Google is slated to announce the Pixel 2 on October 4th, at an event in San Francisco. As per usual with unannounced smartphones, there has been plenty of leaks of the new devices – including some pretty big ones in the past week. So many users already know just about everything about the upcoming devices, and at this point, they seem to be a bit underwhelming, even for a Google smartphone. Now it’s worth mentioning that a number of the leaks and renders we’ve seen recently, do not show the front of the device, which leads us to think that there may be a big surprise on the front (perhaps a 18:9 aspect ratio display like many other flagships in 2017). But at this point, the LG V30 and Galaxy Note 8 do definitely appear to be better smartphones than the Pixel 2.
On the software front, the Pixel 2 will likely be better than the LG V30 and Galaxy Note 8 for a couple of reasons. These will ship with Android Oreo, and also feature a rather lightweight operating system, compared to what both LG and Samsung use on its devices, which means it’s also going to be a bit smoother. And that is definitely what you’d expect from Google, after all it does also make Android, so you’d expect the best Android experience to be on its own devices. However, in just about every other area, LG and Samsung has the Pixel 2 beat.
Those who use LG or Samsung devices will use the argument that these two manufacturers do add in quite a few features that are really useful. And have actually improved multi-window, making it a better experience than what Google has in Android these days. Which is true. But the flip side there is that when there are more features in the operating system, it becomes more bloated and slows down a bit. You can really see this if you put the Galaxy S8 next to a Google Pixel from last year. So software is definitely the one place where Google has the upper-hand over its competitors, and perhaps and unfair upper-hand.
Taking a look at the build quality, LG may actually have Samsung beat with the V30. Of course, that is all personal preference, but having the rounded sides and a slightly smaller footprint makes the V30 feel like a better smartphone, even though both devices are using the same material – which is glass on the front and back with a metal frame. With both of these devices having rounded edges, they feel better in the hand, and actually feel a bit smaller than they actually are. So that they are less likely to fall out of your hand. Now Google on the other hand, has decided to stick with having a metal back with a glass “window” at the top, which looks much larger than it needs to be. As you can see in the image above, it actually looks a bit more like the HTC EVO 4G LTE that the company made for Sprint a few years ago. Which had one material for the bottom half of the phone and then another glossy plastic material at the top (this was before glass and metal were a thing).
This is a bit surprising, considering HTC was once at the forefront of hardware design. HTC was the first to make an all metal smartphone in the HTC One M8, it was also one of the first to use stereo front-facing speakers on a smartphone. Two things that the company has now gotten rid of on its own smartphones. And Google does know good hardware design, but unfortunately it looks like both companies won’t be using that on the Pixel 2. It’s understandable why there is that glass window at the top on the Pixel 2, as that is where all of the radios are located (radios can send and receive signal a bit easier through glass than through metal – that is why metal smartphones have those antenna lines everywhere). So it makes sense, but it does make the phone look a bit uglier. Many were likely expecting a full glass back like the HTC U11 that the company debuted earlier this year.
Another aspect where the Pixel 2 will likely fall short, is in the camera department. From the leaks we’ve seen, it appears that Google (and HTC for that matter) have stuck with using just one camera on the back of the Pixel 2. That may not be a bad thing for most people, but Google should have moved to dual cameras by now. Considering the entire rest of the industry has done so – even Apple. Dual camera setups first launched as a gimmick, while Huawei might have been the first to do it this go round, HTC actually did it quite a while ago with the HTC EVO 3D, and that was obviously a gimmick. HTC also did it with the One M9, which proved a bit more useful, but still bordered on the gimmick side of things.
Dual cameras is a big deal now. And one of the main reasons for that is because the second camera can grab more data than having just one camera, and perform some unique effects, create even better pictures with some slick Bokeh effects, or if you’re LG, take some wide-angle shots and really get everything in the picture. Just about every smartphone manufacturer has done dual cameras a bit differently, but they all have enhanced the experience and created even better pictures from smartphones. Now with Google opting not to do dual cameras, it also means that Android won’t be supporting it natively with Android Oreo. And that was the case with fingerprint sensors, until Google added it on the Nexus 5X and 6P. Now that doesn’t mean that the cameras on the Pixel 2 and Pixel XL 2 are not going to be great, chances are they will be. After all they do have some pretty big shoes to fill after the original Pixel smartphones having some incredible cameras. But by adding in a second camera, Google could have really stepped up the competition with its own smartphones.
Pricing & Availability
Then there is the price of the Pixel 2 and Pixel XL 2, hint, they won’t be cheap. According to rumors and leaks, the Pixel 2 will cost $650 with the Pixel XL 2 costing $950. That’s a pretty big price jump between the two, which leads many to think that Google may have some tricks up its sleeve for the Pixel XL 2, as to why it’s $300 more. But these prices are pretty steep. However, it’s important to remember that the Galaxy Note 8 is around $930-$950 depending on where you pick it up, so while that is still a lot of money, it’s not higher than its competition. LG hasn’t yet announced pricing or availability for the LG V30, so it’s unclear what that will cost. But many signs are pointing towards $700. Making it the cheapest of these three smartphones. This year, we’ve seen many smartphones launching with price tags near four figures, which is pretty insane, especially after smartphones were getting so cheap not so long ago. With the Pixel XL 2, iPhone X and Galaxy Note 8 all being north of the $900-mark.
LG and Samsung have had its flagship smartphones available on all four US carriers, as well as retailers like Amazon, Best Buy and B&H Photo. Giving users all sorts of places to grab a new smartphone. Meanwhile Google has pretty much changed its sales plan every year. Last year with the first Pixel smartphone, it decided to sell the device exclusively through Verizon. And then sell unlocked models on the Google Play Store, however the marketing material was a bit misleading. Stating that the Pixel was available “exclusively at Verizon”. That was sort of true, but not completely true. Verizon was the only carrier selling the device, but not the only one selling the device. The year before, Google didn’t sell its Nexus 5X or Nexus 6P through any carriers, but the year before that with the Nexus 6, it was sold everywhere (with a massively late launch at Verizon). So it’s unclear where you can buy a Pixel 2 at, just yet, but it would be surprising to see it sold at every carrier and be available at as many retailers as something like the V30 or Galaxy Note 8.
Now most users will argue that it doesn’t matter if the Pixel 2 is sold at all four carriers or not, since you can buy it unlocked and use it on any carrier. And that, of course, is 100% true. However, most consumers walk into their local wireless store looking for a new phone when its time to upgrade. And they will pick out something they like, that was on display. Usually something from Samsung or Apple. And if the Pixel 2 isn’t there, then it won’t be their next smartphone. On top of that, with these high prices, most customers aren’t going to pay full retail for the Pixel 2 or any smartphone, these days. They are looking to do it on an EIP (Equipment Installment Plan), which is available through their carrier. Now yes, Google has begun doing financing or EIP for their smartphones, but that has only been for Project Fi customers (in the past), which limits the number of people that can finance a Pixel 2 device, if it is not sold through their carrier. So carrier cooperation is definitely a big deal to help sell smartphones, even for Google – the king of advertising.
This isn’t to say that the Pixel 2 and Pixel XL 2 won’t be great phones, they likely will be. But they aren’t the only great smartphones available this year. The Pixel 2 line is going to be facing some pretty stiff competition in late 2017, and its pricing is definitely not what hardcore Android fans were expecting or are wanting to pay. Google, at one time, released smartphones that were as cheap as $299 with flagship specs. Now they have nearly tripled that price. Which is a big difference in just 5 years. However, it appears that it is something that Google fans are going to have to get used too going forward. It seems that hardware bearing the “Pixel” branding is going to be expensive no matter what – see the Chromebook Pixel or the rumored Pixelbook. Of course, we’ll find out all of the details on the new Pixel 2 smartphones at Google’s hardware event on October 4th, which is just a couple of weeks away now.