The display is the most important smartphone feature

Samsung Galaxy S9

Last month I wrote about switching from the iPhone X to a new Android device. I asked which handset you’d suggest: The Samsung Galaxy S9+ or the Google Pixel 2 XL. I wrote up the article thinking that it would ultimately be an easy decision. After all, I had used both handsets after their initial launches, but, admittedly, for a very limited amount of time.

And it turns out that made my initial decision a bit of a mistake. But also a revelation, which should have been obvious right out of the gate.

In the years past I’ve asked all of you what you believe your favorite feature of a smartphone is. In most cases, and in my own opinions, I’ve pointed to the camera. After all, the camera in our smartphone is the go-to option for most people at this point, using it as a way to capture the moments as they happen.

But after picking up the Google Pixel 2 XL I realize that the most important feature on a smartphone should be the display. And that is definitely not the case with this phone. At least, it doesn’t feel like it is after using phones like the iPhone X and the Galaxy S9.

Even with the different color options in place, this doesn’t feel like the best way to look at content on a smartphone. Not on a high-end flagship model, anyway. And that’s when it’s the daytime and the phone’s brightness is above 50%. Get in a low-light situation and the brightness anywhere below that and the black bleeding is unreal.

This isn’t an issue just for the Pixel 2 XL, of course. It happens with OLED panels. I’ve noticed some with the iPhone X. But it’s very, very minor. A friend of mine has a Galaxy S9 that he’s had for a while now and he tells me he doesn’t notice any bleeding at all.

Another friend of mine said he was “shocked” that I actually picked up the Pixel 2 XL because of the display, telling me that if anyone was going to hate it, it’d be me. And he’s right. I use my phone quite a bit during the day, but I honestly use it more when I’m finished using my computer, so well into the night and there’s no way I can live with this screen. I love just about everything else when it comes to this phone, especially the camera, but the display has to be better than this.

Which is where the overdue revelation comes in. This should have been the most obvious thing: The screen has to be the best part of the phone, because it’s our window into the whole experience. And while the Pixel 2 XL’s display is fine –it’s fine– it isn’t good enough. Especially not when it costs the same as a Galaxy S9+, and almost the same amount as an iPhone X.

I’m late to the party with this, but honestly I’m not trying to just dump on the Pixel 2 XL. It’s a solid phone in practically every other category. But when the screen is this bad, in my opinion, nothing else really matters.

Of course, this won’t be an issue for some folks. Two of my friends who’ve had the phone since launch say they notice it, but they’ve stopped caring about it. I imagine that for a lot of people the software updates, hardware, and camera will be enough to make them feel the same way about the display. I just can’t do it, though.

What do you think? Should the display be the most important aspect of a phone’s design these days? Especially as we, as consumers, consume more content on them on a daily basis? If you picked up a Google Pixel 2 XL, what do you think of the display? Let me know!

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