There have been a lot of great smartphones so far this year, but the Pixel 2 XL is easily the best choice for me. Here’s why.

In all of my years writing about Android, I’ve never once pre-ordered a phone on the day of its announcement. I typically wait for reviews to come out and to get hands-on time with a device myself before handing over my cash, but something changed this year. Despite heavy hitters like the Galaxy S8, LG V30, and Note 8 all begging for my attention and money, I ignored all of them (and my sensible instincts) and pre-ordered the Pixel 2 XL as soon as pre-orders went live on October 4.

Google absolutely killed it last year

It took a lot of strength and willpower to not purchase a Pixel last fall on the day of its announcement, but I decided to hold off and see what my colleagues had to say. As I’m sure all of you remember, response to the phone was overwhelmingly positive. Despite this, I still held off. The phone simply didn’t look all that interesting after the initial excitement wore off, but then I actually got one as my daily driver in June.

The Pixel was a perfect example of a phone that you had to actually use for yourself and carry as a daily driver to understand what made it so great. There’s nothing interesting or exciting about its hardware, but the software that’s powering the phone is still magical to this day. Last year’s Pixel still remains as one of the snappiest and most fluid Android experiences on the market, and Google’s expertise when it comes to camera software and performance remains as one of the industry’s best.

2016′s Pixel XL

Because of these things and so much more, the Pixel offered a user experience unlike anything I’d encountered before on other Android phones. The consistently smooth performance, tightened up UI, solid battery, and world-class camera turned a phone that seemed borning on the surface into one of the best the market had to offer.

Why this matters for round two

With the Pixel, Google proved that top-notch software is more important than flashy hardware. Sure, the latter is nice to have, but the former is so much more important when using your phone day-to-day.

With the Pixel 2 XL, Google is checking both of those boxes.

Google nailed hardware and software this time around with the Pixel 2 XL.

From a hardware point of view, Google included a narrow 18:9 display with 3D curved glass and considerably smaller bezels than last year’s model, front-facing stereo speakers, appropriately-placed fingerprint scanner, faster and more efficient processor, and a design that’s more refined and polished. As for the software, there’s still unlimited cloud photo storage, Google’s post-processing magic for the camera, and the ridiculously smooth performance that can only be had when hardware and software are made for one another.

Last year’s strong points make a return, but there are also new additions like the Pixel 2′s ability to automatically identify songs that are playing in the background and turn on Do Not Disturb when it detects that you’re driving, access to Google Lens so you can theoretically turn your eyeballs into Google Search, new ways to access the Google Assistant, and an AR feature-set that looks like worlds of fun.

Where the Pixel offered bland hardware with stupendous software, the Pixel 2 XL offers modern, eye-catching hardware with an even better software experience (presumably) than what we got last year.

Pixel 2 XL against the competition

As mentioned in the beginning of this article, the Pixel 2 XL does not exist in a bubble. Its two biggest competitors, for the time being, are the Galaxy Note 8 and LG V30. Both of these phones have their own set of strong suits, but they’re missing something that, in my opinion, makes them inferior – Google’s software.

LG V30 (left) next to Google Pixel 2 XL (right)

The Pixel proved last year that a near perfect software experience could outshine classier hardware, and now that we have a phone from Google that offers both of these things, I’m ecstatic to get my hands on the Pixel 2 XL to see if it lives up to its predecessor. The updated/modernized hardware is greatly appreciated and something that needed to happen for gen two, and while I’m certainly excited for that aspect of the phone, I’m more anxious to get up close and personal with Google’s vision of what Android should look and feel like in late 2017.

The perfect melding of hardware and software is what made the original Pixel so damn good, and when we get to combine that with new features like Google Lens and Ambient Services and hardware that looks appropriate for the year it’s released in, I think we’re going to end up with something truly special.

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Whether you’re just going for a walk to the local park or hitting the pavement for some run training, it’s always better if you’re able to bring your own tunes along with you. But who wants to deal with headphone wires? No one, that’s who!

Right now, you can get these awesome FRESHeBUDS Pro Magnetic Bluetooth Earbuds for just $25. We’re sure You’ll be impressed with the features jammed into these little buds.

These Bluetooth buds are connected by a wire so you won’t lose one if it pops out of your ear during a workout. They’re sweat and water resistant and designed to fit snuggly in your ear, with a battery that takes 90 minutes for a full charge and lasts for 10 hours of playback. But what really sets these apart from other Bluetooth earbuds are the magnetic features that keep them secure around your neck, and automatically connects to your phone via Bluetooth when you disconnect them.

The only thing that’s cooler than these headphones is the price — at $30, you’re saving 75% off the regular price of $119.99. It’s quite the deal.

See at Android Central Digital Offers

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Eight regional carriers said to be onboard for a six-month deployment.

According to Wired, the FCC gave permission for 30 Project Loon balloons to fly over Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands for up to six months.

Project Loon is the name for Alphabet’s (Google’s parent company) ambitious project that provides cellular data capabilities from above. With thousands of cell towers decimated by Hurricane Maria, the balloons would provide needed communications for both affected residents and relief efforts.

Earlier this year, Project Loon was deployed to Peru after a series of devastating floods. Alphabet worked with Peruvian network Telefonica to help pass a signal to the ground and allocate the correct spectrum and services. In Puerto Rico, things are still in the planning stages. An Alphabet spokesperson told Wired:

Things are a little more complicated because we’re starting from scratch. Loon needs be integrated with a telco partner’s network—the balloons can’t do it alone.

Loon balloons work by “relaying communications between Alphabet’s own ground stations connected to the surviving wireless networks, and users’ handsets.” Wired reports that eight regional wireless carriers in Puerto Rico have approved of the arrangement, so it looks like plans are off to a good start.

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Kick back and relax. Stay a while.

One more week down and one week closer to the end of 2017. And it was a big deal kind of weel for Google fans as the company showed the world all the new stuff.

The Pixel 2 and XL 2 look like what we expected, the new Google Home Mini and its giant brother Max are interesting, the Pixelbook is beautiful and outrageously expensive, and a redesigned Daydream headset looks like it will keep your phone a little cooler. Neat stuff.

I’m interested in having a look at all of it, naturally, but this weekend I am going to do my best to not care about any of it. Got up early and went to the Farmer’s Market today and will spend tomorrow out beside the grill. It’s good to get your mind away from work, no matter how cool your work might be!

I’ll make up for it next week :)

So, what’s everyone else up to over the weekend? Hopefully, you’ll find a way to change gears and stop thinking about the work thing (or the school thing, which can seem like work) for a couple days and just unwind your mind. We all need to rest up and be ready for Wolfenstein 2 in a couple of weeks. #MANFA

Hit up the comments and say hey for a while and let us know what’s up!

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