The much-awaited Google Pixel 2 smartphone has finally been unveiled, and this is the phone that succeeds last year’s first-generation Pixel. This is the smaller of the two Pixel phones which Google has unveiled, with the larger Pixel 2 XL being the other one. As it turns out, the second-generation Pixel smartphone is more about combining the latest hardware with software refinement.

The Pixel retains the same display size as its predecessor, which means this has a 5-inch AMOLED display with Full HD resolution. This phone should remain a more compact option among the two new Pixel phones.

On the design front, there are subtle tweaks. On the back, the glass accent has been retained on the top part of the panel (the rest is aluminum), but it is now a thinner band than before. The more compact Pixel 2 retains a similar form factor to the predecessor, which means this isn’t technically the “bezel-less" design that a lot of recent flagship phones have managed well with. It is water resistant as well.

There is no headphone jack in the Pixel 2, which does remind us of how Google had claimed higher ground last year after Apple had removed the same port from the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. Instead, Google will sell you the Pixel Buds wireless earphones ($159; around Rs10,300). This does beg the question—how is this any different from Apple’s strategy?

It is perhaps not entirely a surprise that Android 8 (Oreo) comes out of the box on the Pixel 2. There are changes in the interface though, compared to the Oreo that existing phones such as the Sony Xperia XZ1 run. For starters, Google Search now takes center stage, with the search bar now sitting between the navigation bar at the bottom of the screen and the app icon dock above it—earlier, the bar and the dock were placed together. The idea is to make it easier to access search, and also improve the “reach" on larger phones, where the search bar placed on the top meant a bit more effort to get to it.

No corners cut on the power front too, with the newest Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor with 4GB RAM (this is more than enough for the clean Android), more powerful graphics and a 2,700mAh battery.

The Pixel 2 retains the same megapixel count on the camera—12 megapixels. However, this definitely isn’t the same camera carried forward. What you get now is a 1/2.6-inch sensor which is slightly smaller than the Pixel, but has a wider aperture which should hold the Pixel 2 in good stead during low-light photography. Google has also added the optical image stabilization (OIS) feature to the Pixel 2, which should mean sharper and better detailed photos in certain lighting conditions. In fact, OIS will complement electronic image stabilization (EIS).

However, that is not all. Google has pretty much exhibited its prowess in implementing machine learning for photography with the Photos app, and will now use that in the Pixel 2 phone for what is the new Portrait Mode. This comes just after Apple showed off the excellent Portrait Mode options in the new iPhone 8 Plus. With machine learning and computational photography, the software algorithms in the Pixel 2 will understand the contents of a photo and identify faces. While the iPhone uses dual cameras for the Portrait Mode, each pixel in the camera sensor of the Pixel 2 phone is divided into two using a method known as Dual Pixel—this allows for a better depth understanding of any photo.

There are the first strands of the HTC-inspiration too. The Pixel 2 gets the Active Edge feature, which basically means that you can squeeze the phone to execute quick actions, such as take a photo or open an app—there are a bunch of sensors sitting beneath the frame of the phone to detect a harder press on the Pixel 2. We had first seen this feature on the HTC U11 flagship smartphone, and HTC calls it Edge Sense on that phone.

Google will begin pre-orders for the Pixel from 26 October, and the Pixel 2 will be available in India from 1 November. The 64GB variant of the Pixel 2 is priced in India at Rs61,000, while the 128GB version will cost Rs70,000. From the looks of it, this is not a phone that will redefine the segment it competes in, but it is designed to do exactly what was expected from it. Better, in every sense of the word.

My Reads Logout