Google (GOOG, GOOGL) on Wednesday took its battle for smartphone supremacy against Apple and Samsung to a new level as it announced its new Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. The handsets, which are available for pre-order Oct. 3, and will cost $649 and $849.
The successors to Google’s excellent Pixel and Pixel XL, the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are meant for Android purists who want Android smartphones the way Google believes they should be.
But the Big G has some serious competition in the form of Apple’s (AAPL) new iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X, as well as Samsung’s (SSNLF) Galaxy S8, Galaxy S8 Plus and Galaxy Note 8.
From the looks of it, though, Google’s phones have a good chance of standing out.
Two for 2
When Google rolled out the original Pixel and Pixel XL. it kept both phones’ designs relatively similar. Save for a larger display on the XL, the handsets were virtually identical. This time around, though, Google has taken a page out of Apple’s book and made its base handset closely resemble last year’s model and a more high-end device that’s completely different.
The Pixel 2 looks largely identical to last year’s Pixel. It’s still got large bezels around its 1080p resolution OLED display and a two-tone rear panel with a fingerprint sensor. The Pixel 2 XL, however, ditches its bezels for an edge-to-edge P-OLED, QHD display.
The 2 XL’s design is clearly meant as a response to Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and Note 8 phones, which have wraparound screens. Apple’s iPhone X also sports an edge-to-edge display, but pushes the panel all the way to the top of the device save for a sliver cutout to house the front-facing camera and speaker.
My biggest complaint about the original Pixels was that they weren’t water-resistant like Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy phones. This time around, however, Google says you can dunk the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL in 3 feet of water for up to 30 minutes without issue.
Unfortunately, Google has also taken a page out of Apple and Motorola’s book by killing the headphone jack on the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. I know it’s been said before, but having to use the same jack to charge your phone and listen to music is a huge pain. I, along with many other consumers, really wish Google didn’t go this route.
One of the more interesting features Google has added to the phones in the ability to squeeze their sides to pull up Google Assistant called Active Edge. The function, which was available on HTC’s U11 smartphone, seems gimmicky, because it is, but might prove helpful to some users.
The Pixel and Pixel XL were notable because they were the first Google devices that had decent cameras. The company’s Nexus-branded phones were always pretty hit or miss when it came to their shooters.
The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL build on their predecessors’ cameras pedigree with their new 12.3-MP cameras. The shooters, which look like enormous eyes on the back of the phones, are the same on both handsets and are specifically designed for improved low-light performance.
The cameras also offer optical image stabilization, which helps reduce blurring caused by your hand shaking when taking a photo.
Additionally, Google says it will now offer, Motion photos, which are similar to Apple’s Live Photos.
Google is also adding Google Lens to the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, so you’ll be able to capture information like text from images or identify items you take photos of.
Google’s decision to opt for single-lens cameras versus a dual-lens setup similar to Apple’s or Samsung’s is interesting. Apple’s and Samsung’s offerings include wide-angle and telephoto lenses that let you optically zoom in on a subject up to 2x. That’s a real benefit, and one that I’ve personally taken advantage of to get great shots with both the iPhone 8 Plus and Note 8.
Apple and Samsung also use their cameras to create a bokeh effect that blurs the background and leaves your foreground in focus. The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are also able to create
We’ll have to see how the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL fair.
Android Oreo and power
Google’s Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL will be the first smartphones to launch with the company’s new Android Oreo operating system. The software includes picture-in-picture mode for apps like YouTube, an improved copy and paste function, new app notifications that display badges over apps that you can press to view (Apple’s had this for some time now) and battery improvements.
The reason Android fans prefer Google’s phones is that they not only receive updates faster, but they also lack the kind of unwanted apps that smartphone makers like Samsung, LG and HTC and carriers fill their phones with.
The Pixel 2 also gets a new always-on display that gives you notifications, and can listen to your music and tell you who’s playing. The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL also provides at a glance notifications at the top of the screen. So you’ll be able to see upcoming meetings in a persistent message.
A 64GB version of the Pixel 2 will cost you $649. A 64GB version of the Pixel 2 XL, meanwhile will cost $849. Google will also include a Home Mini with your purchase of the Pixel 2.
Should you pick up either phone? We’ll have to wait to get our hands on review units to find out.