Google on Wednesday finally announced its next-generation Android flagship series, detailing a couple of devices that are meant to provide consumers with even more choice in the high-end smartphone segment. The smaller of the two handsets comes in the form of the Pixel 2 and while it doesn’t boast all of the features of the Pixel XL 2, it’s still a premium device with many unique capabilities that Google is hoping will help it differentiate itself from its competitors this fall. Robust hardware specifications aside, it’s time to take a look at what other things does the Pixel 2 bring to the table.
While this year’s Pixel lineup is once again advertised as “made by Google,” numerous industry insiders claim that the Pixel 2 was partially designed and manufactured by HTC, the same company that produced the 2016 Pixel series. Looking at the overall package, it isn’t difficult to identify some elements of HTC’s product design philosophy; possibly the most unconventional feature of the newly announced device is its pressure-sensitive “Active Edge” frame that was almost certainly designed and implemented by HTC, with this particular technology being pioneered by the Taiwanese original equipment manufacturer earlier this year, at least in terms of commercial applications. While the Pixel 2 most certainly isn’t the HTC U11, the latter’s Edge Sense seemingly found its way to Google’s newest Android flagship and is meant to provide users with more options in regards to how they use their smartphones. The pressure-sensitive frame of the device can not only identify when it’s being squeezed but also estimate the level of pressure exerted on it, then use that information to start an application, take a screenshot, or wake up, essentially acting as a physical shortcut mechanism.
With the Pixel 2 being a Google product, it isn’t surprising that HTC’s technology is now being advertised as working in conjunction with the Google Assistant, the company’s artificial intelligence companion which is currently in the process of a massive expansion, both in terms of devices and territories. Launching the Google Assistant on the Pixel 2 can be as simple as squeezing the device if you choose to enable that particular functionality in its Settings app, with the feature working even if the smartphone is locked and sleeping. This method of accessing the digital companion may be even more convenient than saying “OK Google,” especially if you’re in a noisy area and want to type your question to the Google Assistant anyway.
The lack of certified resistance to dust particles and water has been one of the main complaints consumers had regarding the original Pixel handset series and it seems that Google listened to their feedback as the Pixel 2 features IP67 certification, i.e. it’s rated as being capable of surviving being submerged in up to 1 meter (3.3 feet) of water for half an hour at the time. NFC is also part of the package here, as is support for Bluetooth 5.0, the latest iteration of the popular wireless technology standard which debuts some significant improvements in terms of speeds and effective range. HTC’s design signature is also present on the Pixel 2 in the form of two front-facing stereo speakers which should provide users with a high-quality audio experience that’s vastly superior to what the average Android smartphone can achieve in terms of sound reproduction. Google Lens is officially debuting on the Pixel 2, with its owners being provided with unlimited storage for videos (until the end of 2020) and photos on Google Drive. The rear-mounted fingerprint scanner was also improved compared to its predecessor and is now supposed to be the fastest in the world, Alphabet’s subsidiary claims.
The Pixel Launcher itself also underwent some major changes compared to last year and has been significantly streamlined with the goal of offering an even more intuitive experience. That isn’t to say the software shipping with the Pixel 2 isn’t robust, just that you’ll need to go digging through the phone’s Settings app if you’re seeking to activate all of its numerous extra features like the always-listening music identification service or simply ask your Google Assistant to do that for you. The said music ID solution is one of the new additions to Google’s product portfolio and should serve as an alternative to dedicated apps like Shazam; instead of launching an app every time you want to identify a song, you can allow your Pixel 2 to listen to any background music on its own and present you with basic information about the tracks it identifies on the lock screen. The Google Home section of the Pixel Launcher also went through a major redesign compared to last year, with the smartphone itself running Android 8.0 Oreo out of the box.