Will the Google Pixel 2 have a competitive edge?

Editor’s Note: The launch of The Google Pixel 2 is Wednesday 4th October.

Based on an announcement from Google’s hardware chief, Rick Osterloh, we can expect Google to release a new phone later this year.  As Google typically releases its phones in Autumn, attention is on the latter part of 2017.

Google hasn’t released a name for the phone, so Android fans refer to it as the Pixel 2 (or Pixel XL for the larger model). So far, we’ve seen three prototypes leaked, codenamed Muskie, Walleye and Taimen. However, Google is said to have thrown Muskie on the scrap heap.

What’s more interesting are the extra features and capabilities being circulated on the tech grapevine. Some of these features we’ve already seen on existing phones, suggesting Google is about to swipe tried and tested innovations from its competitors. While other rumours point to additions that could take the phone beyond the competition.

Google Pixel 2 Android

Render of Google Pixel 2 released by Android Police

Squeeze control

Rumour has it the Pixel 2 is going to come with squeeze control. Sound familiar? Well, it might, because this feature is already available on the HTC U11 (known as EdgeSense). On HTC’s flagship, EdgeSense lets you activate features such as the camera with a squeeze of your hand. There’s no need to swipe; the phone responds to pressure alone.

The adoption of a feature associated with HTC is surprising because Google has supposedly broken off its partnership with HTC. Instead, the tech giant is said to have partnered with LG; a move that could take their phone in a new direction entirely.

If true, it might be that Google sees squeeze control as an opportunity. EdgeSense has proved popular with HTC fans, and the functionality has potential. For example, HTC has already made moves to let you customise what a squeeze does depending on the app you’re in.

Low light camera performance

A criticism of the original Pixel’s camera is that it doesn’t work as well in dimly lit surroundings. This matters when you’re up against the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S8. The Pixel 2 is expected to have a wider aperture to let the phone take in more light, solving the issue.

Aside from this, we’re expecting to see changes to what you can do with the camera. We’ve already seen phones like the OnePlus 5 get creative with image styling – the ‘bokeh’ effect giving images an artistic flare with blurred backgrounds and sharper subjects. To take their camera up a notch, Google won’t only look at image quality but also editing and effects.

Perhaps surprisingly, leaks suggest the Google Pixel 2 won’t have a dual-lens camera setup. It is out of kilter with other flagship phones, which have implemented a dual-lens to improve the focus and broaden your field of view. If Google omits this, it’ll be interesting to see if other improvements are enough to make the camera stand out.

Processing speeds

As with most new releases, the Google Pixel 2 could well have a better chipset – Snapdragon 836. Snapdragon 836 is said to be 10 percent faster than Snapdragon 835, which is pretty damn quick. Improved processing times will make the phone more powerful, allowing you to watch videos, play games and run apps without worrying about the phone slowing down.

There are rumours that Google has started building its custom processor, much like Apple has done with iOS. However, processors aren’t simple to manufacture, and we’re not expecting this to feature in the Pixel 2.

Display & design

If the partnership with LG is true, the Google Pixel 2 will use LG’s OLED (organic light emitting diode) displays. These displays offer a rich colour that makes for a fantastic viewing experience. The leaked prototype images also show the Pixel 2 sporting narrow bezels. Narrower bezels would create an edge-to-edge display and make better use of the phone’s surface area.

The design hasn’t changed much from the first Pixel; the two-tone metal and glass casing is still there, as is the fingerprint scanner on the back. That said, we wouldn’t be surprised to see a last-minute move to bring the fingerprint scanner under the front screen. Under-the-display scanners are getting a lot of attention and providers such as Apple are expected to incorporate the feature in new releases.

There are certain design elements we’re not sure about. For instance, some renders show the Google Pixel 2 with no headphone jack while others place it on the top of the phone. Rumour also has it the new phone will be waterproof. But, the same rumour went around before the first Pixel came out and turned out to be wrong.

Google Pixel 2 render

Google Pixel 2

Google Pixel 2 renders: Released by OnLeaks

Will Google Pixel 2 surpass the competition?

All the information in this article is based on leaks and speculation. So, it’s hard to tell if the Google Pixel 2 has what it takes to go beyond what other flagships have achieved to date.

The new partnership with LG could see the phone’s display improve in look and feel. Also, the changes to the camera and chipset will build on the quality and speed of the device.

However, if there are any jaw-dropping, eye-popping features on their new phone, Google’s keeping them quiet. The move to squeeze control will make for a good user experience but is something we’ve already seen on other phones. With the iPhone 8 set to come out at a similar time, we could find the Pixel 2 overshadowed by Apple hype.