Today Google has unveiled two new Pixel smartphones, the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. This is its second year of making phone hardware, and Google not only wants to make an aesthetic that isn’t just consistent, but is distinct from what both Apple and Samsung are doing. While Google has added a lot to the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, but one of its more intriguing upgrades comes from what it’s taking away: the need for a SIM card. Both devices still have a nano-SIM slot (contrary to a few rumors), but they also use eSIMs just like on Apple’s latest Smartwatches.
The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are Google-made phones and will be released on October 19th. The less-expensive model is the 5-inch Pixel 2 with 64GB of storage, at $649. The Pixel 2 XL starts at $849. You can spend $100 more on either model to get 128GB of storage.
Just like the Samsung Galaxy s8 phones, both phones are identical except for the size and type of screen, the size of the battery, and the basic hardware design. Otherwise, they have the same cameras, squeezable sides, same processors, same dual-speakers — the works.
Both phones have screens with OLED though they’re produced by different manufacturers. The speakers on both phones are expected to be pretty loud without too much distortion, thanks to the front firing speakers.
In other usual and unsurprising news, when it comes to the hardware they come with: the standard Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, 4GB of RAM, OLED screens, 12-megapixel rear cameras and 8-megapixel selfie cameras. When people say phones are boring now, what they often mean is that you can’t really differentiate them by looking at a spec sheet. That’s mostly true of the Pixel 2.
The Squeeze me feature
Both phones also have Google’s Active Edge, which is suspiciously similar to HTC’s own Edge Sense. (I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the intellectual property Google licensed from HTC relates to this.) In any case, squeezing the bottom half of the phones launches Google Assistant, which then starts listening for your commands. Assistant did a surprisingly good job at picking up queries in the journalist moshpit that was Google’s demo area, but getting the phone to recognize a squeeze took more force by default than seemed comfortable. Here’s hoping Google also lets us re-map that squeeze action to do other things the way Samsung didn’t with Bixby and its button.
As expected, the phone run Google’s latest Android 8.0 software. The Pixel 2 home screen is new, too: Google put a huge Google search button at the bottom, integrated into the dock. It also integrated the search box you see with the app drawer with that button.
The Pixel 2 will also be the first phone to fully support Google Lens, the company’s new system for recognizing objects in photos. To start, it’ll only work on a few categories like books, movie posters, business cards, and landmarks. Lens isn’t built directly into the camera.
Let’s talk about cameras. And I warn you this could be quit geeky.
Last year’s Pixel was the best camera you could get on a phone for nearly a year, so the Pixel 2 has a lot to live up to. And if there’s any place where Google is going out on a limb with the Pixel 2, it’s with the choices it made on the camera.
The company has not gone with the bandwagon of the latest dual lenses and a camera bump like Apple, Google is sticking to a single lens on the back and pairing it to a pile of innovations.
Lets look at some of the hardware changes Google is cramming into its camera stack:
- It’s switching to a dual-pixel sensor on the back, which means that every single pixel is made of two smaller ones.
- It’s adding optical image stabilization for photos and videos, in addition to electronic image stabilization.
- The dual-pixel setup means that the pixels in the sensor are slightly smaller than last year’s Pixel: 1.4μm vs. 1.55μm.
- To compensate for the smaller pixels, the aperture on the lens is opening up to let in more light: f/1.8 compared to last year’s f/2.0.
- Although it gets more advanced phase detection for focus with the dual pixels, it’s keeping laser autofocus, too.
- It’s individually calibrating each phone in the factory to account for the tiny distortions that are inevitable on every camera lens.
- Like Apple and darn near everybody else, Google is adding a portrait mode to the Pixel 2
Google has tauted other features like low light photography, Video Stabilization, Motion Photos and Augmented Reality stickers.