Google introduces Pixel 2 smartphone, available in two sizes

Three hundred and sixty-five days ago, Google introduced its first-ever Pixel smartphone, passing on the Nexus series for good. Pixel has since taken over, designed to be more high-end, but more importantly, “consumer-friendly,” as opposed to the niche products Nexus handsets were. Google had no idea Pixel would be of so much demand, which caused major shortages and supply concerns. Variants were out of stock for months at a time, and Google’s exclusive carrier partner, Verizon, had run out of units the very first week. Today, during its second ever privately-held ‘Made By Google’ event in San Francisco, the search giant introduced the world to the much-anticipated Pixel successors: Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL.

We rarely see a smartphone experience supply shortages to the extent of last year’s Pixel (now available for $100 less), but thankfully for this year, Google has increased its estimates to make sure that events don’t repeat themselves. The unexpected high demand for Pixel could also be seen as a good thing in that consumer response was fantastic. In fact, Alphabet, Google’s parent company, reached an all-time high stock price the day Pixel reviews were published. Feedback was remarkable, so much so that one could validly argue Pixel as the best first-generation product to ever join the smartphone race. This all happened at a time when the high-end market segment was as crowded as ever with offerings, some seventh-generation ones from soon to be Google competitors in Samsung, Apple and LG.

Following the events that occurred last year, many ended up holding on to their current phone with intentions on waiting for Pixel 2. The fact that this was a first-generation product also led many to stay away. Many weren’t sure if there would ever be a Pixel 2, but once Google confirmed today’s event through a video teaser, we all knew that a 2017 Pixel family was on its way. More and more devices are being launched with Pixel branding, Google’s new moniker that resonates with phrases like premium, high-quality, and “Made By Google.” More so than ever, Google is showing keen interest in hardware. And when you have a software king of the world producing its own devices, the result is more often than not, a beautiful and fully optimized device. Google confirmed its growing interest in hardware through a few acquisitions in 2017, the most notable purchase being valued at $1.2 billion for some of HTC’s know-how and intellectual property.

Google’s “Made By Google” campaign goes hand in hand with its new strategy of targeting regular consumers, the millions of Galaxy and iPhone buyers in this world. Unlike the Nexus series, there’s no other branding, only Google, who is in charge of everything from software, hardware, marketing, and distribution with the help of a limited number of others. Hence, the message it wants to get across is that the device is entirely “Made By Google.” However, we know it to be true that Google doesn’t yet have the manufacturing resources and expertise needed to produce these devices on its own, which is why the company partnered with HTC again this year in making the Pixel 2, as well as long-time manufacturing partner, LG, in creating the Pixel 2 XL. Like last year, Pixel 2 is a smaller phone and Pixel 2 XL (not Pixel XL 2) is the larger phone of the pair. And just to make things clear before we dive deeper, there is no Ultra Pixel as rumors suggested this past week.

Last year, Google’s Pixel was one of the most influential. Other companies turned to it, just to see what they could do to compete and enhance their own products. Google’s purpose isn’t to bring ground-breaking new features, but instead to ensure a great all-around experience. They want everything to work properly, and always be there for when you need it. Google’s award-winning customer satisfaction rate from last year only inspired the company to do even better this year.

Now that we’re past the history, let’s dive into what Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL bring to the table. Thanks to a bunch of leaks, rumors and reports, most of us had an idea of what to expect before today’s showcase began. However, Google did keep a few secrets and surprised us all with some things we weren’t expecting, as they tend to do better than most else.

Smaller Android manufacturers have experienced continuing struggles in 2017, but Google has not been one of them. Google is looking to bring products to scale, like Samsung and Apple, two of the more successful to do it as of late. Google has had a successful year, but in order for the momentum to continue, not only will loyal vanilla Android fans have to upgrade this year, but Google will have to convince those with other brands to make the switch over to Pixel 2. Analysts have set expectations high, and Google will have little room for error if it is to deliver on estimates. The search giant has gone above and beyond with few compromises, while ensuring both user protection and safety. Hopefully, they’ve touched on everything the user wants. Once we get our hands on each unit for testing, we’ll arrive at a decision whether or not Pixel 2 deserves a place on our list of Best Android Smartphones of 2017. But until then, here’s what you should know.

Change is upon us with Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. Unlike last year, the two are less of the same with more differences you should be aware of, at least when it comes to specs. Know this: Pixel 2 XL is designed to be the company’s flagship featuring radical changes in design, awesome new features and a hefty price tag. Google took risks and went all out with this model. On the other hand, Pixel 2 has a few compromises, but comes at a less staggering price tag.

Pixel 2 XL has a 6-inch Quad HD+ Super LG-made POLED 18:9 display coated in Gorilla Glass 5 with rounded corners. Since this is an OLED screen, expect a high (1000-1) contrast ratio, exceptional brightness for outdoor visibility or even when wearing sunglasses, and true to life colors. Pixel 2 boasts a 5-inch Full HD AMOLED display with straight corners and the more standard 16:9 aspect ratio with Gorilla Glass 5. HDR Video is present on both models, as is support for the Daydream VR platform and Google’s new Daydream View headset. And better late than never, Google has managed to include an IP67 certification for water and dust resistance.

Design has come a long way since last year, at least for the Pixel 2 XL. It features a curved screen that gives the illusion that the phone is bezel-free. Pixel 2, not so much. Both are made of aluminum and have a similar glass window hosing sensors on the rear, this time shortened not to include the rear-mounted fingerprint scanner, which Google promises is the fastest on any smartphone. To indicate that these are Pixels, the ‘G’ logo standing for Google is present on both models near the bottom of the rear side. Large top, bottom and side bezels have returned on Pixel 2, but Pixel 2 XL rids most of them allowing the device to be held in a single hand. This is a given thanks to the screen-to-body ratio of over 80% on Pixel 2 XL.

Taking a risk to comply with modern design trends, Pixel 2 XL has an 18:9 aspect ratio, so expect taller but narrower screen dimensions. More content will be shown on-screen at a time, so in other words, less scrolling. The form factor will, however, take some adjusting too if you’re coming from a phone that measures in 16:9. There’s another drawback as well, letter-boxing, which occurs when watching most video content. Powering Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 processor, not the unreleased 836 chipset some people were expecting to debut. Both models have 4GB of RAM. Pixel 2 has a 2,700mAh battery and the larger Pixel 2 XL sports a 3,520mAh cell. With ‘Doze on the Go,’ this should make for fantastic standby time. Quick Charge is supported through reversible USB Type-C. Google has increased the base storage capacity to 64GB. And if you still want more, there’s a 128GB option available for $100 more. Around the device, we have your very typical nano SIM card tray as well as side-mounted power (in a standout color) and volume controls. Inside we have NFC for Android Pay and other sensors including Bluetooth 5.0, 802.11/a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, various fitness tracking sensors, and more.

Camera technology has remained mostly the same. Both Pixel 2 devices come with that great 12MP rear sensor that topped the rankings on DxOMark last year. And this year, they are at the top of the list yet again with a world lead of 98. A super large pixel size and f/1.8 allow for taking great low-light images, and a double tap of the power button opens the camera to snap a picture in no time at all. There’s also 4K recording and OIS on both models for photo and video taking (simultaneously), and there’s no camera bump. Both have dual LED flash on the rear, but its placing alongside the lens varies by model.

Software enhancements have been made to better performance as well, and Google is again including unlimited original-quality backup using Google Photos. There are also new features including improved HDR, various under the hood enhancements, a new portrait mode for both the front and rear cameras, Motion Photos with free backup, and built-in machine learning. There’s also augmented reality stuff that allow you to add various stickers to your captures and play with virtual characters in 3D. The ability to add to what will be available at launch is open to the developer community, so more will come with time. To recap, Google says that Pixel customers on average save far more photos and video when compared to other smartphone owners, and that no dual camera is needed due to what has been accomplished through machine learning. And  I almost forgot, the selfie camera, which is an impressive 8MP lens with f/2.4.

Software is the Pixel 2’s biggest strength. Android 8.0 Oreo as Google designed it is pre-loaded, and the stock interface allows Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL to be first among all Android smartphones in existence to receive automatic platform updates and monthly security patches (3 years guaranteed). See our Droid Updates Weekly Series for more on this. Google’s latest software brings a range of new features including re-designed notifications, performance and battery improvements by further restricting background data, picture-in-picture mode, new adaptive icons, auto-fill, and a redesigned settings menu.

Also present will be some Pixel 2 exclusive features including a new Always on Display with song recognition abilities, which will make its first-ever debut on Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. Additionally, the Google Assistant is here in all its glory, accessible with a swipe right on the homescreen or a hold on the Google animated home button. This adds a third dimension of technology to your smartphone, which will get to know you better and improve over time with usage using incorporated fifth-generation programming technology. This is the same technology that can now be found on millions of smartphones including select iPhones, with addition to third  party appliancesspeakersheadphonesTVs, and Google’s new Chromebook. Though, there’s more. Google Pixel 2 owners are to get a preview of Google Lens in Google Photos and the Google Assistant, as first introduced at Google I/O 2017. Google has also pre-loaded some of your favorite Google apps including most standards, plus, Android Messages, Allo and Duo. And there are new live wallpapers too.

The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL also come with a bevy of new features. For starters, there’s a refreshed version of the Google Pixel Launcher. It includes more fluent animations, some minor design touches and enhancements to the app drawer that new had universal search, a new ‘At a Glance’ widget for obtaining key information such as the time, weather and upcoming calendar events, as well as a new search bar beneath the app dock that stays with you as you scroll through pages. Audio on the devices has also been improved over the prior generations, which is usually the case when you shift the speaker grill from the bottom to the front (on both devices). And last but certainty not at least, the new Pixels feature squeezable sides just like the HTC U 11. You can assign pressure levels to different apps and/or functions, making it easier to launch your favorite stuff from any screen. Still, given all of this, Google managed to create somewhat visually striking and premium looking phones.

So that about does it. Android flagship launch season is wrapping up, and 2017 may just entail the greatest lineup of Android smartphones ever, definitely a market to watch. The competition didn’t seem to bother Google, as the release of these new phones is slated for later than most of us expected. You can pre-order Pixel 2 starting today at $649 for the base model or $749 for the 128GB storage option. It will begin shipping on October 17 in six countries with more gaining availability year. This is the same time that handsets will be made available in stores. Those interested in the larger Pixel 2 XL, which seems to be most of us, will have to wait an extra month as units won’t become available for another “5-6 weeks.” If anything was disappointing today, this was it. You are, however, able to pre-order the larger model  at a whopping $849 for the base model or $949 with 128GB of memory space starting today!

For phones that used to be priced in the pipeline of $500 (we miss you Nexus), this is kind of outrageous so to speak. Even the smaller variant costs $649, which is what the going flagship went for a long two years ago. The smaller Pixel 2 isn’t exactly a flagship, and this most certainty isn’t affordable, but if your craving Google’s latest software, this is the route to take. The Pixel 2 XL is the more expensive as you may have come to expect, which starts at $849. This is a whole extra bill from the higher storage capacity Pixel 2. And if 64GB doesn’t do you justice, you’ll be looking at over $1,000 with taxes. Just when we thought smartphone prices were on decline with the rise of the premium mid-range sector, manufacturers all of a sudden think it’s okay to start charging a grand for essentially a dated smartphone with some small refinements. It seems like this will be the trend for phones with crazy-looking futuristic design language, going forward. Thank you, Samsung and Apple. But thankfully, at least for some, Google has some reasonable trade in offers that can save you up to $410 on any of these models. There’s also Google financing and an optional ‘Preferred Care’ program for $139 extra, if that floats your boat. They ship for free.

Like last year, both the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL will be sold primarily through the Google Store (unlocked) with addition to carrier exclusivity on Verizon here in the US. Maybe one day once Google proves itself more, we’ll have more of a “full-scale” global release like Samsung and Apple do with their flagships. Google has additionally partnered with a few popular retailers to sell Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, the most notable being Best Buy. Pricing will be generally the same no matter where you look to buy either of the models. If you choose to buy unlocked, which is the route you should probably take, you’ll have the freedom to bring Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL to any of the four major US carriers with full coverage for each. There’s also the option of signing up with Google’s Project Fi.

Pixel 2 is available in choice of three colors, as successfully predicted: Just Black, Clearly White, and Kinda Blue. All three colors have Black fronts, with the rear color matching the color of the glass window. The shades vary a bit when compared to last year’s Pixels, especially the Kinda Blue, which is a much lighter shade than the ocean-like Really Blue from last year. Pixel 2 XL will come in just two color options: Just Black and “Black & White.” Both fronts are Black, but with “Black & White,” you have a Black window with a White-colored rear, resembling a panda. Availability of certain models are likely to vary by location and carrier. With all models, information cards, a cable organizer, Quick Charger, and wall adapter, are provided in the box with addition to an iPhone transfer tool and 3.5mm dongle (since the jack is no longer here). And between now and October 19 in select countries including the US, all buyers of either smartphone will get a Google Home Mini speaker totally free. The newly re-designed Google Store also has a plethora of accessories, cases and just about whatever you may need, including customizable Google Live Cases for Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL.

Be sure to bookmark this page and return back as the news continues to pile up. Those interested in learning more about Pixel 2 or any of Google’s new accessories (Daydream View, Google Home Max or Mini, Pixelbook, Google Pixel Buds, Google Clips) can sign-up for email updates over at the Google Store. Be sure to let us know your initial thoughts about anything Google announced today in the comment section of any of our Made By Google 2017 posts.

 

We’ll keep you posted on everything Google right as it happens! Follow us on social media for up to the minute updates from the search giant’s Made By Google 2017 event.

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About Doug Demagistris 1146 Articles

Doug Demagistris is the Founder and current Editor In Chief of Droid Turf. He grew up in New York and now attends Bryant University where he is studying marketing and communication. He has been and always will be a Google enthusiast thanks to Android’s customization, flat design and exceptional integration with Google Services. Currently, Doug uses a Pixel XL as his daily driver for its unique design, powerful hardware, exceptional camera, and useful features. For shorter instances, he’ll glance at his Huawei Watch. Doug is hopeful his productivity will make lives easier, more meaningful and help down the road.