A refresh of Google’s critically acclaimed Pixel smartphones is expected Wednesday when the company holds its annual product launch event at the SFJAZZ center in San Francisco.
Although their features won’t be known officially until Google raises the curtain on the phones at the event, leaks — including photos — have given the public a good idea of what’s to come.
The smaller of the two phones, the Pixel 2, is expected to have a 1080p FHD display with an aspect ratio of 16:9. Its larger brother, the Pixel XL, is believed to have a 6-inch, QHD+ display with an 18:9 ratio. The XL doesn’t display as much screen real estate as some of the nearly edge-to-edge phones on the market, but the screen-to-body ratio of 80-85 percent does give the XL a thin bezel look.
The XL reportedly will support a Wide Color Gamut and include a Google Imaging Chip, and the 12-MP cameras in either one or both of the phones will support optical image stabilization.
Although there isn’t a lot of flashy technology in either of the units, the XL may include an Active Edge feature on the left side of the phone that will allow you to mute calls and alarms, as well as launch Google Assistant, by squeezing the phone.
Google may be upping the storage ante by bundling unlimited Google Cloud storage with the mobiles.
Ditching Headphone Jack?
The new phones will have dual stereo speakers, based on several reports. That seems likely, especially for the XL, made by HTC — a company known for producing phones with loud, crisp, distortion-free sound.
Like other new smartphones, the new models may come without a 3.5mm headphone jack.
The new units reportedly are built around the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chipset and run Android 8 Oreo.
Other features include an E-SIM card slot, which provides for connection to networks without replacing the phone’s SIM card; a second-generation Google fingerprint reader; IP67 dust and water resistance; and Gorilla Glass 5.
The Pixel 2 has a 2700 mAh battery, while the XL boasts a 3520 mAh power plant.
Both phones have 4 gigabytes of memory and either 64 or 128 gigabytes of storage. Pricing has been reported at US$649 (64 GB) and $749 (128 GB) for the Pixel 2. The XL will sell for $849 (64 GB) and $949 (128 GB).
The Pixel 2 will start shipping Oct. 19 and the XL Nov. 15.
Taking on Apple and Samsung
With the latest phones from Apple and Samsung already in the market, the new Pixel offerings are getting out of the blocks late. That may not be too much of a disadvantage, though, since the Pixels don’t seem to be targeting likely iPhone X and Galaxy Note customers.
“They seem to be more of a direct competitor to the Apple 8 and Galaxy S8, as opposed to the X and Note, which represent exceptional offerings,” said Ross Rubin, principal analyst at Reticle Research.
“They’re premium products, but they’re not positioned as an absolute top-of-the-market, best-of-the-best, based on the specs out there now,” he told TechNewsWorld.
Although features are important, Google has other ways to appeal to consumers shopping for an Android phone.
“Where it can differentiate is on the tight integration between hardware, the Android OS and Google’s services, no doubt using Android ‘O,'” observed David McQueen, research director for consumer devices at ABI research.
“Hardware is less important to Google than services,” he told TechNewsWorld. “They want eyeballs on their services the way Facebook does.”
Hardware design seems to take a backseat to software in the Google universe.
“The design of the new phones is fairly conventional, which is probably on purpose,” said Kevin Krewell, a principal analyst at Tirias Research.
“Google wants to feature the Android operating system above the physical aesthetics of the phone,” he told TechNewsWorld. “The phone should be functional, but it’s really the software that counts for user interaction.”
That approach may be just right for the person Google is trying to reach with the Pixel.
“The buyer of a Google Pixel phone is likely someone who is heavily invested in the Google ecosystem and wants the most pure Android experience and faster updates,” Krewell said.
The first generation of Pixel phones, although receiving good critical notices, weren’t runaway bestsellers. However, that doesn’t mean the phones aren’t doing what Google wants them to do.
“Success is always nice, but the new Pixel solutions are part of a larger Google hardware ecosystem that includes Pixel Chromebooks, Home speakers and VR headsets that also leverage the company’s growing services ecosystem,” said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.
“Neither Apple nor Samsung has anything that approaches those Google capabilities,” he told TechNewsWorld.
Capturing the attention of shoppers isn’t a problem just for Google but for all smartphone makers — especially makers of Android phones, noted Bob O’Donnell, chief analyst at Technalysis Research.
“There some pretty nice Android phones out there, so it’s going to be tough for Google’s phones to stand out,” he told TechNewsWorld. “It’s going to depend on how they’re sold and where they’re sold — other aspects besides the pure tech.”
One of Google’s advantages is that it can offer a “pure” form of Android unadulterated by carriers or phone makers.
“Yet up to now, they’ve have only very modest success with the Pixel,” O’Donnell said. “That suggests to me that Andoid buyers aren’t as interested in that as a differentiator.”
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