Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
The Google Pixel was the Android smartphone to beat last year, and Google is looking to capitalize on that success. As we get closer to the expected launch of the Pixel 2, rumors are ramping up. It’s possible LG is building one of the phones for Google, and HTC may be behind the second, smaller Pixel.
Here is everything we think we know about the Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL.
Release date and price
Last year, Google announced the Pixel, next to a slew of other hardware products, at an event in San Francisco on October 4. It looks like the company has chosen the same date for another announcement likely for the second generation Pixel. How do we know? Take a look at a photo of this billboard received by Droid Life:
Considering the date is the same as last year’s Pixel announcement, and the fact the billboard says “Ask more of your phone,” it’s highly likely this is referring to the Pixel 2 announcement.
In addition, Google released a short promotional video referencing smartphone paint points. At the end, the date listed was also October 4.
Previously, noted leaker Evan Blass reported in August that Google will reveal the highly anticipated handsets on October 5. There’s always a chance October 5 could refer to a pre-order date, though last year’s Pixel was available for pre-order several weeks after the announcement.
Unfortunately, you may see a price increase for the flagship Pixel 2. A source told 9to5Google Google is expecting “at least” a $50 price jump for the device, but the rumored Pixel 2B will be “significantly cheaper.”
Pixel phones are fast, smooth, and a joy to use. Throughout the rumor cycle, there’s been speculation Google would continue that trend by using a yet-unannounced Qualcomm processor known as the Snapdragon 836. Lately though, there’s been some doubt as to whether the 836 is a real processor.
First, some background. The first-generation Pixel utilized an 821 chipset, which had the same CPU and GPU as the 820 powering the Samsung Galaxy S7 and most other flagship Android phones released in 2016, but the 821 ran at a faster clock speed. The 821 would later be used in the LG G6 as well. Insiders expected Google to repeat the approach for the Pixel, employing a rumored 836 over the current Snapdragon 835 that powers the Galaxy Note 8, LG V30, and most flagship Android handsets this year. Fresh rumors say the 836 may not actually exist, at least according to Android Police and XDA Developers.
If the Pixel 2 doesn’t receive improved silicon, it will ship with the Snapdragon 835. That wouldn’t be a huge loss, but also wouldn’t guarantee it any performance advantage over other top-of-the-line Android phones, however slight that advantage may have been. These more recent reports also fall in line with previous benchmarks, which indicated the 835 would be on board.
In June, XDA Developers claimed to have obtained details about specifications for both of the upcoming Pixel phones. It referred to the devices code-named Walleye and Taimen, further indicating Muskie, the device originally considered to be the Pixel XL successor, may have been replaced by Taimen.
For Walleye, XDA mentions a 5-inch, 1080p display in a chassis that is very similar to the previous model. Reports suggest Google will ditch its predecessor’s 3.5mm headphone jack in favor of stereo speakers. It’s rumored to also come with 4GB RAM and 64GB of storage space, keeping in line with earlier expectations about the smaller Pixel phone. Both variants are said to include a single-lens, dual-flash rear camera.
Where Walleye looks to be a conservative upgrade sporting largely the same design, Taimen is billed as an all-new device that may be manufactured by LG, according to bug report findings from 9to5Google. At the very least, rumors suggest it will sport one of LG’s OLED panels, measuring 6 inches in size with a 1,440p resolution. Like Walleye, Taimen is said to feature an 835 system-on-chip with the same amount of RAM, though 128GB of storage will be available as an option. The report also mentions smaller bezels and a similar combination of glass and metal design at the rear, with subtle alterations from last year’s model.
Geekbench results for Taimen dating back to May mention a Snapdragon 835 processor running at 1.9GHz, alongside 4GB of RAM. The phone reportedly scored 1,804 in single-core testing and 6,248 in multicore. For reference, the Samsung Galaxy S8, which utilizes the same processor and same amount of memory, managed 1,762 in single core, and 5,723 in multicore when we tested it in our review. Android Oreo is listed as the operating system in the results. The latest leaked FCC files show the new Android Oreo Settings app, revealing the device is running 8.0.1 along with an August security patch.
Last year, Google’s flagships were not the most visually exciting phones. Will that change for the sequels? It could, depending on which Pixel you are looking at.
Reports indicate the standard model, built by HTC, will not undergo a radical redesign. The XL, on the other hand, is rumored to be manufactured by LG. The original proposal for the Pixel 2 XL was to be made by HTC, and was code-named “Muskie.” That device has reportedly been shelved in favor of the even larger, LG-built “Taimen.”
In late July, renders created by OnLeaks and MySmartPrice were leaked. The images and video depicted the Pixel 2 XL with a camera bump and a screen with rounded corners and much smaller bezels all around, like the LG G6. The regular Pixel 2 looked much more similar to the existing model.
Perhaps the most controversial design aspect in these renders is the lack of headphone jack. This was first rumored when a report from 9to5Google, based on internal Google documentation, suggested the company will remove support for the 3.5-millimeter connector in favor of a single USB-C port. More recently, 9to5Google’s Stephen Hall reaffirmed Google’s decision with another tip. It is looking increasingly likely that neither of these two devices will feature headphone jacks, even though previous renders indicated the opposite.
Early Pixel 2 renders were leaked under the device’s code names: “Walleye,” “Muskie,” and “Taimen.” The Pixel XL 2, or Taimen, is seen above in an image published by Android Police, which cited “extremely reliable” sources. It’s believed to be manufactured by LG, and the mock-up is claimed to represent a finalized design. The device known as Muskie may have been canceled.
Like LG’s G6, the Taimen concept features an 18:9 screen with curved corners and minimal bezels at the top and bottom. Around the back, there’s a blend of metal and glass, and the fingerprint sensor appears to have been relocated to the metal portion. The camera is only a single-lens module. These aspects are consistent with more recent leaks.
Despite the fact that the phone is said to be made by LG, it may inherit one of HTC’s trademark features — a “squeezable” frame. First seen on the HTC U11 and dubbed “Edge Sense,” the feature allows users to interact with the phone by sliding their thumb along the edge as a way of scrolling through options. The possibility that LG is manufacturing the Taimen while copying one of HTC’s pioneering features is surprising.
The above case designs were leaked by Slashleaks, and show two different designs for the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. Third-party companies don’t always necessarily have more information than the public does, and these cases aren’t certain to be representative of the phone’s final look. However, they do follow in line with other reports. The Pixel 2 is shaped very similarly to last year’s model, just with an odd camera cutout at the back. Meanwhile, the Pixel 2 XL is very different. Gone are the chunky bezels and awkward camera silhouette. Instead, there’s that massive 18:9 display again, just like the LG G6.
A thread on Reddit pointed out a new Federal Communications Commission filing revealing new features for the Pixel 2 — one of which is includes squeeze functionality. Similar to the HTC U11, the squeeze feature goes by the name “Active Edge” and is included under a new “Languages, input & gestures” setting, 9to5Google notes. The squeeze gesture is reportedly set to launch the Google Assistant.
An even better camera
The Google Pixel was praised for its stellar camera that rivaled that of the iPhone 7 Plus, and it seems as though Google is prioritizing it again for the second-generation device. That’s according to 9to5Google, where a source states Google is looking to perfect the low-light capabilities of the next Pixel, but it will “not have large [megapixel] size.”
Google will reportedly compensate for this with extra features. Furthermore, XDA Developers has reported that the next-generation Pixel line won’t receive dual-lens cameras, as many flagships have recently. Renders of the phone also indicate the devices will have a single camera lens.
Pixel 2 screen
Will Google follow current industry trends related to screens for the Pixel 2? We’re seeing more phones with curved, bezel-less, or unusual aspect ratio screens recently, and a report from South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency suggests Google is angling toward making a 1 trillion-won investment — about $876 million — in LG Display for the company’s flexible OLED screens.
These panels would be put into use in the next Pixel devices, and lessen Google’s dependence on Samsung, which outfits its own flagship smartphones with curved displays. It’s also pegged as a win for LG as well, which would like to ramp up OLED production and shift away from LCDs, according to the article. The result could be a strategic partnership between the two companies, rather than a simple order.
A budget Pixel
Early on in the Pixel 2 rumors, we heard that there could be a more budget-friendly Pixel device called the Pixel 2B. Most recently, however, it seems like that device could eventually get a release — but it won’t be released under the Pixel name. The news comes from a 9to5Google tipster, who claims that while the Pixel team isn’t working on a Pixel branded budget-friendly device, it is working on a budget-friendly device to be released with a different name.
We first heard of a budget Pixel device at the end of January, when it was revealed that Google was testing a few prototypes of a device code named the “Pixel 2B.” The report came from 9to5Google, which also said that the device would cost a lot less than $650, with the compromise of less-powerful hardware. This device, which may launch alongside the Pixel 2 or after, will be intended to be released in “different markets.”
Water resistance was a feature sadly missing from the original Pixel. How about the Pixel 2. Reports are contradictory. An early January tweet claimed the next-generation Pixel will be waterproof, with the reporter citing information received at the Google event in October 2016. However, the same source subsequently tweeted water resistance may not be so definite anymore, claiming the feature is now only “still on the table” for the Pixel 2.
The reason it wasn’t in the current Pixel? Google ran out of time. According to a Wired podcast, Google said it threw out plans for the device at the end of 2015 and had to start from scratch — meaning the phone was built in a mere nine months. Huawei was supposed to manufacture the device, but the company backed out when Google demanded there be no Huawei logo. HTC took Huawei’s place.
We’ll update this post as we learn more about the Pixel 2.
Update: Added a likely announcement date for the Google Pixel 2.