I went to buy a Pixel 2. Verizon tried to sell me a Galaxy S8

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that’s taken over our lives.



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A fine camera with a mediocre phone attached?


Josh Miller/CNET

You might watch a launch event and decide you must have that new phone.

You might read a review — they’re very good on CNET, you know — and hope you’ll be influenced.

Many people, though, walk into stores and are willing to be swayed.

I’m one of them. I want to touch the phone, play with it and listen to a salesperson’s patter.

So on Friday, I went to a Verizon store in Marin County, California, to see how Google’s new Pixel 2 phones are being sold. And, hopefully, to be persuaded. 

I’m still on an iPhone 6. Recently, I tried to be swayed toward an iPhone 8. Sadly, the Apple store left me rigid.

Could I be moved by Verizon, which after all is Google’s exclusive partner for the Pixel 2

I walked into the store and there was a sign on the door announcing the new phone. A flock of the phones were perched at the very front.

A salesman saw me handling the Pixel 2. His first words: “We’re out of the XL.”

He was, of course, referring to the Pixel 2’s larger sibling, the Pixel 2 XL. There was a display model within reach. His approach didn’t seem like the finest way to get me interested in the device they actually had in stock, and my somewhat bemused expression didn’t appear to clue him into this. As I returned to examining the Pixel 2, he sidled over and explained that I couldn’t get an XL within 20 miles of the store.

Undeterred, I showed him my iPhone 6 and asked why I should upgrade to a Pixel 2. 

“Well, the camera’s better,” he said. This, oddly, was exactly the same response I’d gotten in the Apple store when looking at an iPhone 8. Has it really come to people buying phones for the camera, rather than for anything phone-y? That’s what it seems.

His next attempt at persuasion surprised me: “And if you look at the back, it won’t scratch.” 

This was curious; on Friday morning I’d watched a torture test that concluded the back was extremely prone to scratching. And, for that matter, bending. 

“So what is this? Plastic?” I asked, gently stroking the back. “Yeah, I think so,” he replied. (It’s actually metal with “a premium hybrid coating.”)

I was beginning to get the impression that the salesman wasn’t enamored of this phone. Which seemed odd, as Verizon is clearly pushing it in its first week.

“To be honest, the Galaxy S8 is better,” he said. “With the Pixel, you don’t get the bloatware that you do on the Samsung, but the Samsung’s just cooler and has a much better screen.”

To my own eyes, the Pixel 2 did seem a little cheap. It wasn’t distressing. It just looked a little ordinary. I don’t think any phone has beaten the Galaxy S7 Edge for sheer pulchritude. 

“So I guess you have a Galaxy S8?” I asked.

“No, iPhone 6S,” he replied. This was an answer I’d heard from a lot of real people when I traveled California asking about the iPhone X. The 6 and 6S were phones that satisfied.

“But if I wanted an Android, I’d get an S8,” he admitted.

Really? Even over the 2 XL? I recalled that in her review of the device, my CNET colleague Lynn La had said its thinner bezels and rounded corners make it look less frumpy than the regular old Pixel 2. And it apparently has an excellent camera as well.

I picked up the display model and it was, indeed, marginally more attractive. The salesman, though, still seemed unmoved. He explained he had no idea when the store would have them again and insisted Galaxies were simply better.

He then added that very few people even contemplate the idea of switching from iPhone to Android or the other way. So many are set in their ecosystems, he said, that it’s one side or the other.

It’s hard to be persuaded when a salesman has told you clearly that he’s not persuaded himself. I appreciated his honesty. 

We got to talking about iPhones, the fact that he gets no discount on the phones, and his concern that the iPhone X is too expensive (for the 256GB version, it’s $1,149). 

“What about the iPhone 8?” I asked.

“We’re sold out,” he said. 

“Really?”

“But I’ve got no idea who bought them. On launch day, we didn’t have many people in here.”

This was one salesman in one store on a single day. 

It may well be that others have more dexterous ways of selling the Pixel 2, though in her review of that device, my colleague La also concluded that the biggest sales point of the phone was its camera.

Still, I walked away wondering what a phone has to do to be uncontrollably enticing.

Perhaps we’re past that. 

Then again, there is the iPhone X, I suppose. We’ll see.

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