiny the thing is. The detail, noise, and color are all excellent, and the images hold up quite well to editing in my favorite mobile app, Snapseed (available for both Android and iOS), and the mobile version of Lightroom CC. Although I haven't used the feature, it's even capable of shooting raw files.

Stools detail, Pixel 2 camera Auto HDR+, cropping and slight adjustments in Google Photos.

The pictures I've taken so far have been JPEGs with the standard camera, and without the Moment Tele lens. I have played around with a few of the special features -- notably the Auto HDR+ and Portrait modes.

Auto HDR+ yields very good results most of the time. There's lots of detail in the shadows without much noise, and the overall effect is quite natural. The Portrait mode generally does a nice job of rendering fake "bokeh" (defocused backgrounds) around the subject, although it is possible to fool the AI, with some odd results. I'll write more about that another day.

I've added a new gallery, also called Pixel2ated, for images made with the Pixel 2 (go figure), that you can visit to see my new exploits in mobile photography.

My only complaint about the Pixel 2 is that there's no headphone jack. Most of the time, this isn't really a problem -- I can connect to one of my cars' radios via Bluetooth, and there's a USB-C to audio adapter that comes in the box. Unfortunately, the adapter doesn't allow for powering the phone while it's plugged in, which can be problematic on long trips if I want to use Google Maps for navigation and listen to Spotify or a podcast. On my daily commute, which takes about an hour-and-a-half, I can easily eat up 15-20% of my battery.

The Pixel 2 also doesn't have iMessage or Facetime. The built-in text app is pretty basic and struggles with group MMS messages, so I've been fooling around with alternatives (so far, QKSMS is my favorite). For a Facetime replacement, I found Google's Duo, which is free and cross-platform, and seems to work just as well as Facetime. I think Facebook Messenger has a similar function. And, of course, there's also Skype, which works on anything.

The bottom line, after about a dozen days, is that I don't really miss anything about the iPhone. A big part of that is because of how clean Android is on the Pixel, I'm sure. It runs smoothly, and pretty much everything just works, which I could no longer say about a number of functions in the iOS world.

Maybe next, I'll find myself a Chromebook....

Remix OS and Remix Mini

I'm trying a computer experiment. It's an experiment in low-cost computing. As you may know, I've been fairly impressed with modern Android tablets, and also with Google's Drive suite of productivity apps. Because of this, I was keen to try a "greater" experience, but didn't want to spend a couple hundred dollars or more on a Chromebook. 

Enter Remix OS from jide.com, a desktop-optimized version of Android 5.1 Lollipop, and also the Remix Mini computer. While I use the term "computer" somewhat loosely, the Mini does meet the basic requirements to be called a computer.

  Remix Mini computer.

Remix Mini computer.

I was unable to get Remix OS to install and run from a thumb drive, but when I downloaded the OS, I was offered a significant discound on the Mini, so I went ahead and ordered one. It arrived from Hong Kong in just a couple of days in an attractive and very well constructed package.

While I'm not going into a lot of detail in this post, I will say that initial startup was not particularly smooth. Out of the box, the Mini is configured for PAL video, and most US monitors or TVs cannot display the 50Hz video. In my case, a 24" Dell monitor and a fairly decent 32" HDTV wouldn't do the trick. I was lucky that the old, no-name 19" HDTV in our bedroom would work, so I could complete the setup. 

Jide claim compatiblilty with the majority of apps on the Google Play store. I've been fooling with the Mini for a couple of evenings now, and I've found some things that work well, and some that simply don't. More on that as I learn more about this little "machine". At this point, I'll probably report on my experiences every few days.