Pixel Owners Need Not Wait for Some of Those Android 11 Features

Any post about Android updates is going to be meet with some snarky folks say "ummmm, Android updates are like a year late if they come at all 🤓" Yes, we get it, iOS is much better at getting updates to more devices faster, but hey, people own Pixels and for them this isn't a problem. Let's try and talk with out reverting to fanboy stuff?

Aaaaaanyway...

Just over a week ago, the first Android 11 developer beta came out and I remarked on how many features looked like iOS features. Based on iOS and Android getting closer together in terms of feature parity, this isn't a huge surprise, but what is a surprise is that Pixel owners get a lot of those updates today.

Google has been doing these "feature drops" for a few months now, and this one brought along a few features we first saw in the Android 11 beta:

  1. Play/pause through Motion Sense gestures.
  2. "Rules" for making your phone change some settings based on location or Wifi networks.
  3. Cards & Passes for a more Apple Wallet-style experience.
  4. Dark mode scheduling based on sunrise/sunset (so hard coded times yet, though).
  5. New emoji.

None of these are tent-pole features, but they are all quite nice (except you, Motion Sense) and make the phone experience a bit better. This is just nice for Pixel owners since they don't need to wait for the fall to get all the new goodies they first saw in a beta.

Android Updates in 60 Seconds

Ok, maybe 61 seconds, but still, this is basically just a standard reboot time for the phone. I'd love to see Apple match Android when it comes to downtime when doing small updates. This was the equivalant of an update like iOS 13.1.1 to 13.1.2, and it happened when my phone was still totoally usable, and the reboot meant I was out of order for a single minute. iOS updates take way too long and are a reason people often delay them as much as they can.

And even if you say "well, many of these updates happen overnight, so what does it matter?" to which I would retort:

  1. How often do these actually work for you? I almost always get a message saying "we could not perform the update overnight, try again tomorrow?"
  2. What if there is an emergency overnight (either family/friend issue or you're on call for work)? Would you like your phone to be "dead" for 1 minute or 20 minutes?

There are few things I would say are absolutely better about Android than iOS, but update durations are definitely one of them.

Why I Liked the Android 10 Update

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbXxMKqhQJ4

This can only go well, right?

This was actually a video I made in September but didn’t feel like posting right away. As the description and title cards try to make exceptionally clear, this is not a video bashing Android, it’s just fun to see Android folks praise the virtues of things iOS either has or has had for literally a decade. The Android 10 update was really the “let’s add a bunch of things iOS does to make things safer for our users” update, and I think that’s why I liked it.

Round 3: Night Sight vs iPhone XS

I did one more shoot with Night Sight on a Pixel 3 and an iPhone Xs which lead to this message from my wife:

She knows me well…

As with the other comparisons, the first photo will always be the iPhone and the second will be the Pixel.

https://youtu.be/ronqsBnJ-OM

This first one is a wild difference, and really shows off what Night Shift can do for you. The iPhone was hopeless at getting something here, but the Pixel got something totally unnatural, but shows off the thing I was shooting.

This one is up to personal preference, as the iPhone is sharper, but the Pixel gets more of the surrounding area. I like the iPhone shot personally.

This is another massive difference, with the Pixel getting so much more of the scene than the iPhone.

Again, I like the iPhone shot better, as the Pixel made everything lighter, but doesn’t actually show any new details the iPhone missed. The Pixel has a blurry shot and the iPhone is surprisingly sharp.

The Pixel is back on top here, but neither camera did a particularly great job.

This was a zoom shot at 2x, and I was surprised how much better the Pixel shot was here. Not only is it much brighter but the details are sharper as well.

Takeaway

Again, Night Sight shows why it’s useful as another tool in a photographer’s bag of tricks. It gets shots that are simply unusable and turns them into pretty decent photos. What it does not do is make every low light shot perfect, which I think has become the narrative out there for some people. It absolutely creates messy images and some that are just plain ugly. But much like Portrait Mode on the iPhone, it’s an opt-in tool that adds to your options without limiting you from doing anything else.

While I maintain the iPhone Xs camera is better than the Pixel 3 for me, if you’re looking for a camera that gives you the most options in low light, it’s hard to recommend the iPhone over the Pixel at this point.

On Camera Comparisons

I’ve done quite a few camera comparisons over the past couple years, and they continue to be one of the more popular things on the site. I find them really interesting because they can lead to really surprising results…in certain situations. Let me explain.

So whenever I share a photo comparison and don’t tell people which is from which camera, the results tend to be very split. People vote for the iPhone shot in one comparison and then choose the Pixel one in the next. Or they are are die-hard iPhone fans, but choose the Pixel photo in every single case (and vice versa). The results are unexpected at times, and always fascinating.

But when I do a comparison and I do tell people which is which, then people who I know to be big Apple/Google fans will always vote for their preferred brand, even if they had chosen the other company’s photos in a blind comparison.

Now not everyone does this, but there are certainly people who I notice do this. Also, as an aggregate, I see different results in comparisons when I tell people what camera took each, rather than let people pick the photo they like better. Really what this gets down to is the fact the photography is very subjective and when we’re looking at the best cameras on the market, it’s just as much about feelings as it is about quality.

Camera Test: iPhone Xs (Default and Hydra) vs OnePlus 6 (Default, Night Sight, and Night Mode)

It’s dark and snowy here in the Midwest, so it was inevitable that I would do a camera comparison. Here’s what I used:

  • iPhone Xs
    • Default camera app
    • Hydra (low light mode)
  • OnePlus 6
    • Default camera app
    • Default app’s Night Mode
    • Google Camera app’s Night Sight

iPhone Xs

Default app

Hydra Low Light Mode

These shots looks very similar, although the default camera app does a better job of holding onto detail and they have basically the same look. The biggest difference here is that the default app took this shot instantly while Hydra had me hold the phone steady for about 3 seconds to collect more light.

OnePlus 6

Default App

Default App, Night Mode

Google Camera App, Night Sight

You can see an immediate difference in color temperatures and brightness between the OnePlus and the iPhone. The OnePlus images are much brighter than the iPhone’s. If you zoom in, there is less detail here, but the overall image is definitely appealing and I would say more impressive than what the iPhone is delivering.

Meanwhile, the image from the Google app using Night Sight is a very unappealing yellow that I think looks really bad. I’ll chalk that up to this app not really meaning to run on this phone.

Lightroom

This is a bit of a wild card, but what if we take these images into Lightroom and make a few small changes. I took the normal photos from both phones and added a little brightness, shifted to a cooler temperature, added a little clarity, and boosted saturation and vibrancy a few clicks and got these:

iPhone Xs

OnePlus

What does this tell us? Mostly that these cameras are collecting raw image data and making different choices with the final processing. Apple is opting to have a darker image that is more realistic while OnePlus is opting for a brighter image that is not necessarily accurate, but looks quite nice.

The biggest difference, and why the iPhone costs 2x that of the OnePlus, is the detail in the shot. It is more apparent when these were enhanced with Lightroom as you can see lots of details that are either worse or just plain missing from the OnePlus photos that look better on the iPhone shot.

Despite these differences, the OnePlus’s still camera continues to impress me as it holds its own quite well against the $1,000+ phones it’s competing with.

Touch Response on the OnePlus 6, iPhone Xs, and iPad Pro (2017)

https://youtu.be/d4mdB4YTtMo

The OnePlus 6 is a very nice Android phone (and at less than $600 it’s one of the most affordable high end phones of the year), but one thing that was bugging me was touch response time. Animations feel fast and the phone generally works quite quickly, but there was a slight disconnect between when I was tapping/swiping on screen and things would happen. I was not alone, apparently.

To test this, I busted out the slow motion video and counted the frames between how long it took the Twitter app and websites to recognize my swipe gestures to start scrolling. Check out the video above for more thoughts, but the ultimate results were:

  • OnePlus 6: 0.15 second lag (average)
  • iPhone Xs: 0.08 second lag
  • iPad Pro 10.5: 0.07 second lag

Android Updates and the Lowest Bars Possible

Android Developers Blog: An Update on Project Treble

Thanks to Treble, we expect to see more devices from OEMs running Android 9 Pie at the end of 2018 as compared to the number of devices that were running Android Oreo at the end of 2017.

It's worth noting that Oreo was on 0.5% of devices in December 2017 and 0.7% in January 2018. Sure, they're on pace to hit at least 0.8% by the end of the year, but that's after Pie will be 4 months old, that's not exactly the accelerated upgrade pattern I think we expected.

As of today, Android Pie still does not have enough usage to register on Google’s distribution dashboard.