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A second contender to the best smartphone

Perhaps it’s because we’re in the middle of the football season, but the competition between what we still call mobile phones – really pocket computers, and even that doesn’t really convey what these devices are in 2018 – increasingly resembles the Premier League. The solid mid-table teams are represented by offerings from makers such as LG, HTC and Sony; the interesting punching-above-their-weight outfits, the Burnley and Leicester City types, are the likes of China’s Huawei and OnePlus; and the elite group, with a near unassailable lead in quality and popularity, the two Manchesters, Chelsea, Arsenal and co, are the iPhones, the Samsung Galaxies and, I have to say as of late, Google.

It’s funny how the performance of Silicon Valley’s big tech beasts has varied when they have made phones. Where Amazon and Microsoft flopped, Google has found its hardware game.

This is the new Pixel 2 XL. It’s in the same price range as an iPhone or a Galaxy, but looks and feels a lot cheaper. So why might you choose Google in preference? While this is not exactly a no-brainer, it’s quite easy to list advantages: the Pixel 2 XL’s method of activating Google Assistant, with a squeeze of the phone’s sides, is genius (pity the camera couldn’t be activated by a double squeeze); its speakers are front-facing rather than on the bottom, so you don’t have to cup a hand round the phone’s base to hear properly; it is less slippery in the hand than rival phones; and if you do drop it, it has the latest and toughest Gorilla Glass 5.

The iPhone X will still be my top choice, but this is a serious contender.

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