Owners of the Galaxy Note7 are in a dreadful position. Samsung discontinued the $850 phone Tuesday after weeks of disaster: Some handsets overheated and exploded, the company tried to replace them, and then the new devices suffered the same problems.
Simply put, it’s now irresponsible, even dangerous, to own a Note7. Now comes the task of replacing it, which isn’t as simple as it sounds.
Samsung’s device was basically unrivaled on Android — swapping the Note7 with another handset right now means downgrading. Say you sold your old phone to finance the Note7 or simply haven’t upgraded your device in a number of years: You’re stuck blowing your upgrade on a device that’s worse than the one you were promised.
Unless you wait and get a Google Pixel XL.
A Pixel XL, you say?
Indeed. Google’s upcoming flagship phone sounds like a great replacement for the Note7 if you can wait for it to drop. There’s a smaller version called the Pixel, but if you had a Note7, chances are you’ll dig the beefier XL.
We’ll get to the specs in a second, but if you already know you want a Pixel XL, just be aware that you’ll be tapping your feet for at least nine days, or possibly up to six weeks, depending on how you choose to buy it.
The shortest path to the Pixel XL is through Verizon, Google’s exclusive launch partner for the device. As of Tuesday, Verizon promises to deliver most models of the Pixel XL by Oct. 20 — the only one that’s missing is the “Really Blue” color with 128GB of storage.
But buying from the carrier guarantees your Pixel XL will come with bloatware — unnecessary, Verizon-branded apps you won’t ever use — so the best option is to purchase the device directly from Google. The only problem: Google says it’ll take five to six weeks to ship the phone, and it’s already sold out of the 128GB model. That’s bad.
Do not buy a 32GB Pixel
You will regret it. The Note7 had 64GB of storage, and 32 gigs won’t cut it if you plan to shoot a lot of footage in glorious 4K, especially if you also plan to download movies, music, magazines, comic books, games, TV shows and/or large apps.
Google is offering unlimited photo and video storage on Google Photos for Pixel owners, but relying almost completely on the cloud for storage is a risky proposition. Keeping everything on the cloud means you won’t always be able to access your photos and videos (if service is spotty, say) — and 32GB will fill up faster than you think.
Returning your Note7 will be a headache
Since you need to return the device now — seriously, do not put yourself or others in harm’s way by continuing to use the Note7 — you’ll have to endure a chunk of time with an outdated phone.
Best case scenario, you have an old smartphone lying around that you can use while you wait for the Pixel. You can probably pop the SIM card out of your Note7, place it in your old device and activate the phone for use, but if you’re confused, your local wireless store will be able to help.
Once your old device is activated, return the Note7. If you’re a Verizon customer, you can ask to exchange it for a Pixel XL. Otherwise, get the cash and order the phone online.
If you’re not a Verizon customer and you used an account upgrade to get the Note7 at a discount from a carrier like AT&T, you’re kind of up the creek without a paddle. The Pixel XL will come unlocked and work on any wireless network, but you can only buy it from Verizon or Google. Thus, you probably can’t get the device at a discount, which means you, friend, are now stuck with an old device unless you’re down to drop $869 all at once on a Pixel XL or enter into a 24-month payment plan with $36.21 installments.
If that’s you, there are four other Android devices we’d recommend.
Finally: If the Note7 is your only smartphone, meaning you need a device to tide you over until the Pixel XL releases, you might try buying a cheap (even secondhand) Android phone. You could drop $49.99 on the Blu R1 HD, use it for a couple of weeks, and sell it when you’re ready (or hold onto it in case Pixels start exploding). Doing this will save you the hassle of returning yet another phone when the time comes — and since “restocking” fees on opened phones can cost up to $50 anyway, that’s definitely worth it.
Whew. Pain, right?
What you’re gaining and losing with the Pixel XL
So, you know how to exchange your Note7. But what will the Pixel XL actually offer you?
In a nutshell, the Pixel XL and Note7 are about the same size — the Pixel XL is slightly larger overall, but it has a somewhat smaller screen — with the same screen resolution, similar back camera quality, and comparable batteries.
Then things get different. The Pixel XL is a downgrade from the Note7 in a few ways:
The Pixel XL lacks the cool iris scanner that the Note7 had.
Unlike the Note7, it isn’t isn’t water-resistant, so no bathing with it.
Its screen isn’t curved, so you’ll miss those flashy notifications.
No S Pen, so you’ll have to make do without the cool screen-drawing and GIF-making features.
It can’t charge wirelessly.
It doesn’t have expandable storage.
There’s no heart rate scanner built into the Pixel XL, as there was with the Note7.
Of course, most of those things could be said of any other smartphone on the market today. The Pixel XL has a few significant upgrades, though:
It’ll be the first Android phone with Google Assistant built in. If you’re all in on Google services like Gmail, Google Calendar and the upcoming Google Home, this will make your life easier.
The selfie camera is more powerful than the Note7’s.
If you buy the device directly from Google, you can bank on getting Android updates before anyone else.
It’s the only phone that will work with the new Daydream virtual reality headset — for now.
Note that we can’t vouch for the device’s quality until we review it ourselves, though we spent some time with it last week — it seems great so far.