Google’s software support for its self-branded Pixel phones is second to none…well, except maybe Apple. But if you’re looking for an Android phone with frequent updates, it’s the only way to go. Unfortunately all good things, et cetera, and the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL phones have been given their very last software update after a little more than three years.
The Pixel 2 runs Android 11, and won’t be getting updated to Android 12 when it’s available (presumably sometime in the latter half of 2021). So sometime between now and then, you’re going to want a new phone. But which one? There are a few clear answers.
Pixel 4a or 4a 5G: The Obvious Upgrades
The most direct analog to the Pixel 2 on the market is the Pixel 4a, released earlier this year. It has a similar size and feature set, and despite being a “budget” phone, its upgraded hardware will be a huge boost to performance. It’s also amazingly efficient with its size, and it’s a battery champ among Android devices. And on top of all that, its value is unbeatable, with a retail price of just $350.
The Best Pixel at Any Price
The Pixel 4a 5G is the alternative if you want the larger “XL” screen size—it also has 5G and a secondary rear camera. It’s $500, a $150 upgrade over the smaller 4a, but that seems fair given its extra screen space and battery power. The 5G is icing on the cake, though I doubt it will be a huge factor in everyday use.
They Really Meant the Pixel 4a XL
Pixel 5: Premium Splurge
The Pixel 5 sounds like it’s a year “newer” than the budget-focused 4a, but that’s just Google’s weird branding: it came out only a few months later. It’s a freakin’ fantastic Android phone, and it’s in the same price range as the Pixel 2 was back in 2017. That said, the extras that you get over the similarly-sized Pixel 4a—wireless charging, 90Hz screen, slightly better camera, and water resistance—don’t seem like they justify double the price. But if you want the best Pixel-branded phone on the market, this is it.
Google’s more affordable flagship
OnePlus 8 Pro: Mix It Up
The best way to get clean software and fast updates on Android is to buy a Pixel. But the customized software from OnePlus is a close second—some users actually prefer it—and the OnePlus 8 Pro is a fantastic high-end phone. While it can’t quite match the camera quality of Google’s software-enhanced sensors, it comes with a bigger, smoother 120Hz screen and gee-whiz features like 30-watt wireless charging and an in-screen fingerprint sensor. It also has a noticeably faster processor than the Pixel 5, and it was quickly updated to Android 11. But be aware: you’ll pay for the privilege.
The Android lover’s superphone
iPhone 12: Come to the Dark Side
If you’re not a die-hard fan of the Android platform, you’ve probably considered switching over to iPhone. This year is a great time to do it: the iPhone 12 rocks, in pretty much all of its variations. The iPhone 12 Mini is the closest in size to the Pixel 2, with the standard version being pretty close to the Pixel 2 XL. Splurge on the iPhone 12 Pro if you want an unbeatable camera setup. While they’re pricey, that extra money gets you wireless charging and the very cool MagSafe accessory system, a new ceramic glass screen, and super-smooth performance.
But iPhones really shine if you’re all-in on the Apple ecosystem, with particular emphasis put on the Apple Watch. It’s far and away the best wearable on the market, years ahead of any options compatible with Android. Switching over to Apple is an expensive proposition, even if you don’t care about tablets or computers.
Yeah, it’s really that good