I’ve been rocking the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra for a few months at this point and I largely don’t miss my Pixel 7 Pro on a daily basis. Sure, I still like Google’s take on Android far more than Samsung’s, but it’s not such a wildly-different experience these days. And as I’ve said before, smartphones are largely getting boring. Solid build quality, a great camera, and a gorgeous screen only gets you so far these days, and that’s why I’m ridiculously excited for the Pixel Fold. But that’s an entirely different conversation.
Day to day, I haven’t missed much while using the Samsung, but I’ve become keenly aware of a particular camera trick that the Pixel phones employ that I miss big time these days: the built-in level. If you’ve been on a Pixel for any length of time, there’s a chance that you forgot this was a thing. But go ahead, pick up any of Google’s phones, pop open the camera, and as soon as you pick an object to shoot, you’ll notice the level in action.
It works in portrait, landscape, and even with top-down shots to help you always get your shot as close to actually being level as possible. The tiny vibration bump you get when you hit that perfect level is a great indicator and quick reference that you have things square, and it makes more complex images easier to navigate since it takes the guesswork out of making sure the background and subjects are all being shot on a level plane.
I suppose I thought this was a more standard thing with cameras these days; kind of like the built-in QR code reader we all freely expect to just work on any camera on any smartphone. But the leveling tool isn’t ubiquitous, and I miss it a lot. I didn’t realize how crooked my naked eye tends to perceive things, and now that I don’t have that reassuring line and bump from the Pixel, I’m having to fix a lot of my shots in post these days.
It’s a small feature, sure, but it’s one of those creature comforts that Google implements in its software that make you appreciate the attention to detail they put in their own phones. Sure, the photos you get from a Pixel are better than most other phones, but Google is clearly learning what makes their camera software actually enjoyable to use, too. A clean, simple, and helpful UI is what users need on a smartphone camera, and I’d argue that Google gets this right most of the time.
And though it means I’ll have to do some buy/sell gymnastics next month, I’m looking forward to moving on from my Samsung experiment and back to the world of Pixel phones. The Galaxy S23 Ultra has been pretty fantastic and the point of my testing was to see if it made a difference in Google’s ecosystem to go all-in on Google-made hardware or if a solid Android phone was enough.
It turns out, a great phone from Samsung largely accomplishes all the same stuff, and now that I know this first hand, I feel far more grounded in my phone purchases moving forward. I want a great phone that can do the things I need and work with my Chromebook seamlessly, but I want to come by that phone the right way.
I don’t love ecosystem lock-in, so the moment I started feeling it with Google’s phones, I reacted by moving to another device. Now that I can confidently say that my devices still work together in all the important ways, I can choose to go back to Pixel when a device truly attracts me, and that device is on the way soon in the Pixel Fold. But that’s a story for another day.