With a new year on us, 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 and Google's new phone, which we'll call the Pixel 2.
Rumours have already suggested that the Pixel 2 codenames might be Muskie, Walleye and Taimen. We've seen Google using fish names in the past, so that's something worth keeping an eye on.
Google Pixel 2: Design
- Could be HTC manufacture
- Waterproofing likely to be included
Design is the thing that has probably divided people the most when it comes to the Pixel. Although the body is a high quality design, the top glass section has drawn a lot of criticism. It makes the phone a little different, making it distinctive so it sits apart from the iPhone and all of Android's metal phones.
This seems to be an industry problem however, where many devices look the same because, ultimately, how many ways can you design a slab which is all display on the front? The Samsung Galaxy S7 edge is perhaps the design success of 2016, being the most distinctive and unique device, but we suspect the curved display is going to become more common.
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, and devices like the U Ultra or the HTC U11 flagship might be a hint at future Pixel design too. That said, there is also talk of LG having something to do with the 'Taimen" codenamed device, which is now thought to be the new Pixel XL.
We suspect there will be a move to reduce the bezels to increase the screen to body ratio to keep the phone competitive, something LG knows how to do.
But the fundamental failing of the 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 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
It's also been confirmed by Rick Osterloh, senior vice president of hardware at Google, that the Pixel 2 will still be a premium offering in 2017.
Google Pixel 2: Display
- Potential shift to 18:9 display
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 is limited with a reported benchmark result suggesting a 5.6-inch screen with a 2560 x 1312 pixel resolution.
That is a shift in aspect, closer to 18:9. While we can't be certain that this is a legitimate result from the device that will eventually launch, it's certainly something to consider. For us, that resolution sounds a little low, so we expect to see a lot more discussion around display.
Google Pixel 2: Specs and hardware
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 suggested
When it comes to power, the current 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 now ready to roll 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.
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
The Pixel has been flagged up recently as having some problems with its speakers (although we've not suffered anything ourselves). We wouldn't expect a huge change in the speaker arrangements, we're also not convinced that Google would drop the 3.5mm headphone socket. Hopefully, that will continue to be the convention for Pixel phones.
Google Pixel 2: Cameras
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.
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.
Currently there aren't many other rumours about what to expect, but that will change soon enough and we'll keep you fully updated when they do.