Google flipped the script last year when it retired the Nexus line in favor of its own branded handsets. Now all eyes are on the Pixel 2, which Google will be unveiling at an event in San Francisco tomorrow. With improved specs and even better cameras, the new phones are poised to propel Google back to the head of the class with a pure Android O experience.
Since the Pixel and Pixel XL landed, the LG G6 and Galaxy S8 have upped the ante for premium phones with their slim bezels and 16:9 screens. So, like last year, we’ll be watching to see whether the next version of Google’s handset can chip away at Samsung’s dominance
Update 10/4/17: A tweet from the Verizon CMO confirms that the Pixel 2 will once again be exclusively available through the carrier. And yesterday we added more images of the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL that have leaked, this time showing off a redesigned Launcher.
Pixel 2 design and display
While the Pixel’s iPhone-esque front seemed somewhat uninspired last year, it looks downright boring next to the bezel-slimming designs of LG’s V30 and Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8. But the latest leaks suggest that will change, at least somewhat. Professional tipster Evan Blass has published clear pictures of the Pixel 2 (seen at top) and Pixel 2 XL (seen below), and while the smaller model looks similar to last year’s, the larger one has gotten a major redesign. The Pixel 2 XL will seemingly sport a 2:1 display and ditch the large forehead and chin. However, the side bezels won’t be nearly as small as on the Note 8 or V30, according to the picture.
Around the back, Blass’s images shows that the Pixel’s unique two-tone design will remain, though the glass portion is much smaller. Where last year’s back glass extended below the fingerprint sensor, this year’s is about half the height. This matches up with a prior leak by Droid-Life (seen below) that was the first to show the Pixel’s new colors.
Blass’s images match up with a supposed render of the Pixel 2 XL published months ago by Android Police. At the time, the site claimed the new phone will sport a 6-inch AMOLED display manufactured by LG, which makes sense given Google’s reported $900 million investment in LG Display. The picture also shows a similar rear case with a smaller window of glass around the camera, a feature first reported by XDA Developers.
As far as dimensions go, a series of 3D renders based on leaked design schematics confirm much of what Android Police and XDA Developers have reported as far as the design goes, with dimensions that match of very closely to the current models: 145.3 x 69.3 x 7.8 mm for the smaller model and 157.6 x 76.3 x 7.9 mm for the XL.
Of note, Android Police said that the XL model will represent “the cutting edge of Google’s engineering and design efforts, while the smaller device will act as a sort of entry-level option.” And there’s one extra tidbit: There will likely be a camera bump as well.
Google Pixel 2 specs, features, and sound
Last year’s Pixel was the first to feature the then-top-of-the-line Snapdragon 821 chip, but this year’s Pixel will likely be more of a follower than a leader. Where reports initially suggested that the new Pixels would be using an updated version of the chip—the Snapdragon 836—Blass now says an “alleged delay” has forced Google to stick with the same Snapdragon 835 chip found the Note 8, V30, and other phones.
Additionally, 9to5 Mac says both Pixels will come in two storage configurations, 64GB and 128GB, replacing the entry-level 32GB. The site also says the phones will feature always-on displays.
Audiophiles will be bummed to learn that Google is likely to dump the headphone jack in the Pixel 2. XDA Developers and 9to5Google both report that the 3.5mm jack will be jettisoned in the new model in favor of stereo speakers, as evidenced by the pictures we’ve seen showing slits above and below the screen on both models. However, audiophiles should rest a little easier knowing that Google has been hard at work at fixing the Bluetooth issues that plague the current models, as reveled in a Reddit AMA by Android O engineers. Additionally, both models will reportedly have IP68 water resistance.
The Pixel 2 will also reportedly have a unique feature. Android Police reports that the new smaller Pixel will have a squeezable frame like the HTC U11 to launch Google Assistant. This makes sense since HTC is rumored to be manufacturing the smaller handset and Google just purchased a large portion of the company last month.
Pixel 2 OS
The most notable feature of the original Pixel is its stock version of Android Nougat and its custom launcher. We don’t need a rumor to know that this year’s Pixels will sport the freshest version of Oreo, but now we’ve gotten a sneak peak at the new launcher too.
According to Blass’s image, the new launcher will ditch the search “pill” in favor of a full bar at the bottom of the screen under the dock. Additionally, the top of the screen shows a redesigned weather widget that incorporates a calendar appointment. And of course, the virtual Google Assistant button remains. It’s safe to assume all of these new options will be customizable.
Pixel 2 camera
If there’s one thing you can count on in a new flagship phone, it’s that the camera will be better. 9to5Google reports that Google won’t focus on megapixels with the Pixel 2, but rather will “compensate in extra features.” Based on the leaked pictures we’ve seen, the Pixel 2 will likely stick with single lens rather than a dual setup, though it appears to be much larger than the current model.
Android Authority also spilled some details about the camera, reporting that both phones will sport optical image stabilization in their rear lenses, a feature that was absent on last year’s model. The site also says the cameras will feature wide color gamut and a new Google imaging chip. Apple produced some incredible results with its own image signal processor in the iPhone 8, so we’re excited to see what Google can do with its own.
In a blog post, Google has already shown off some incredible results from its experimental nighttime photography techniques that use the existing Pixel camera to generate some incredible low-light images, and we’re hoping to see that processing power make its way into the Pixel 2.
Google Pixel 2 price
Premium phones don’t usually go down in price, and the Pixel 2 isn’t about to break that trend. In fact, some models might cost more.
A rumor published by Droid-Life says the Pixel 2 will cost $649 for 64GB while the 64GB Pixel 2 XL with start at $849, a higher price point than last year’s Pixel and the iPhone 8 Plus. The site also says the 128GB models would sell for $749 and $949, respectively.
Pixel 2 naming and release
Conventional wisdom has it that Google’s next phones will indeed be called the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. However, Google hasn’t always been linear with its naming. For example, the Nexus One was followed by the Nexus S and the Galaxy Nexus before the Nexus 4. So Google might throw us a curveball with the next Pixel.
But we do know the code names. Following the longstanding tradition, Google has internally named its new phones after fish. According to Android Police, the smaller of the two new phones is called Walleye while the XL version is Taimen. A third phone code-named Muskie was also in the works but has been shelved.
Google has started to tease the release of the Pixel 2 with a new website featuring the tagline, “Thinking about changing phones?” There’s also a video set to Fat Joe’s “Still Not a Player” that addresses several problems that people have with Android phones, including battery life, storage, and photo quality. The video ends with, “Funny you should ask,” with the date of October 4.
As far as a launch, VentureBeat has pegged October 19 as the release date for the Pixel 2 and November 15 for Pixel 2 XL, following the usual preorder windows. A tweet hours before the event from Verizon CMO Diego Scotti confirmed that Google will once again be offering the Pixel 2 exclusively through Verizon Wireless.
But will it beat the Galaxy S8 and the Note 8?
Will it beat the best from Samsung? That’s the million-dollar question. The Galaxy S8 and Note 8 are forces to be reckoned with, and Google certainly has its work cut out for it if it plans on besting Samsung’s latest flagship. The features listed here would go a long way toward giving the Pixel 2 bragging rights, but the main thing it needs is availability, both through Google’s online store and through additional carrier support. For more on what the Pixel 2 needs to be the best phone of 2017, read our analysis.
This story, “Google Pixel 2: The big event is a few hours away. Here’s what we expect” was originally published by PCWorld.