Design and display tweaks with smarter features seen an evolution over the Pixel’s predecessors
Google has taken the cover off its next-generation Pixel handsets, which offer a evolution rather than revolution over their predecessors.
The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL make up the first smartphones to run Android 8.0 Oreo out of the box, and have their sights aimed on building upon the foundation set by the Pixel and impressive Pixel XL.
While the original pixel handsets were by no means ugly, they didn’t hit the high notes of mobile aesthetics, rather they looked like an odd cross between an iPhone 7 and a neapolitan ice cream, what with a third of the rear sporting a glass back and the other thirds in brushed aluminium.
Google has taken the old Pixel design and give it a good nip and tuck. The glass panel is still there for the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL but has been reduced so that it only houses the rear camera but not the fingerprint scanner this time round, offering more of a glass strip than panel.
The displays on the Pixel have also be stretched to run edge-to-edge and the bottom and top bezels have been reduced, significantly reducing the ‘chin’ the previous Pixels had.
Other design tweaks include stereo speakers and the ditching of the 3.5mm headphone jack in favour of piping audio through the USB Type-C port. Water proofing to the IP67 standard has also been added, something that the previous Pixels sadly missed.
With a 5 inch Full HD AMOLED display the Pixel 2 is less of a handful than its larger XL sibling, which sports a higher resolution 2880 x 1440 QHD+ display measuring in at 6 inches with a bezel-eating 18:9 aspect ration making use of a curved pOLED panel.
The display on the phones are are also ‘always on’ essentially adapting to how the user is holding and interacting with the handset to both save battery and make its use more intuitive.
Other than a difference in display size, the variations between the models also extend to the battery life, with the latter weighing in at 2,700mAh for the Pixel 2 and 3,520mAh for the Pixel 2 XL.
Google has also added Active Edge to the brace of second-generation Pixels.First seen with the HTC U11, Active Edge allows for the sides of the Pixel 2 phones to be squeezed to activate the Google Assistant in a faster manner than unlocking the phone or barking ‘OK Google’ on repeat.
Routines can also be added to the Assistant to activate certain functions, such as triggering multiple smart home gadgets.
Under the glass and aluminium the Pixel 2 handsets share the same hardware. Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 835, the same chipset found in the US version of Samsung’s Galaxy S8, brings flagship horsepower to the Pixels. RAM comes in at 4GB, while storage options offer 64GB or 128GB.
Both of the previous Pixel phones had an impressive camera, one of the best out of all the smartphones. The 12MP f/1.8 aperture rear camera in the Pixel 2 handsets is set to build upon that success, with tweaks to take smartphone photography to an improved level, notably optical image stabilisation to prevent shaky hands from ruining photos.
A portrait mode is also on offer, which uses machine learning to blur the background of a photo to create striking portrait shots without the need for dual camera arrays, thanks to Google using dual pixel technology in the Pixel 2 camera.
The front facing camera has an 8MP sensor and should be more than up to the job of handling video calls and the odd selfie or portrait video.
Smarter image recognition features can serve up extra information for pictures snapped on the Pixel 2, thanks to a preview of the machine learning powered Google Lens making its debut on the new phones.
Machine learning is also put into action with the optical image stabilisation to make video capture when in motion much smoother than before.
Available from October 19 the Pixel 2 comes in three colors; Just Black, Clearly White, and Kinda Blue. The 64GB Pixel 2 will set buyers back by £629 while the 128GB model will cost £729.
The Pixel 2 XL will be released a little later on November 15 and will only come in Just Black and Kinda WHite. A steep £799 will get buyers the 64GB handset, while £899 will empty the wallets of people after the 128GB handset.
If you were expecting something radically different from the Pixel handsets, then the Pixel 2 will potentially disappoint as it is more of an iterative take on its predecessor; the Pixel 2 XL looks to be more of a step forward, with a near bezel-less display and refined features.
But neither handset is going to set the world alight in terms of hardware design, yet what they do offer is the purest version of Android on a phone completely designed by Google, something no other handset can effectively offer in 2017.