I heaped a whole bunch of praise on the Galaxy S23 the other day, calling it “my happy little phone.” And it really is a happy little guy that has taken over as my phone of choice at the moment because of its size, incredible battery life, solid camera, and software that I can put up with. But just because it makes me happy doesn’t mean there aren’t all sorts of things I miss about not having a Google Pixel phone by my side.
So because I need to keep up my reputation as being a Google sellout (I’m kidding), here are all of the things I can’t wait to use again once the next Pixel wins me over.
1. The 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, there is a good chance that you’ll have multiple options to replace it with that 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. It is not only a nightmare to use when you open its app drawer, because it slides horizontally and is paginated, it also functions in absurd ways like when you try to do something as simple as add an app to your home screen. Even the way its folders zoom/expand is obnoxious as hell. It’s the worst launcher in Android and it’s not even close.
I replace that launcher with Nova Launcher because I can customize it to the point that it almost matches up to what Google ships with the Pixel Launcher. I love the Pixel Launcher, even as bare bones as it is. I miss it dearly whenever I spend a lengthy amount of time with a Samsung phone.
The Pixel Launcher has so many wonderful things going for it, like the snappiest of app drawers, the auto-show keyboard for system and app searches within it, its fast scrolling, and yes, its f*cking vertical layout. I prefer the way Google handles folders, easy access to Google Search at all times, and the overall minimal vibe of it. Of course, the fact that I can’t remove the “At a glance” widget at the top of the main screen will forever drive me nuts, but the rest feels like it was built for my style.
2. The Haptics
As much as Samsung’s phones have gone ultra-premium in their sets of features, designs, and how they feel in the hand, they continue to disappoint in haptics. I’m talking about the subtle bumps and vibrations you feel as you move about a phone – Samsung’s aren’t great.
You know who is doing haptics right? Well, Google is, but so is OnePlus. In fact, OnePlus is probably the best in Android, but we’re hear to talk about Pixel dammit. And the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro have wonderful haptics.
As you swipe to go back, swipe up into the app drawer, type, or do almost anything on a Pixel phone, the subtle bumps bring such satisfaction and enjoyment. They confirm the action you are doing while somehow also adding to the experience. On a Samsung phone, those same bumps fall flat, aren’t timed correctly, or just simply don’t hit the same.
When using a Pixel phone now, the haptics are a big part of the Android experience and how it can bring you deeper into the software. On Samsung phones, the haptics still feel like an add-on that weren’t given enough love.
3. The Lock Screen Clock
This might seem minor, but Google’s lock screen clock on Pixel phones is my favorite. Specifically, I’m talking about the huge clock that takes up a majority of the screen when you don’t have any notifications to deal with. I’ve actually written about it at length.
To recap my love for this feature, it mostly boils down to it acting as a big ass clock that is easy to read, but also as a notice that you are all caught up and have nothing on your phone to deal with. If you look over and you see the smaller version of it, you then know that you might have some work to do. It’s both beautiful and a piece of Google’s best-in-Android notification system.
Samsung’s lock screen clocks aren’t bad by any means and I do love the fact that you can customize them some. But no matter when you look over at your Samsung phone, it always looks the same. The clock remains the same size at all times and is only joined by notification icons as notifications roll in. For me, it’s the change in size and status on Pixel phones that I love so much. Seeing that big clock is like hitting inbox zero in Gmail. It makes me happy.
4. The Performance
This one might confuse the chip bros in the building, so let me try to explain. First of all, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 inside the Galaxy S23 is a fascinating chip. It is so ridiculously power efficient and also powerful, that I’m struggling to see how we can even improve upon it going forward. Like, the jump from the first 8 Gen 1 last year to this 8 Gen 2 is some next level stuff. Hats off to Qualcomm. I have zero complaints about the performance of the Galaxy S23.
But when it comes to Pixel phones and this new Tensor line of chips, there is a different feel to the snappiness of the UI as you touch it, as you interact with it, as you move from app to app or swipe from one screen to the next, that no one else is doing. Every little touch of your thumb before you swipe home using gestures happens so quickly, so sharply, and so pointedly, that it almost feels a step ahead. Then you top that movement off with the beautiful animations and transitions of Google’s Pixel experience and those haptics, and you get a phone in your hand that moves like no other.
5. The Camera
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 that I miss the Pixel 7 camera, it comes down to the small things.
The Pixel 7 camera brings me more confidence in all situations, where as with 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 to be more appealing to my eye (Samsung’s makes everything far too warm) and the night mode is almost too good on a Google phone. Google’s portrait mode remains my favorite, although Samsung is starting to change my mind there some with the S23.
In the end, I have absolutely zero regrets about making this recent switch to the Galaxy S23. It is a top tier phone without the price and should be a phone that more people buy. But that doesn’t mean my eye isn’t constantly looking out for the next Google Pixel and yet another reason to switch back. I miss some things.