Google Unveils Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL

Google today unveiled the new Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, the latest smartphones from the search giant. The phones improve on what was introduced last year and looks to resolve any shortcomings from last year’s models.

For starters, the aluminum-blended bodies with their signature glass panels on the back are now IP67 certified. Last year, the Pixel and Pixel XL had wimpy IP53 ratings so it’s nice to see Google play catch-up this year with their new devices. Three colors are being introduced for the smaller Pixel 2: Kinda Blue, Clearly White, and Just Black. The Pixel 2 XL is getting two finishes: Just Black and Black & White.

As for specs, the Pixel 2 arrives with a 5-inch 1080p OLED display. The Pixel 2 XL steps things up with a bezel-less 18:9 6-inch Quad HD+ P-OLED display. Each device ships with stereo speakers, no headphone jack (sad!), a Snapdragon 835 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64 or 128GB of storage. There’s also a fingerprint sensor around the back and placed where users will actually be able to reach it (*cough-cough Samsung).

For software, Google is including pure Android 8.0 Oreo with a new Pixel Launcher on top. For the Pixel 2, Google moved the search bar to the very bottom of the screen below the app dock for easier access. At the top, there’s a new space called At a Glance which displays information like calendar appointments and flight times. And while the Assistant is still accessible via a press-and-hold of the home button and by saying “Okay, Google,” you can now squeeze your Pixel using Active Sense to bring the AI bot up. This is similar to what HTC uses in the U11 smartphone from earlier this year, although it’s unclear how customizable Active Sense is.

There’s also a special always-on display for the Pixel 2 which displays the time and app icons from which you’ve received notifications. A new feautre exclusive to the new Pixels is something called Now Playing. Wherever you are that there’s music playing, your phone will automatically identify the song and show you the title and artist at the bottom of the always-on display. This of it as an always-on version of Shazam. You can then learn more about the song via the Assistant and add it to a playlist or your music library. The feature could prove pretty useful if you spend a lot of time with music playing behind you.

Google is also releasing a preview of Google Lens to Pixel users today as well. Back at I/O 2017, the company had introduced the feature as a way to identify different locations and remember information like names, phone numbers, and email addresses for later. It was unclear when the feature would launch, but it’s now entering a public beta which will be accessible to anyone with a Pixel phone.

For cameras, Google is using an upgraded rear 12.2MP f/1.8 sensor rated at 98 by DxOMark. If you recall, last year’s Pixel got an 89 rating which was the highest rating ever given to a smartphone. Now, the Pixel 2’s score of 98 has taken the reins, and Google says the sensor is incredible.

As for features, the cameras come with a new Portrait Mode that utilizes Google’s machine learning algorithms and its new dual-pixel sensor array to blur the background and extract depth information from the photo at hand. Google says it’s also improved its software stabilization for videos and is including OIS (optical image stabilization) this time around for even smoother clips. This helps the cameras to not only shoot better videos but also help with augmented reality experiences which are also launching on the Pixel 2. Google says the cameras on the Pixel 2 and 2 XL are AR optimized so the company’s recently-introduced ARCore platform should work pretty well on these new phones.

There’s also a new feature called Motion Pictures on the Pixel 2 and 2 XL. It’s basically Google’s version of Live Photos on the iPhone in which it records three seconds of video alongside your photo to fully capture a moment. Google’s version might be a bit smarter, however, as it uses machine learning to automatically select the best moment out of a Motion Picture for your viewing pleasure. How well this works will be determined in real-world usage so stay tuned.

Additionally, Google is continuing its promise of unlimited full-resolution backup of all your photos and videos taken on the Pixel 2.

In terms of battery life, Google says both the Pixel 2 and 2 XL last all day with their 2700mAh and 3520mAh batteries. The company’s fast charging standard can get you up to seven hours of use after just 15 minutes of charging. Additionally, through the same port you charge your phone, you can transfer all the data from your old phone in a promised “ten minutes or less.” Yeah, we’ll see.

Google says the 5-inch Pixel 2 will start at $649 while the Pixel 2 XL will land starting at $849. Pre-orders start today and shipments will start October 19th. For a limited time, those who order a new Pixel will be eligible to receive a free Google Home Mini. New accessories like cases will soon land as well.

Update 10-7-2017 2:10 PM: It was presented to us that the Pixel 2 XL has a 3520mAh battery and not a 3250mAh battery as this article originally stated. The article has been updated to reflect the correct battery capacity. We apologize for the error.