I have used google devices exclusively for years. At the time, I loved my Nexus 6, Nexus 6P, the first two generations of Pixel (XL versions), the Nexus 9 and Pixel C tablets, and even the Pixelbook. But after several weeks of using the Pixel 3 XL, I was faced with a truth that I tried to deny: Google hardware makes too many compromises. I have passed at least three of each pixel, all replaced under warranty for one reason or another. And in the software department, the 3 XL was not doing much better: the music app was constantly being pushed out of memory, and the camera could not save many of the photos and videos I took. My fan emotions about Google were fading away and I needed to move on. In the end, I settled on Samsung.
Earlier, I talked in detail about my transition to Samsung, so I will only give a short version here. In March 2019, I returned my Pixel 3 XL and pre-ordered the Galaxy S10 +. It had great hardware and One UI was very different from the notorious TouchWiz of the past. Two years, three phones, a few sets of earbuds, and hours later, I’ve completely invested in the Samsung ecosystem. What regrets after spending so much time with Samsung devices? And what am I missing – if anything – from the Google experience?
I’ve been using Pixels for so long and when I got my Galaxy S10 + I was worried about camera performance. While Samsung’s hardware was undoubtedly better, Google’s image processing was unmatched at the time. I’ll be honest and say that for a while I lacked the overall consistency of photos and a great portrait mode. However, the flexibility offered by the S10 + was enough for me to live without these things, and since Samsung has honed its photo processing over the past few years, I’m more than happy with it now.
Image of the moon taken in very windy conditions with the S21 Ultra.
The S21 Ultra is a prime example of why I love using Samsung phones. The presence of two zoom lenses allows the phone to take good quality photos from 3x to 30x. This allows you to run up to 100x, but after 30x the quality starts to degrade. However, this is one of the best zoom camera phones out there. The advanced 108MP camera captures more light than before and focuses better thanks to the return of laser autofocus, eliminating some of the issues that plagued the S20 Ultra. But as usual, my favorite camera is the ultra-wide one.
Macro mode on the S21 Ultra
I love taking pictures in ultra wide angle. This opens up new possibilities when shooting a scene, and I feel more motivated to try new things and get creative with my shot. The S21 Ultra has dual pixel autofocus on all rear cameras, including the ultra wide lens. This means he can take macro shots and the results are truly incredible. In terms of overall camera performance, the Pixel may be more stable in certain conditions, but the gap is so small these days that the S21 Ultra’s added versatility more than makes up for it.
Samsung’s displays are great and they get better every year. The Pixel 3 XL had a better screen than the problematic 2 XL, but it still didn’t compare to the S10 + when I got it. The resolution could be the same, but you don’t realize how important brightness is until you see what Samsung has to offer. Even when there is one sunny day in England every year, I can still clearly see the contents of my screen. The S20 and S21 Ultra just got better, especially with the latest addition of adaptive 120Hz at 1440p. After using such a display, it will be difficult to go back. When I think the Pixel 5, Google’s current flagship, has a relatively small display (no XL version) that is stuck at 90Hz at 1080p, it’s clear that I’ve taken the right step.
One thing I’m missing about the Pixel hardware is the unusual design choices. Colored power buttons and two-tone trim have always looked great. I really love my silver S21 Ultra, but I want it to look and feel like a panda Pixel 2 XL. On the other hand, even Google has given up on this design, so maybe I have nothing more to lose.
From left to right: Good lock’s Change of tasks, Dial and theme park.
Aside from the exceptional hardware, Samsung’s software is another reason I kept buying these phones. The UI alone was a huge improvement over TouchWiz. It’s packed with useful features, well-designed and generally enjoyable to use, and Good Lock lets you do things that would normally be impossible without rooting your device.
This positive experience was a relief. I bought a Nexus 6 because of Samsung’s terrible TouchWiz on my Galaxy S4. The lack of standard Android features was made up for in reliability and fast updates. Thanks to One UI, this is no longer the case – it is as fluid as stock Android, security updates are often released before Pixels receive them, and major Android updates come in just a few months. And it’s always worth the wait.
Android 11 brings handy new features to Pixel devices such as bubbles, screen recording device sound, and pinning apps to the sharing menu. The fact is that in One UI 2.5 all this and much more was already there. Even features that were supposed to be in Android 11 but were missing, such as scrolling through screenshots, have been the foundation of One UI from the start. As we learn more about Android 12, all I can think of is how good Samsung is with One UI 4.0.
I used several Wear OS watches, including the first two generations of Moto 360 and Huawei Watch 2. Towards the end of 2019, I decided to give Tizen a try and bought a Galaxy Watch Active2. There are a few things I’m missing from Wear OS, but overall I’m happy.
I love my Active2 for many of the same reasons as my S21 Ultra. This watch may be a year and a half old, but the hardware still competes with newer Wear OS watches. Its Exynos 9110 processor and 1.5GB of RAM keep it fast and fluid, and its battery lasts for two and a half days. This watch has been heavily used every day since launch, and thanks to updates, the battery lasts longer than when I received it. A recent update has activated blood pressure and ECG sensors, making them even more comfortable to track fitness.
The main thing I miss about Google’s wearable platform is the app ecosystem. I often use a lot of apps that aren’t available in Tizen, like Telegram, Google Keep, and the biggest one: Google Assistant – Bixby just doesn’t fit. With Telegram, I can reply to messages and notifications from my watch, but there is no native app that allows me to start a new conversation or send media. The watch faces from Samsung are good, but the third-party selection in the Galaxy Store leaves a lot to be desired. Rumors that Samsung might switch to Wear OS really bother me when it comes to stability and fluidity, but if Samsung can bring current features to its Wear OS watch and continue to produce high-end quality hardware, I will definitely give it a shot. …
Since 2019, I have Galaxy Buds, Buds + and Buds Pro. Sound quality has always been good, but the Buds Pro amazed me. While I can’t compare them to the competition, I can see from the reviews that I’m not the only one who was impressed with them, and David said that they are as close as possible to AirPods Pro for Android and give them a 9 out of 10. As good as they are, I tend to use Buds + more often.
The lack of ANC on the Buds + is offset by comfort, usability and battery life. I used to have them in my ears for 15 hours straight, and I still had over 30% charge left. Also, they are more comfortable for a long time, and Buds Pro gives me a strong clogging sensation. Gestures are more functional on the Buds + and allow you to double-tap the top edge to change the volume, although thankfully this was added to the Buds Pro in a recent software update.
Over the years, I’ve considered trying other wireless headphones. The Pixel Buds have tighter integration with Google Assistant and look better in my opinion. In the end, several factors kept me from Samsung. Getting new ones for free every year with a phone update is naturally a big deal, but I also feel like they make fewer compromises. Battery life is much better, they tend to have fewer bugs, and most people agree that they are more convenient. All things considered, Samsung audio products have gone from good to great in recent years.
Spending two years in the Samsung bubble was certainly fun. While I’m missing some of the things that Google hardware has to offer, I’m more than happy to have made the switch. Using the flagship Galaxy device in 2021 is a much better experience than it was in 2014. The hardware is cutting edge and well packaged and the software has been refined and optimized – if you haven’t used a Samsung phone after TouchWiz days, the new models will be unrecognizable in every way. There were always a lot of functions, but the feeling of slowness, bloating passed. If you are wondering if you should try Samsung, I advise you to do so. I certainly don’t regret it.