The best gadgets reveal their greatness over time. (This is also true of presidents, a good pizza place, a rookie quarterback, and just about anything related to high-end coffee brewing.) After testing gadgets for the past 15 years, I've noticed when there's "something special" about a smartphone, a laptop, or even a television because I discover small and almost unnoticeable features over a longer period of time.

Like a good movie or a fine wine, I've learned to appreciate the finer details.

I've been living with the Google Pixel now for a month, using it daily in my job and in my personal life. I even took one on a vacation to Austria recently. It's amazing that the phone hasn't made me question the logic of leaving my iPhone 7 at home during the trip. (Honestly, it wouldn't have connected to a carrier anyway.)

Over the past month, I found many features that made the Pixel worth considering as your primary phone, despite the higher price of $648.

1. Turn on the flashlight by voice.

Full disclosure: My nephew found this feature by accident. You can say "OK, Google" and then tell the Google Assistant to turn on the flashlight. It was helpful once on a dark path walking home after a bike ride in Austria and in my office late at night. When it's dark, it might be hard to fish out your phone and click buttons. You can use the Assistant to access other settings as well--say, to turn off Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.

2. The camera is astoundingly good in low-light conditions.

In a low-light situation (an apartment at night) with only a couple of lamps in the room, the Google Pixel still managed to snap bright and colorful photos. In comparison, I've used the iPhone 7 Plus in similar low-light conditions, and the Pixel is much better. In fact, over the past month, I've started using the Pixel as my primary camera most of the time.

3. Ask for translation help.

On my trip, the Google Pixel became a universal translator for me. I'd ask "How do you say 'rent a bike' in German?" and the phone would say the phrase. I could say "repeat that" a few times to practice. I also learned the words for toilet, food, excuse me, and coffee (of course). I knew about translation help through Google Assistant, but using it in real-world translations worked quite well, because I could quickly ask to hear a phrase in German.

4. Find most recently used apps.

This is one of those small discoveries. On the Pixel, there's a dedicated software button to see recent apps. Let's say you use the button to switch to a different app (like Google Music). If you double tap the button, it quickly takes you to the most recently used app (say, the Chrome browser). It's minor, but also something I used daily.

5. The battery saver is a life saver.

Many Samsung phones and now the iPhone have a battery saving mode that kicks in automatically. I figured the Pixel had one, but what I didn't realize is that it actually works. In Settings, you can enable the mode when there is 15 percent battery life left or 5 percent left. It disables things like the vibration to squeeze out more juice. On my trip, the Pixel tended to last all day (sunup to bedtime) because of this feature.

6. Losing weight (really).

My biggest discovery with the Pixel is one I found when digging around at the Google tips site. During a meal, you can ask the Assistant to tell you the calorie count for many food items. For example, you can ask about Chicken McNuggets (about 200 calories for four of them). I'm using this feature daily before meals to get a quick calorie count estimate.

Published on: Dec 5, 2016