Back in January of 2016, I wrote about the experience of switching over to Google’s Project Fi for my mobile data services while also ditching Verizon for various reasons. I later updated the post with a few screenshots from international destinations such as Sydney, Australia and Tokyo, Japan. In a nutshell – the service has been delightful and coverage, especially outside of the US, has been incredibly strong and snappy.
A few months back, however, I started experiencing issues with my Google (Huawei) Nexus 6P. It started rebooting randomly and, after doing this twice, was stuck in a reboot loop. The white Google logo would appear for a few seconds, go dark, and then appear again. This repeated indefinitely. Trying to use the bootloader menu was a dead end since recovery mode resulted in the same behavior. Perhaps, I thought, I simply had a bad phone after spending over a year with my beloved 6P across hundreds of cities globally.
Replacing the Nexus 6P
I contacted Project Fi support for an RMA on my Nexus 6P. They were super awesome and called me to troubleshoot within a few minutes. Since the reboot loop was a known issue, the support agent offered me a replacement phone at no cost, even though there is typically a deductible for phones that are over a year old and outside of the manufacturer’s warranty. Sadly, the best she could do was get the phone to me within a week due to a back order on the 6P. Since I was just about to leave for a trip to Europe, I used Amazon Prime Now to same-day deliver an older model Nexus 6 to hold me over.
Because everything is tied to my Google account, getting the personality from my 6P to transfer over to the 6 was a snap. I just restored from a cloud backup and entered passwords and 2FA details for my business applications. I definitely noticed the difference in performance with this older phone, but at the very least I had a familiar and useful device while traveling outside of the US. Coverage was excellent in Sweden, Switzerland, the UK, and Belgium. As expected.
Returning home, I picked up my refurbished Nexus 6P and loaded my profile, settings, and applications. Within a week, I was back to the reboot loop! Folks seemed to peg this on a bug in the 7.1.2 update, which was pre-loaded on the Nexus 6P.
Replacing the Nexus 6P, Part Deux
Frustrated, I contacted Google’s Project Fi support again, but this time entirely via email. Since it was the same issue on the same type of device, and the IMEI code was the same (from the transferred SIM card), the RMA was issued immediately. So far, this third refurbished Nexus 6P has been relatively stable, but the battery life is atrocious. Instead of the typical 8-12 hours of battery life that I had thoroughly enjoyed with my original 6P, this guy would die after a mere 3 hours of light usage.
Obviously, something is seriously wrong with the code / firmware / gremlins. Is it a Huawei issue? A Google issue? I don’t know, but seeing as how the Nexus 6P is no longer even offered by Google anymore, I figured it had given me enough troubles. It was a supremely awesome phone while it worked, and I was sad to see it go.
Introducing the Google Pixel XL
Because I’m still so enamored with Project Fi and their amazingly robust global data plan ($10 per GB anywhere in the world), I pulled the trigger on a replacement phone. Specifically, the Google Pixel XL with 128 GB of storage space. Upon receiving the phone, I noticed a few things:
- Performance is ludicrously peppy. I have yet to see the phone stutter, pause, wait, or “think” about a task, even when I have a bunch of things going on simultaneously.
- The battery life has been extremely snazzy. I recently used GPS to find a hiking spot, spent 4 hours GPS-tagging my hike and taking photos, and still had enough juice to last me all day driving around playing music.
- The bottom-facing speaker is a horrible design. It’s exactly where my left handle cradles the phone when using two hands. The Nexus 6P had a pair of front facing speakers (top and bottom of the face). That design was so much better!
- I snagged a Caseology Parallax case from Amazon. It’s designed specifically for the XL series and has wide, soft edges around the speaker, microphone, USB-C interface (charging and data transfer), and headphone jack. Extremely pleased with the quality and aesthetics.
- The Pixel XL is running Android 7.1.2 but has none of the issues I experienced with the Nexus 6P after a month of usage. The UI is slightly different as well, with more attention paid to the home screen and color palette, such as the volume bar color being a pleasant blue against the black background.
In the end, I snagged a data-only SIM from Project Fi for my Nexus 6, kept the old SIM in my Nexus 6P, and am using the factory shipped SIM on the Pixel XL. This gives me the ability to use my data plan across any of the devices. I should have had a backup device in my pocket for this sort of event, anyway, and now I was sort of forced to do it out of necessity. More devices to use for Clash Royale, right?
If you’re in need of a smart phone right now, the Pixel XL is a solid performer. I really hate the location of the speaker, though, so if you are a person that likes to watch a YouTube video or play a mobile game during down time, this might be a deal breaker. Sure, there’s always headphones, but sometimes I’m tired after a long day of travel or work and just want to plop in a chair and play a few episodes of Netflix or Hulu without having to go digging for audio gear. Plus, the Pixel 2 is certainly on the horizon in the near future.
As for Project Fi, I still give it two thumbs up. The service and support was spot-on. It’s worth noting that during the RMA process, Google placed a hold on my credit card for the amount of the refurbished phone as an incentive to use the self-addressed and postage-paid box for my broken device. Since I had every intention of returning the original phone to them, this didn’t bother me, but apparently it’s a big issue for some. The included tracking is enough to make sure that Google is being honest about the return since you can see where your RMA is headed. 🙂