We've seen flagship smartphones from Samsung, HTC, LG, Sony, Apple, and others this year, which means we've just got one more major name to go – Google. Here's what we're expecting from Google's big press event on October 4, and how it might fight back against the iPhone X.
Google's event starts at 9am San Francisco time, which is 12pm in New York, 5pm in London, 6pm in Berlin, and 3am in Sydney if you're thinking of following along with the live stream (check Google's YouTube channel for details).
By all accounts, the gadgets attracting most of the headlines will be two new Pixel phones, though officially Google itself has been playing its cards close to its chest so far. Based on some pretty reliable leaks, it sounds like we're also going to get a new Pixel Chromebook, a mini version of the Google Home, and a new Daydream View headset as well.
But first let's recap what Apple unveiled earlier this month. The iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus are minor upgrades over last year's iPhones, but it's the iPhone X that has been getting the bulk of the attention, though it's not yet on sale.
Even that attention-grabbing iPhone X isn't the revolutionary device it might seem at first glance, however. Besides the speed bumps, camera refinements, and wireless charging upgrades offered by the whole of the 2017 iPhone line, the only major differences when it comes to the X model are that huge, bezel-free OLED display, and the Face ID recognition system that goes with it – plus of course that very high price.
Shaving down those bezels for a large screen seems a must for the Google Pixel this year, otherwise it's going to look rather out of date for the next 12 months. Even if it's not a feature on the Pixel 2, we would hope it's there on the Pixel 2 XL, though up until now the rumors haven't been at all certain – it's possible that Google will keep the chunky bezel look for one more year.
We'd also suggest waterproofing and wireless charging are essential if Google doesn't want the Pixel line to be in the shadow of the iPhone until late in 2018 – both are features that modern-day smartphone owners are starting to take for granted, and it would be a serious black mark if the new Pixel phones didn't include them.
As for internal upgrades and camera tweaks, it's going to be easier for Google to match Apple here: the speedy Snapdragon 835 is widely tipped to be appearing inside the new Pixel phones, and the 2016 models had excellent photo-taking capabilities, so presumably Google's engineers have been able to raise the bar a little further since then.
Can we be of assistance?
Judging by Google's trailer for the October 4 event, and the noises the company has been making over the last couple of years, it's likely that software and in particular the Google Assistant will feature prominently next Wednesday.
As smartphone specs have become less important in differentiating phones, software and AI have become much more important, and these days the annual iOS and Android updates are usually heavily focused on Google Assistant in one corner and Siri in the other.
"Why doesn't my phone understand me?" is one of the questions posed in the official October 4 event trailer, followed by "Why is my smartphone so impersonal?" and "Why is my smartphone so dumb?" – that sounds to us like a pretty significant upgrade to the AI and customization options on board the Pixel phones could be on the cards.
The trailer also touches on those common smartphone annoyances: running out of space, blurry photos, poor battery life, slow performance, sluggish updates, and more. If the new Pixels can solve all of those problems at once, we'll be very impressed.
Google already has a strong set of cloud services, from Google Drive to Google Photos, but it's possible that they'll take an even bigger role on the new phones – perhaps significant upgrades to Google Photos are in the pipeline (remember the service already stores an unlimited number of photos and videos taken by Pixel devices). The new Pixels might also take more decisions on your behalf, like bringing up apps at the right time when you need them based on your past usage.
And even though Android Oreo has already been pushed out, the word on the Google street is that there are plans to make the Pixel interface even more bespoke, differentiating it from stock Android and all the other flavors of the mobile OS out there. That would be a very Apple-esque move from Google as it looks to take full control over the hardware and the software on its flagship devices.
The Google I/O conference is usually the place where we hear about improvements to Android and Google Assistant, but we wouldn't be surprised to hear plenty about the Pixel software next week, even if it is supposed to be a hardware-focused event. With a new Daydream View headset and Pixel Chromebook rumored too, updates to Google's VR platform and Chrome OS software are also likely.
With some of HTC's talent only just confirmed as moving to Google, it's possible we'll see quite a minor tweak in terms of hardware and design this year from the Pixel phones. It may well be in the Google Assistant, and in Google's cloud-based software and apps, where the company really tries to take the lead from Apple's flagship phones throughout 2017 and 2018.
You can see the trailer for the event below:
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