Google's Pixel line of phones need no introduction. As the spiritual successor to Google's Nexus line of yore, the Pixel represents everything Google wants Android to be, and that all starts with Search. Among the many changes from the original Pixel and Pixel XL, the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL represent a return to hardware design of the Nexus line in many ways, all while still retaining that sleek Pixel look and feel. Google Assistant is at the heart of the experience, and what better way to prove that point than by introducing a new, more convenient way to launch Assistant whenever you need it. Much like the HTC U11 from just a few months ago, the left and right sides of the phone feature capacitive sensors that can sense pressure, and Google touts how machine learning keeps this pressure sensitive activation from happening accidentally. It's not quite as versatile as HTC’s solution, but it might be a better way to call up Assistant than previous ways, or even Samsung's Bixby button for that matter.
Front facing speakers are back and better than ever, shipping on both the 5-inch Pixel 2 and the 6-inch Pixel 2 XL. Which is particularly surprising because the larger Pixel 2 XL features a 6-inch P-OLED screen with a taller 18:9 aspect ratio, significantly smaller bezels and curved edges as well. It's an incredible design combination that looks as beautiful as it sounds, and feels even better too. Google's iconic metal and glass back design is back and better than ever too, featuring a new matte textured coating on the metal, and a beautiful new curve to the glass up top as well. It remains to be seen if the phone can withstand drops with all this glass, but the new coating on the metal allows Google to make the phone IP67 water and dust resistant; a first for any Google branded phone. The unfortunate casualty here is the 3.5mm audio jack, something Google taunted Apple with last year, but has seen fit to remove it on both sized models this year. Instead you'll be piping audio through the USB Type-C port on the bottom, and a 3.5mm adapter will be included in each Pixel 2 box for backward compatibility.
Google hasn't forgotten that it had the best camera on any smartphone last year, and it's back again with an even better one this year. Featuring a new camera sensor with dual pixel technology, which includes even better low light capabilities, as well as faster focus and 3D depth sensing technology. This has allowed Google to improve the depth of field effect it had on Nexus phones since the Nexus 5, re-branding it to fit alongside the marketing language of “portrait mode.” This new portrait mode re-branding also comes with significant technology enhancements that promise to create better looking and more accurate depth of field than ever, and to meet or exceed the hardware solutions provided by so many OEMs with dual cameras on back. Google is also packing in a new OIS + EIS image stabilization functionality into the camera, as well as a live photo mode that takes 3 seconds of video with each picture. This all combined with Google's stunning HDR+ technology, and you have a camera that promises to smash everything else on the market. While we'll have to wait until the full review to make any final judgement calls, you can check out our hands-on time with the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL below.