When Google dropped its first Pixel smartphone last year, I was not impressed. I dogged it for its lack of waterproofing, its derivative design, and for having a custom launcher when I expected pure stock android. But then an important thing happened. I got my hands on to the Pixel, and in short order, its instantaneous responsiveness and incredible camera ruined me for literally every other Android phone out there.
Day before yesterday in San Francisco, Google announced a couple of successors to those original Pixels. These correct some of their predecessor’s short-comings, and introduce a couple more (Trying to be sarcastic). So why should you care about them? Because they’re probably about to make even a bigger splash than their forerunners did.
On paper, there are few surprises here. These are sequels to top-tier smartphones, so they have got the requisite high-end specs from the Snapdragon 835 on down the line. Google took a swipe at Apple by claiming that both of these have basically the same feature set unlike the iPhone 8 and 8+. But take that with a grain of salt.
The larger Pixel 2 XL has a 30% bigger battery, and a display that is an inch larger on the diagonal. the XL’s display is also better. Its quad-HD instead of full-HD. It covers more of the DCI-P3 color gamut, and here is the polarizing bit, its aspect ratio is the stretched 18:9 instead of a smaller phone’s 16:9. Personally, I love a narrower phone, and I also prefer the rounded corners and reduced bezels on the big guy. But what I think really won me over was that panned-up paint job which is only available on the 2 XL.
But to google’s credit, almost everything else is common across the two sizes of the device. The camera is probably the most important point. Last year’s pixel had one of the very best phone cameras on the market, and this year’s improves on it with Optical Image Stabilization, which google says will work together with electronic stabilization, to smooth out video. I’m little thrown by the decision to reduce Pixel size on the sensor, but the aperture is bigger this year, and to be honest, Google is relying so much on computational photography, its impossible to tell how well this will perform until I get my hands on to it. No! I don’t care about the DXO Mark scores. I am specially eager to see how well the Pixel 2’s portrait mode works. Not because I take a lot of portraits, but because it doesn’t require a second camera to do that crazy background de-focusing thing. This is claimed to work on the selfie shooter as well.
Both of these phones are easy to hold on to. With a hybrid coating on the aluminium bodies, that almost makes them feel plastic. Plastic-y isn’t quiet right though, because they dont seem cheap, but they do feel slightly more hollow than the last year’s. Which is interesting, because the Pixel 2 is the same mass than the actual one, and the Pixel 2 XL is slightly heavier than its predecessor. But in any event, these are now certified water and dust resistant to IP67 standards, which is great. They have also brought back the dual front-firing stereo speakers. Yes! lets make this a standard across everything.
On the flip side, each phone is also missing the 3.5 mm headphone jack. I guess its a good thing Google didn’t make a big deal last year about how big a hero it was for keeping that around. right?
And if this bugs you and you wind up squeezing your Pixel 2 in a rage, you’ll end up discovering another new feature called Active Edge. Apply pressure to the sides of the phone, and you summon Google Assistant. If this seems familiar, it is. Its the feature that you either loved, hated, or forgot about on the HTC U11 released this summer. But while this feature works on both the Pixel 2 and 2 XL, its not as robust as it is on the U11. You cannot reassign it to do other functions, or use it as a shortcut within apps.
If you dont care about squeezing your phone, you’ll be happy to know, the fundamentals are here. Near stock android Oreo, with fingerprint sensor you can use as a track-pad to drop down notification shade. Nice. And the responsiveness is as excellent as you would expect from a device bearing the Pixel brand.
Also boasting that brand, the all new Pixel Book is here. An utterly ridiculous exercise of engineering excess, that I cant help but appreciate. This is not your average Chromebook. Which is to say, it is not a low-cost laptop, Indeed Its quite expensive with a starting range of $999. For that, you get a beautiful engineered chassis, with a glass window for a better Wi-Fi reception, a big bright 12.3 inch LCD, a comfy keyboard with nice key travel, up-to 10 hours of rated battery life, four different positions to use it in, cause its got one of the crazy funky fold-y hinges, an optional $99 pen with its own set of impressive characteristics, and a special Google Now on Tap board that lets you circle things, and make Chrome tell you about it. A dedicated Google Assistant button, and Chrome OS.
Yup, functionally speaking, its just like one of the low cost machines you see in classrooms, meant to be secure and simple. So the price tag is pretty hard to swallow. But its great for enthusiasts, and I don’t get the sense that Google builds these high end models to sell in volume. It seems more an aspirational exercise and indulgence in luxury hardware from a predominantly software based company.
Lets finish up with availability. The pixel phones are available for pre-order already, with delivery date ranging from mid October for Pixel 2 to mid November for Pixel 2 XL. The smaller phone starts at $649 while the XL will run ya an extra 200 to start. Verizon is once again the exclusive carrier partner in the US, but you can always buy unlocked. Those prices are roughly in line with the last year’s and Google has certainly patched a few missing bits with these sequels. So, on the whole, I think the phones stand a good chance of out-pacing the sales of their predecessors. Links will be updated once its available on the e-commerce websites. Until then, stay tuned to our website, and subscribe for more.