The Google Pixel 2 is on its way, following the success of the original Google Pixel and Pixel XL, despite a few small quirks. Recently, we had a chance to talk to the head of hardware at Google about what to expect with the next Pixel smartphone. Read on for our overview and assessment of all the Pixel 2 news and rumors so far, including the possibility of a third Pixel device.
Highlight recent changes
Google has a history of code-naming its devices after various sea-dwelling creatures: last year's Pixel phones were 'sailfish' and 'marlin', the Nexus 6P was 'angler' and the Nexus 5X was 'bullhead'. Keeping with tradition, it seems Google may be doing the same for the Pixel 2 series and it looks like these names could be 'muskie' and 'walleye'.
Don't sit back just yet though because it seems there may be a third Pixel device too, code-named 'taimen', which, of course, is also an aquatic animal. The relative sizes of these three fishes might be lending us an insight into the size or specs of the future Pixel devices: a taimen is bigger than a muskie and a walleye and is also in a different family. Does this suggest that the taimen phone will be bigger than the muskie or walleye? Might it be a tablet rather than a phone as such?
During MWC 2017, we had a chance to talk with Rick Osterloh, head of hardware at Google. As the Pixel and Pixel XL are his babies, we decided to ask him about their successor: the Pixel 2. He told us two concrete details about the upcoming device: it will indeed arrive this year, and it will stay a premium device. That means the Pixel wasn't just a one-off experiment, and there won't be a cheap variant of their expensive flagship.
If Google plans on sticking to an annual release cycle as Osterloh suggested, it’s probable that we would see the Pixel 2 arrive in October 2017. Google will continue to charge high-end prices, as Apple does with the iPhone. The future model would therefore likely surpass the price of the Pixel and Pixel XL, which came out starting at $649 and $769 respectively.
No headphone jack?
As yet still an uncorroborated rumor, 9to5Google claims to have seen an internal Google document suggesting that the 3.5 mm headphone will not feature on the new Google Pixel 2 device to be released later this year. This would be a compelling change of heart from Google as it had made quite a song and dance about including a headphone jack on the first Pixel phone when Apple decided to leave it out of their latest flagship, the iPhone 7.
Will it be waterproof?
After we saw the first renderings of the Pixel 2 in the Indian Express, we now have higher hopes about the smartphone’s build. 9to5Google reporter Stephen Hall supposedly found out at last year’s Pixel event that the Pixel 2 will be waterproof.
This would allow Google to rectify a past blunder. The Pixel didn’t quite stand up to the iPhone 7, which is waterproof just like the Galaxy S7. Both of these latter devices are important competitors and set the bar pretty high in regards to what high-end smartphones should offer. The Pixel, the first generation of its kind, found itself therefore floundering behind its flagship competitors.
Little tidbit we were told in October last year that I forgot about: “Waterproofing definitely coming with next Pixel device.”— Stephen Hall (@hallstephenj) January 25, 2017
Tough choices: build quality vs camera quality
Hall also continues on to say that Google had to make a choice with the first device, whether they would prioritize the build or camera of the smartphone. Seeing as a both would have likely caused a price hike, this means that Google made a choice, which quickly became apparent: the camera.
If Google plans on improving the build quality, we could be in store for some elegant enhancements over the past contender. Water resistance is now the mark of a premium device: Sony removed this feature from many of its Xperia devices, reserving it solely for its most expensive models, the X Performance and Xperia XZ. The new LG G6 is IP68 certified, meaning Google will definitely have to add it to the Pixel 2 to keep up with its high-end competition.
Since this post from Stephen Hall came out, Google it seems rushed to clarify things, seeing as this positive affirmation of a waterproof smartphone may not actually be the case, and that it is a definite "if". Google also explained that, like last year's model, the Mountain View company would also place an emphasis on the camera, specifically improving low light photography. The source also said the camera would "not have large MP size", but will "compensate in extra features".
The source also mentions that the company is testing improved chipsets composed of "some with Snapdragon 83X chips and other with Intel chips". MediaTek, a processor-manufacturing company that was previously thought to be a key player on the Pixel 2 problem no seems to longer be involved.
There is a lot of speculation to be made when it comes to software, as we don't know anything concrete yet. It would be reasonable to expect a more improved Google Assistant, and it will likely feature Android O.
For the Pixel 2, Google is keeping its focus on the higher end of the smartphone market. That means previous rumors about a cheaper variant of the Pixel 2 being released won't be proved true. While that will be a disappointment to those hoping for a more accessible Pixel, the good news is that the Pixel 2 should be better able to keep up with its premium flagship competition this time around. By staying premium, we expect that Google will make fewer compromises with the Pixel 2 in terms of build quality, meaning it will likely get water resistance while still offering a powerful camera and processor. That, however, remains to be seen until its arrival later this year.
What do you think we’ll get out of the next Pixel? Will Google make major improvements over the old one? Let us know what you think in the comments below.