I heaped praise on the Galaxy S23 the other day, calling it “my happy little phone.” And it’s a really happy little guy who has taken over as my favorite phone right now because of its size, incredible battery life, solid camera, and software that I can tolerate. But just because that makes me happy doesn’t mean there isn’t everything I miss about not having a Google Pixel phone by my side.
So since I have to maintain my reputation as a Google salesman (I’m kidding), here are all the things I can’t wait to use again when the next Pixel wins me over.
1. Pixel Launcher
One of the best parts about Android has always come from the personalization side of things If you don’t like a feature or app that a company ships with their phone, you may have several options to replace it to meet your needs.
For me on every Samsung phone, the first thing I replace after finishing a review is the launcher. Samsung’s launcher is trash. Not only is it a nightmare to use when you open its app drawer, because it slides horizontally and is attached to the page, it also behaves in absurd ways, like when you try to do something as simple as add an app to your home screen. Even its way of zooming/expanding folders is annoying as hell. It’s the worst launcher on Android and it’s not even close.
I replace that launcher with Nova Launcher because I can customize it so that it almost matches what Google ships with the Pixel Launcher. I love Pixel Launcher, even as bare bones as it is. Whenever I spend a long time with a Samsung phone I miss it a lot.
There are many wonderful things for Pixel Launcher, such as the slickest app drawer, auto-show keyboard for system and app search within it, its fast scrolling and yes, its f*cking vertical layout. I love the way Google handles folders, the easy access to Google Search at all times, and its overall minimal environment Of course, the fact that I can’t remove the “at a glance” widget at the top of the main screen will put me off forever, but the rest feels like it was made for my style.
While Samsung’s phones have been ultra-premium in their set of features, design and how they feel in the hand, they continue to disappoint in haptics. I’m talking about the subtle jolts and vibrations you feel when carrying a phone around – Samsung isn’t great.
Know who is doing haptics? Well, there is Google, but so is OnePlus. In fact, OnePlus is probably the best at Android, but we’ve heard talk about the Pixel dammit. And the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro have excellent haptics.
When you swipe back on the Pixel phone, swipe to the app drawer, type or do just about anything, the subtle bumps bring such satisfaction and joy. They confirm the action you’re taking while somehow adding to the experience. On a Samsung phone, those same bumps fall flat, aren’t timed correctly, or just don’t hit the same.
Now when using a Pixel phone, haptics are a big part of the Android experience and how it can take you deeper into the software. On Samsung phones, haptics still feel like an add-on that hasn’t been given enough love.
3. Lock screen clock
It may seem small, but Google’s lock screen clock is my favorite on Pixel phones. Specifically, I’m talking about that giant clock that takes up most of the screen when you don’t have any notifications to deal with. I actually wrote about it at length.
To sum up my love for this feature, it mostly boils down to serving as a big-ass clock that’s easy to read, but also as a notice that you’re all caught up and have nothing on your phone to deal with. If you look and you see a smaller version of it, you know you may have some work to do. It’s both beautiful and a part of Google’s best-in-Android notification system
Samsung’s lock screen clocks aren’t bad by any means, and I like the fact that you can customize them quite a bit. But no matter when you look at your Samsung phone, it always looks the same. The clock always stays the same size and is only joined by the notification icon as notifications arrive For me, it’s the size and position changes on Pixel phones that I really like Seeing that big clock is like hitting inbox zero in Gmail. It makes me happy.
This might confuse the chip bros in the building, so let me try to explain. First off, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 inside the Galaxy S23 is an interesting chip. It’s so ridiculously energy efficient as well powerful, that I’m struggling to see how we can improve it. Like, the jump from last year’s first 8 Gen 1 to this 8 Gen 2 is some next-level stuff. Hats off to Qualcomm. I have no complaints about the Galaxy S23’s performance.
But when it comes to Pixel phones and this new Tensor line of chips, the snappiness of the UI has a different feel when you touch it, when you interact with it, when you go from app to app or swipe from a screen. The latter, which no one else is doing. Every little touch of your thumb happens so quickly, so sharply, and so clearly that it almost feels like a step forward before you swipe home using gestures. Then you top that movement with Google’s Pixel experience and the beautiful animations and transitions of those haptics, and you’ve got a phone in your hands that moves like no other.
The results you get from a Galaxy S23 or a Pixel 7 camera are going to be very similar Both have excellent cameras that are good in every situation, so when I say I miss the Pixel 7 camera, it comes down to the little things.
The Pixel 7 camera gives me more confidence in all situations, whereas like the Galaxy S23 I’m still learning to trust it. I find the Pixel 7 camera slightly faster to open, focus, shoot and process than the Galaxy S23. I find its image processing more appealing to my eyes (the Samsung makes everything much warmer) and the night mode is almost as good as a Google phone. Google’s portrait mode remains my favorite, although something with the Samsung S23 is starting to change my mind.
In the end, I have absolutely zero regrets making this recent switch to the Galaxy S23. It’s a top tier phone without the price tag and should be a phone that more people buy But that doesn’t mean my eyes aren’t constantly searching for the next Google Pixel and another reason to go back. I miss some things.