Google: More than just a search engine
While many greeted 2019 with resolutions to lose weight or create healthier habits, I chose to start out the year by making a big technological change. I traded in my Samsung S7 with Straight Talk service for a phone created and serviced by Google: the Google Pixel 3 with Google Fi.
Though I’ve given both Apple and Samsung a fair shake over the past 12 years, I’ve always been brand loyal to the same phone service, from Nokia brick to flip phone to smartphone. That provider is Straight Talk. It isn’t a contract service, and I only paid $45 plus tax per month for unlimited talk, text and data. It was good for the budget-crazy college student then journalist. But then Google Fi came along.
With Google Fi, service is $20 plus $10/GB of data, so since I have wifi nearly everywhere I go, I only rack up about a $35 bill every month. That’s $10+ cheaper, plus Google Fi’s service (so far) is more reliable.
Disclaimer: I’ll admit I haven’t used the new phone at my parents’ home in the boonies of south central Washington yet, where the scenery is top notch, but the service is shit, but I have high hopes.
Unlike typical cellular providers, Google Fi offers service based on what’s strongest in the user’s location by pulling together WiFi and cellular signals from area networks operated by Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and Three. I will say, as someone familiar with very rural communities, some places are just plain off the grid (like certain spots on the top of Mount Hood here in Oregon) but so far Google Fi has given me stellar service 99 percent of the places I’ve gone.
Like flipping a switch
The only thing easier than using the Google Pixel that I’ve noticed was making the physical switch to my new phone. Since Google Fi can be used on a Pixel without a SIM card, I literally only had to port my files from my old phone to the new one with a Google-provided cord, and then download the Google Fi app.
Besides making the setup process a mere 10-minute ordeal, the Google Fi app is also great for those of us on a budget. Once connected to Google Fi, the app displays a running total of how many gigs of data you’ve used and how many days you have left in your billing cycle. Plus, even if you don’t already have a bank account or card connected in the Google Play Store, billing is just as simple and can be set up on auto-pay in the app itself, making your phone a one-stop shop.
Connecting the dots
If you already use Google Drive services like Google Docs, Sheets or Slides and are looking for a new phone, the Google Pixel is by far the best choice.
Though Google services are available on most systems nowadays, at home on a Google-created phone they work even better in concert with each other. When I used a Samsung phone with a Google assistant, half of the time the assistant would glitch. I’m not 100 percent sure that was the fault of the system, but since my assistant works a million times better on my new “not pink” Pixel, I have strong reason to believe my inference holds water.
That said, one service I’ve found far too few people know of and utilize is Google Keep. If you’re a list maker, or as my mother calls me, a Rory Gilmore, you’ll love Keep. It works with Google Assistant and can help create checklists and reminders to better organize your day-to-day life. I often end up using the app to type quick blog ideas and send them off to my Google Docs when I need to.
Picture almost perfect
As a photographer, one of the top reasons I was super excited to get the Pixel was the impressive 12.2-megapixel rear f/1.8 dual-pixel camera with OIS (Optical Image Stabilization). So far that camera has yet to disappoint. Though I hate to fit the generational stereotype many a source has tried to stuff me into by using my phone to take photos for work, I can at least breathe easy knowing that if my Nikon’s battery dies unexpectedly, the Pixel is a perfectly good backup camera.
The Pixel is capable of taking great photos, regardless of time of day, and even allows you to take photos in RAW and JPG format, allowing for more extensive editing capabilities. Because I could geek out about the camera on the phone for hours, I’ll let Tech Insider the quick and dirty rundown.
The big picture
I got my Pixel 3 in January, so I’ve only had it for about three months, but given how much I use my phone as the sole, roving reporter for a weekly newspaper, I still feel safe in strongly recommending both this phone and the Google Fi service to anyone. That said, there are a few things I still need to figure out just as I am still new to the platform. But so far I’d say the perks outweigh the quirks.