By Don Reisinger
October 3, 2017

Google must set a goal for itself at its Wednesday Pixel 2 press event: prove why it believes its latest smartphones can keep up with the heavyweights.

By holding a press event in early October, Google has sandwiched its smartphone announcements between the iPhone 8’s release and the iPhone X’s impending release. And in turn, Google will—intentionally or not—force consumers to draw comparisons between its new handsets and those from Apple.

Ultimately, Google’s chances of even coming close to matching iPhone sales numbers in the fourth quarter and beyond are slim, if not nil. But if the reports are true, Google (GOOGL) will pitch its Pixel 2 handsets as viable alternatives to even Apple’s $1,000 iPhone X. And that’s where the company could have some trouble.

According to reports, Google will announce two new Pixel smartphones at its event on Wednesday. The first, which could be called the Pixel 2, will come with a 5-inch screen and thin bezel. It’ll also be a powerful handset, thanks to the top-of-the-line Qualcomm (QCOM) Snapdragon 835. The Pixel 2 XL is rumored to have a 6-inch screen and an even thinner bezel that could remind people of the iPhone X, which similarly has a screen that nearly covers its face. The Pixel 2 XL will also run on the Snapdragon 835 and at a rumored price of $949, the Pixel 2 XL could clock in at around the same price as the $999 iPhone X.

No one is suggesting that the Pixel 2 can knock Apple (AAPL) from its perch as the preeminent high-end smartphone seller in the world. But if Google wants its Pixel 2 to stand out, it’s unlikely the rumored Pixel 2 will get the job done.

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Looking around at the Android smartphone market, one company stands above the rest: Samsung (SSNLF).

The Korean conglomerate earlier this year released the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+, two smartphones that were universally celebrated for their outstanding design and high-end power. Samsung followed up that success last month with the Galaxy Note 8, a handset that has a similar design to the Galaxy S8 line, but lets users digitally write on the screen with an accompanying S Pen stylus.

If the rumors are true, Google’s Pixel 2 might not even be able to trump Samsung’s 2017 smartphones, let alone the iPhone X. Recently released images purporting to show the Google Pixel 2 show an attractive smartphone, but not one that’s as nice-looking as the Galaxy S8. And since Samsung’s smartphones come with the same Snapdragon processor, Google’s Pixel 2 might not have a power advantage.

There’s even talk that Samsung will soon bring Android Oreo to its Galaxy smartphones, preventing the Pixel 2s from getting a software advantage. And all that fails to mention that Samsung’s smartphone sales have been strong all year, suggesting consumers really like what they see from the company.

Meanwhile, nearly every market analyst says demand for Apple’s upcoming iPhone X is exceedingly strong. The new handset is so attractive to consumers, in fact, that they’ve even ignored Apple’s other new smartphone, the iPhone 8, to wait for its flagship model. It’s possible that the rumors are wrong and that Google has a surprise up its sleeve. It’s also possible that it could succeed in the face of the iPhone X and Samsung’s smartphones.

However, to not acknowledge that the smartphone industry has been dominated chiefly by Apple, but also by Samsung over the years would be foolish. And as former Googler Andy Rubin discovered this year when he released his Essential Phone—a device that he apparently hoped would catapult his startup into the upper echelons of the smartphone industry—actually succeeding in the cutthroat smartphone market is really difficult.

Now it’s Google’s turn to try its luck. But with the massive shadow cast by iPhone X and even Samsung’s smartphones, the Alphabet-owned company will need to do something special at its press event to even have a chance at breaking out from the pack.

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