In a couple of weeks, the iPhone X will descend upon us to bring down the hammer and be the ultimate flagship phone that numerous tech buffs and fans alike have expected it to be. But that entitlement will not be so frivolously given to an iPhone this year, nor will any other smartphone receive it as well.
Because the true flagship smartphone of the year has finally descended. And it brings with it logic, function and design to deliver the best smartphone experience that buyers in 2017 will ever get. The Pixel 2 phones, freshly launched by Google, are going to show us what a flagship smartphone should be. We break it down. With a design that serves function over form, Google’s newest smartphone makes perfect sense for the confused buyer who is crowded with curved displays and dual cameras.
Google’s idea of a display in their new Pixel phones, should be what the iPhone 8 should have been. The smaller Pixel phone features a 5-inch 1080p display and the larger Pixel comes with a 6-inch Quad HD display. Both phones come with OLED displays offer limited bezels on the top and bottom, but for good reason, which will be explained later.
The smaller Pixel phone’s display is a normal rectangular display, with bezels standing out on the and bottom as well as the sides, offering a more traditional approach to the front of the phone. The Pixel 2 XL comes with a display with curved corners and minimal bezels on the top and bottom. Google has skipped going with curved displays in order to focus on practicality and user-friendliness. The displays are narrower now, but do not bleed out into the edge just because they can, as seen in the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 and S8 smartphones. While curved displays look good, the argument of their actual function for such a limited portion bent at the edges is hard to justify. Google knows Android best. And the company also knows that the software will fly on a flat display, instead of compensating software for aesthetic.
Last year’s Pixel phones had one of the highest rated smartphone cameras on the market. This year, Google is sticking to the right and tested formula once again, showing that their single lens cameras are just as capable as dual-lens ones. This time, Google has increased the aperture of the camera to f/1.8 and has developed dual-pixel tech, which is meant to divide each pixel into two parts. With this, auto-focus is faster and taking pictures in Portrait mode will allow for much finer refinement for deciphering the edges. The same effect will also work on the phone’s front-facing 8MP camera as well.
Apart from doing the job of two separate lenses, the 12.2MP camera also does two kinds of stabilization at once, with OIS and EIS working continuously to offer better stability to movies and low-light shots. There is also Google’s version of Live Photos on the iPhone, which works the same way as well. The camera will record a 3-second clip around each photo and bundle it with the file and unwanted clips are removed. This version of Live Photos is called Motion Photos.
Another good advantage of being a Pixel Owner, is that all of the user’s photos are stored in the cloud at their highest quality, without compression, and without any storage limited. Google is also listening in and adopting AR stickers for users, as Apple did, but the implementation is just novel at best and is meant for only entertainment value more than anything else. It is not as immersive as that found on the iPhone 8 and X, but it has enough to ensure decent AR capabilities for apps and games.
Each of the phones will come in two variants – a 64GB and 128GB variant respectively. The phones feature the standard flagship spec-sheet – a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor with 4GB of RAM. The software experience is what we can all expect from Google – light, zippy and intuitive. Google has been intentionally making efforts to accentuate its AI assistant, the Google Assistant. And while Samsung is forcing its users to use Bixby with its own button. Google’s approach is not as invasive.
Using a feature called “Active Edge”, users will be able squeeze the edges of the phone to trigger certain actions and events. By default, squeezing the phone will activate the Google Assistant. While the feature was first introduced with the HTC U11, it is being given more importance with the new Pixel 2.
All About AI
Google has given AI its own important spot in the Google Pixel 2 this year, by adding its expertise to the camera, for better image clarity, to offering assistance on searches and also being the best mode of reference for users, even when the phone isn’t being touched.
The Pixel phones also have exclusive access to Google lens, which allows users to point the phone’s camera to any object and Google will be able to recognize what it is. The software will be able to extract information such as written addresses, email IDs and other details, along with pull up information about a certain object/person. Google’s AI continuously works in the background to make life easier for the user and continuously improves its algorithm, without needing to be prompted.
Google’s audio prowess has received quite an improvement over the last generation. The previously-mentioned bezels found on the top and bottom of the phones house front facing stereo speakers, making the phone the only flagship this year to offer true stereo sound from the front, while others are still forced to use bottom-firing speakers to accommodate for their aesthetic. This is one area where Google’s simplicity in design has paid off and fans will be happy to see the change.
The lack of a headphone jack will receive the criticism of many hopefuls, but it was about time that Google now joined the bandwagon and got rid of the headphone jack to allow for better waterproofing. The company does ship its phones with a dongle nevertheless. Enabling the phone to recognize music comes courtesy of the phone’s always-on microphones. For example, the phone takes in sounds in the surroundings and if there is music playing in the background, the phone will automatically identify the song and show it up on the ambient display of the phone, so users always know what music is playing in the background, perfect for those who hang out in cafes and pubs.