We're into the cycle where all the phones of the year get updated - Samsung, LG, Sony and Huawei all launched new devices at Mobile World Congress or around it. Nokia also rejoined this list and HTC has revealed its latest.
Heading toward the end of 2017 we'll see the update to the iPhone 8, the Galaxy Note 8 and Google's new phone, which we'll call the Pixel 2 and Pixel XL 2, although it might simply be known as the Pixel and Pixel XL once again once it goes on sale.
Rumours have already suggested that the Pixel 2 codenames might be Muskie, Walleye and Taimen, although the latest information suggests that one of these models - Muskie - has been dropped, leaving us with two new potential Pixel handsets for 2017.
Google Pixel 2 and Pixel XL 2: Design
- Taimen = Pixel XL 2; Walleye = Pixel 2
- HTC and LG rumoured to be manufacturing
- Waterproofing likely to be included
It was first confirmed by Rick Osterloh, senior vice president of hardware at Google, that the Pixel 2 would be a premium offering in 2017, providing the first bit of information on the new phones. Prior to the launch of the Pixel, it was rumoured that HTC had signed up to manufacture multiple devices across the next 3 years, so they might be the hardware partner once again. We've also recently seen a report that claims that some codenames were lurking in the HTC U11's files which might point to HTC's involvement with the new Pixel devices.
However, getting to the specifics, reports coming from sources talking to XDA suggest that the Taimen, the larger device, will keep the two-tone glass and metal design of the 2016 Pixel. There is also talk of LG being involved, something that Android Police's sources are confident of.
The biggest design lead we have so far comes from a render pulled together by Android Police that shows what the Pixel XL 2 might look like. It very much looks like an evolution of the 2016 Pixel, but in this XL form said to be made by LG, shrinking that glass panel on the rear so the fingerprint scanner sits in the metal back.
The big change here is a shift in aspect to 18:9 on that display, which we'll talk about below, but resulting in shrinking the bezels top and bottom of the display.
Strangely, XDA states that the XL 2 will have a squeezable frame, much like the HTC U11. And while that seems somewhat at odds with the fact this sized model will supposedly be made by LG rather than HTC, suggested uses include squeezing the phone as a shortcut to Google Assistant.
The fundamental failing of the 2016 Pixel is the lack of waterproofing: with many competitors offering protection, for the price that Google is asking the Pixel 2 needs to step up with a solid IP rating. That's something that HTC also added to the U11, so as a potential build partner, they now appear to have all the skills.
Waterproofing was apparently something that was attempted for the Pixel, but eventually dropped, but there's an unconfirmed rumour that's been mentioned to 9to5Google, shared via Twitter.
Little tidbit we were told in October last year that I forgot about: “Waterproofing definitely coming with next Pixel device.”— Stephen Hall (@hallstephenj) January 25, 2017
Google Pixel 2 and Pixel XL 2: Display
- Potential shift to 18:9 display
- 4.97 and 5.99-inch displays rumoured
With two Pixel models on offer giving you the choice of 5.0 or 5.5-inches, we're not really looking for a huge change. We also wouldn't expect a shift in resolution. The 2560 x 1440 pixels offered gives you the detail when magnified in a Daydream headset, it's crisp and sharp in all things.
There are rumours of changing the display aspect, however, very much in the style of LG and Samsung's 2017 flagships. The information originated with a reported benchmark result suggesting a 5.6-inch screen with a 2560 x 1312 pixel resolution, although that doesn't quite sound right to us.
However, the report from XDA suggests that the new Pixel XL 2 will have a 5.99-inch display, but only mentions a 1440p resolution. That could see a shift back to Nexus 6 sizes, or a be a shift in aspect: the Galaxy S8+ is 6.2-inch in 18.5:9, but has 2960 x 1440 pixels.
The report from Android Police suggests a shift to an 18:9 AMOLED display for the Taimen, or Pixel XL 2 and gives a 6-inch size. This is reflected in shrinking bezels for the display in the image above, but also ties in with the 5.99-inches suggested by XDA previously, so is starting to sound legitimate.
XDA also reports that the display on the XL 2 will have an "always on" option, so can be set to show notifications or useful information even when the phone is switched off.
The smaller phone is reported to have a 4.97-inch display. This is likely to come out as a 5-inch display meaning no great shift from the Pixel. In this case, the XDA report mentions that it's "Full HD", or 1920 x 1080 pixels, suggesting that this handset would be a regular 16:9 aspect, at least.
Google Pixel 2: Specs and hardware
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 suggested
When it comes to power, the 2016 Pixel devices opted for a new chip - Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 - a step-up over most of 2016's flagship phones. Qualcomm doesn't stand still and the Snapdragon 835 is rolling out.
We'd expect the Snapdragon 835 to feature in the Pixel 2, supported by at least 4GB of RAM. With some companies pushing to 6GB, that may be a suggestion, although we're yet to see any real demand for that sort of increase. That said, there has been talk of Google testing a couple of different chipsets from Qualcomm, Intel and even a custom chip. Rumour has it there may also be a Pixel 2B handset, which will apparently be cheaper with less powerful hardware.
The use of Snapdragon 835 is again reported by XDA from a source, so at the moment it seems the most likely.
We'd expect storage options to start at 32GB as they currently do and as Google has avoided microSD card support, we don't think there will be any luck there.
We'd expect USB Type-C as the standard moving forward, as well as a fingerprint scanner, likely on the rear, unless there are serious moves to embrace a scanner under the glass on the front. This is a technology that's already been demonstrated by Qualcomm, so it's not impossible.
There's no telling what the battery capacity might be, but with 3500mAh offering the performance many want, we'd expect that sort of battery size to be crammed into the frame.
Google Pixel 2: Audio and speakers
- 3.5mm headphone socket could go
- Dual front speakers on the Walleye
A new piece of information has suggested that the Pixel 2 (Walleye, the smaller device), might feature dual front firing speakers and lose the 3.5mm headphone socket. As HTC is suggest as the build partner for the phone, this sounds very much like HTC of old. BoomSound in a Pixel? It looks like that might happen.
The loss of the 3.5mm headphone socket might set alarm bells ringing for some though as that suggests we're looking at USB Type-C audio for the Pixel 2. At the moment it's not clear whether this will apply to both sizes of phone or just one.
There's currently no information on what the arrangement will be for the Pixel XL 2. Leaked renders suggest a front speaker at the top, but there's currently no other information on 3.5mm or anything else audio related.
Google Pixel 2: Cameras
- Single camera expected
Perhaps the biggest movement in cameras at the moment is dual-lens cameras. While LG, Huawei and Apple have all embraced this trend in 2016, we're yet to see if the likes of Samsung will adopt the format too. From a competitive point of view, Google may choose to use a dual-lens camera to add customer appeal.
It has been claimed the Pixel 2 will have a much improved camera, though it apparently won't be all about megapixels and more about extra features instead. The Pixel is coming from a strong place for photography, unlike the previous Nexus handsets, so we hope that continues.
The first render we've seen displays a conventional single rear camera.
Google Pixel 2: Software
The Pixel launched with Android 7 Nougat and a selection of exclusive features, like Google Assistant, Pixel Launcher and the Pixel camera. That unique software position is being chipped away as features appear elsewhere, but we'd expect the Pixel 2 to debut Google's new software version with a few unique features again.
Android O is currently in development, it was launched as a dev beta, showcasing a number of new features. There's rumours that the current Pixel handsets will have Android O in August, suggesting that it's further ahead in development than in previous years. Android O looks to boost a lot in the background, increasing speed and security and add features like picture-in-picture.
Google Pixel 2: Release date
Google launches its phones towards the end of the year, so we wouldn't expect to see a new device from Google until around October 2017.
It has been claimed the Pixel 2 will see a price increase of $50 and be aimed at a different market to the cheaper Pixel 2B that is also being talked about. One thing is clear: Google has failed to meet demand with the Pixel, so needs to think bigger with the Pixel 2.
Rick Osterloh, SVP of hardware at Google also confirmed in an interview that "there is an annual rhythm in the industry. So, you can count on us to follow it", suggesting that Pixel 2 will follow a similar cycle to the first device.
We will keep you posted.