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Tuesday, October 04, 2022

Touring Review: Pixel 6

Throughout this year's tour, we used the Pixel 6 as a backup for photographs (especially when it was raining, since the Pixel 6 was waterproof and the Ricoh GR3 wasn't), payments, navigation in a pinch, booking hotels, phone calls, and general use. As a backup camera the Pixel 6 was superlative, and while I wish it was higher resolution and had a bigger sensor, I don't think any of the other smartphones would have done a better job.

For navigation, we discovered that Google Maps had many limitations, much of which was that it would suggest routes that might be doable on a mountain bike but not for a road bike, and definitely not for a triplet. Even worse, the battery drain would mean that Xiaoqin's phone would drain by the middle of the afternoon on a long day. We tried turning off WeChat, and turning off the 90MHz display, but those changes made marginal differences to the battery life. Once in a while we would have to top up the battery using a battery extender.

For payments my phone worked but Xiaoqin's didn't, probably having to do with the setup for credit cards on it. For booking, we discovered an interesting limitation --- our T-mobile connection would let us browse's app and select places to stay, but to finalize a booking required a WiFi connection. I found myself searching for WiFi in various places to complete a booking.

One big disadvantage of the Pixel 6 was completely unexpected: when I cracked my screen protector (but not the screen), the phone was so exotic in Italy that I never found a place that sold replacement screen protectors. I had a spare protector at home, but it just shows that the Pixel 6 doesn't have sufficient distribution to the point where you could expect to easily get support for the device in Europe. On the other hand, the phone calls always worked, and various times the $0.25 per minute T-mobile roaming phone call charge would save us 20 EUR in hotel stays, making the ROI on those calls well worth the price.

When in Feldkirch, we used the instant translation feature to have conversations with doctors, nurses and pharmacists. This is an amazing feature and well worth the price. I also never ran out of storage.

To my dismay, the phone does not support FAT32 or exFAT, and it could not read the SD card from either the Ricoh GR3 or the GoPro, which made it very difficult to use the phone as a photo processor. I would later read that the Nexus Media Explorer would be able to read it, but too late for this trip. I never had any trouble reading SDcards with Samsung phones, so this is a limitation unique to the Pixel 6. It seems that Google's ideological commitment against paying Microsoft royalties has led it to serve its customers badly, another illustration of how Google PMs must not use their own products. The GR3 had a wireless mode that worked well, but the GoPro didn't.

For myself, the phone battery was more than sufficient since I would depend on the Garmin for navigation most of the time. The few times I needed it I'd pull out the phone for isolated use, and it never failed me. All in all, I think the Pixel 6 is a reasonable phone to travel with, but for the various reasons outlined above, I suspect the Samsung phones are still a cut above for not having flaws and workarounds that you'd have to spend a ton of time researching. 


Unknown said...

My Linux box has no trouble with FAT32 or exFAT. Is Microsoft just letting that slide? Can they really collect royalties on a de facto standard format?

Piaw Na said...

I have no idea. I don't care --- Samsung reads FAT32/exFAT just fine, and Pixel 6 doesn't. No matter what, it's Google's fault.