With the new phones, the search giant continues to demonstrate its hardware ambitions, recently bolstered by its purchase of a phone-making unit at HTC. The Oct. 4 event came a month after rival Apple debuted its iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X at an event at its new Cupertino, Calif. headquarters.
Google’s two Pixel handsets are nearly identical, except for a few key differences in size and screen types. Other aspects, like cameras, speakers, Qualcomm processors, and water resistance, are the same.
The Pixel 2, manufactured by HTC, is cheaper with a starting price of $649 for the base model, which comes with 64 Gigabytes of storage space and a 5-inch screen. Another $100 comes with 128 Gigabytes of storage.
The Pixel 2 XL, developed by LG, has a 6-inch screen and a $849 price tag for the 64 Gigabyte base model. Similar to its cheaper sibling, another $100 increases that storage to 128 Gigabytes.
Both phones have organic light emitting diode, or OLED, displays with fine-grained contrast ratios that are generally superior to their Apple iPhone counterparts, Google claims. The Pixel 2 has a display density of 441 pixels per inch and the Pixel 2 XL has a plastic OLED display with 538 pixels per inch; for comparison, Apple’s iPhone 8 has a less efficient liquid crystal, or LCD, display with 326 pixels per inch, its iPhone 8 Plus has a LCD display with 401 pixels per inch, and its iPhone X has an OLED display with 458 pixels per inch.
No Headphone Jack
One major change that some consumers may find controversial: Google has followed Apple’s lead and eliminated a dedicated headphone jack.
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The Pixel phones also come with a few unique features. They have an “active edge,” which means that squeezing the phone’s sides—even through a case—summons Google’s virtual voice assistant. And the phones’ displays are always on, meaning its owner can check the time, weather, and other notifications at a glance, without having to click a button.
The selling point most hyped by Mario Queiroz, Google’s vice president of product management at a splashy media event on Wednesday, was the phones’ cameras. They achieved a higher rating by the French lens testing firm DxO Labs than any other smartphone on the market, he said.
The technical details: the Pixel 2 phones each have a 12.2-megapixel rear camera with an f/1.8 aperture and optical image stabilization, besting the lenses on the previous generation of Pixel phones, which had f/2.0 apertures with electronic image stabilization. Google has installed “dual-pixel sensors” on both new phone models, meaning that the lenses focus faster and can achieve the background-blur effect of “portrait mode” shots, similar to what one can capture with a DSLR, without needing two cameras, like Apple’s iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X models.
As a bonus, buyers of Google’s new phone get unlimited storage on Google Photos.