This morning, Google announced the next versions of its flagship Android phone, the Pixel 2 and the Pixel 2 XL. The two phones are the follow-ups to last year’s debut Pixel offering, which was Google’s first foray into making smartphones from the ground up.
After Samsung and Apple, Google has quickly become the third largest competitor in the field. With all that being said, we high expectations heading into the announcement, given that the original Pixel was named our smartphone of 2016.
Design and Display
The new phones have a similar look to the original Pixel, marked by the same swath of glass on the top back of the phone. This time they’ve shrunken it down and moved the fingerprint scanner below the two-tone drop off. The corners have been unrounded a bit for a more boxy look as well.
As with the first Pixel, the Pixel 2 has an overall modest sense of glitz and glamor. That’s not to say that the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL aren’t beautiful phones—they certainly are. However, they don’t have the same luxurious feel that the iPhone X or Galaxy Note 8 have. Google has instead focused on a simplicity of design that has marked its former products and software design.
In the redesign, Google has trimmed down the thickness of the Pixel 2 this time around. At 0.31 inches thick, the Pixel 2 isn’t quite as thin as the iPhone 8, but is thinner than phones like the Galaxy S8 and the Galaxy Note 8. In the meantime, the Pixel 2 XL is only a tiny bit thicker and heavier.
From the front, the Pixel 2 looks almost identical to the Pixel. It’s got the same chunky bezels, making it seem a little outdated in terms of design. However, the Pixel 2 XL has a more modern look with trimmed-down bezels similar to the LG G6. The smaller bezels allows the large 6.0-inch display to fit into a smaller footprint, but not quite to the extent of the iPhone X or Galaxy S8. The difference between the two smartphones is interesting, especially considering that they were actually manufactured by different companies.
The good news is that both smartphones feature amazing Quad-HD OLED displays that are a big bump from last year. The pixel density still doesn’t compare to what Samsung has done with the Galaxy S8, but it’s impressive nonetheless.
Specs and Software
In terms of specs, there’s nothing too surprising here. The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL have the same resolution display, same Snapdragon 835 SoC, same 12-megapixel camera, and 4GB of RAM. It’s all top-of-the-line technology, but it’s nothing unexpected.
The software is where the Pixels really shine. The Pixel 2 smartphones come with the newest version of Android, 8.0 Oreo. Getting the newest version of Android and the quickest updates are one of the benefits of buying a Pixel, and that’s still true of the Pixel 2 smartphones.
With the Pixels, Google also moves around things on the home screen to give it a fresh look. The Google search bar has been moved to beneath the dock and the date is now written out delightfully written out at the top.
Google put a lot of emphasis on the the camera of the Pixel 2 at its event. The original Pixel was touted as one of the best smartphone cameras on the market—and (surprise!) it actually was.
The Pixel 2 and the Pixel 2 XL keep the same 12-megapixel camera, which is a good thing considering how good the original was. Instead of throwing in a dual-camera setup, Google has included all sorts of software tricks and machine learning advancements to spice up the camera package. The company seems to have perfected the software/hardware integration that produces some of the best photos we’ve seen from a smartphone.
While you won’t be getting a wide-angle lens or optical zoom, Google has introduced a Portrait Mode for that blurry effect we all know and love. Unique to the Pixel 2, you can do the Portrait Mode with the selfie, front-facing camera as well. In the end, the tricks don’t matter nearly as much as things like low-light performance and super-quick autofocus, which Google has impressively mastered on its smartphones.
Price and availability
The Pixel 2 starts at $649, lining up with the price point of the iPhone 8. Meanwhile, the Pixel 2 XL comes in at $849. The Pixel 2 comes in black, white, black & white, and blue, while the Pixel 2 XL comes in black, white, and black & white.
Both phones will begin shipping on October 19 and are available for purchase now.