Google's Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are here, with Google Assistant front and center
We've seen big phone launches from all the other major players this year, from Apple to Samsung, and Google has at last announced its Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL flagships for 2017. They bring with them even more AI smarts under the hood, top-end specs, and a choice of two screen sizes.
Starting with the similarities between the phones, both are powered by the Snapdragon 835 and 4 GB of RAM – par for the course for flagship phones this year – and both come with Google's uncluttered, stock version of Android Oreo.
As before, there are some Pixel-specific tweaks. An always-on display, an at-a-glance information widget, and automatic music recognition, Shazam-style. And like the HTC U11, you can squeeze the sides, in this case to launch the Google Assistant.
The main differences are in the display. The cheaper Pixel 2 has a full HD, 1,920 x 1,080 pixel display and the standard phone bezels we've grown to know and kind of love. The Pixel 2 XL, meanwhile, ups the ante with a 6-inch, 1,440 x 2,880 pixel screen that banishes the bezels right to the edge of the screen, like many a 2017 phone before it.
Apart from that you're going to get the same experience on both phones, from the 12 MP camera to the early version of Google Lens, the smart image recognition and AR-powered app Google is developing.
The camera was one of the best features of last year's Pixels, and Google is promising that hardware and software refinements mean pictures will be even better this time around, using machine learning techniques to stabilize scenes, make colors pop, and so on. As with last year, Pixel owners get unlimited storage in Google Photos for pictures and videos.
Google also had time to unveil an upgraded US$99 Daydream View headset, with a wider field of view, sharper visuals, and revised colors and fabrics, as well as $159 Google Pixel Buds, wireless headphones with extra smarts added courtesy of Google Assistant.
And it really was Google Assistant and the company's other AI initiatives that dominated the Google show this year. As phones become harder to tell apart from specs and design alone, Google is hoping that it's software and machine learning that really help its fledgling hardware division to stand out.
The Pixel 2 is available to pre-order now in blue, black, and white, with prices starting at $649. You can also pre-order the Pixel 2 XL from today, in black and black and white, with prices starting at $849.