Google Pixel 2 goes official: Android Oreo showcase and possibly the best camera on a phone
The Google Pixel 2 has finally broken cover, and the new Google phone is all about refinements and improvements.
There is one thing that the Pixel 2 is not: a "bezel-less" phone. Quite the opposite, it's got a big and prominent chin and forehead where two front-firing speakers are located for better sound quality. Under the hood, it rocks the Snapdragon 835 system chip, a market improvement from the Snapdragon 821 of last year.
Big bezels with two front speakersThe back of the Pixel 2 retains the glass accent around the camera, but makes it smaller. What is lacking here is a secondary rear camera, but the main one is improved over what was widely seen as one of the best cameras in the original Pixel. Also, it does support Portrait Mode. Turns out, it was possible even with one camera. Sadly, Google has removed the headphone jack in the Pixel 2, a feature the company touted as an advantage just last year with the original Pixel. On a more positive note: the new Pixel 2 is finally water protected with an IP67 rating, identical to Apple's iPhone 8.
Here is a quick look at the specs highlights of the Pixel 2 and how the new phone compares to its predecessor.
Camera: New Era of Computational Photography
The Pixel 2 ships with a 12-megapixel camera with a 1/2.6-inch sensor, slightly smaller than on the original Pixel. While the original did not have optical stabilization, though, the new Pixel 2 does have OIS on board for better stability and sharper focus. Google is the only company that uses simultaneously OIS and electronic stabilization for better stability in video, and the results look very impressive.
The interesting thing with the new Pixel 2 camera is that it has better dynamic range thanks to computational photography and an improved HDR+ mode that combines multiple pictures without the user ever seeing that to come up with one beautiful final image. There is also a new Portrait Mode that will blur the background of an image to make the subject pop. The iPhone Plus and the new Samsung Galaxy Note have something similar, but here what's new is that it is achieved in a completely different way than what other phones do. The trick is possible thanks to machine learning and a neural network trained to recognize faces. Each pixel on the camera sensor is actually split in two - a technology known as Dual Pixel - and this allows creating a depth map of a scene and the clever portrait mode effect.
Neatly, Pixel 2 users will get free unlimited storage for photos and videos on Google Photos as well, which is a great thing.
New Pixel Launcher
That's why it's no surprise that the Pixel 2 comes with pure Android Oreo with features like notification dots and picture-in-picture, and it has a new version of the Pixel Launcher.
The most prominent change is that the Google Search bar is now right above the navigation buttons, within easier reach for the fingers. Previously, it was at the top part of the screen, where you need to stretch your hand to reach it, especially on bigger phones. At the top, you can see upcoming meetings and all relevant events thanks to the new widget.
Active Edge is a new feature similar to "Edge Sense" on HTC phones. It allows you to squeeze the frame of the phone for quick actions, for instance, you can set this action to take a selfie.
Price and Availability
The bad news about the new Google Pixel 2 is that it will only be available on Verizon Wireless in the United States. You will also be able to buy the phone unlocked on the Google Store, but you will not be able to get the phone on any other major US carrier. Google pulled the same trick last year with the Pixel when the phone and unfortunately the same story repeats this year.
The Pixel 2 will be available in Australia, Canada, Germany, India, UK and US.
The Google Pixel 2 full retail price is set at $650 for the 64GB model ($27.04 on 24-month financing) and $750 for the 128GB version, on par with last year's model. Google will also run a trade-in program for owners of the first-gen Pixel. Those who pre-order the new Pixels will also get a free Google Home Mini. Finally, the release date for the Pixel 2 is set for October 19th, in just about two weeks.