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Why I feel the Google Pixel 2 may be dead on arrival

The Google Pixel 2 is here. While it seems like a beast on paper, it may already be dead in the water.

Published onOctober 4, 2017

Google’s newly announced Pixel 2 has some stiff competition on its hands. This year’s Samsung and Apple phones are going to be tough to beat, but they’re not even the Pixel 2’s first real competition. The biggest challenge the phone will face comes from its own brother, the Pixel 2 XL.

Under the hood, the two phones share just about every single component. Same Snapdragon 835. Same amount of RAM. Same camera. Same storage options. Same connectivity. Same fingerprint scanner. The list goes on.

Unlike the Pixel and Pixel XL, Google’s latest flagships aren’t just two different screen sizes though, they also are significantly different looking phones. That’s where the real issue lies.

Where have we seen this before?

The Samsung Galaxy S8, S8 Plus, and Note 8 all have a universal language for their 2017 flagships. The same with LG with the G6 and V30. Aside from Google, there is really only one other company that’s trending differently here: Apple.

This year Apple made a big change in the way it operates by announcing three phone models all at once. The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus share a design that is very similar to their predecessors, just further refined. As for the iPhone X, we get a brand new OLED display in a 19.5:9 format.

Whether you like the iPhone X’s design or not, you can’t deny that it stands out. At face value, that’s a good thing for a product that’s supposed to showcase 10 years of iPhone evolution. The problem is that this change devalues the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus designs, which are now seen as outdated compared to the latest shiny thing.

Is this really a true issue though? Surely there are people who still prefer the small display of the iPhone 8, aren’t enamored by the new screen ratio, or simply don’t want to spend over $1000 on a new phone. There’s an audience, but it’s a small one.

From US Today to the New York Times, we are seeing articles pop up about how the iPhone 8 launch day lines were among the shortest in iPhone history and how demand is unusually sluggish.

Apple and Google have different audiences. Android fans may not care about the design differences, as long as performance is identical. This isn’t the only possible issue with Google’s strategy, though.

You want HOW MUCH for the Pixel 2?

Last year’s base Pixel debuted at $649. The Pixel 2 is also priced at $649. Reasonable enough right? Yes and no. The Pixel 2 is certainly a powerful phone in every way that matters. The only weakness is design.

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL specs: Google’s vision for the modern flagship
There’s nothing wrong with the Pixel 2’s design, but in  a world of 16:9, 19.5:9, and Infinity displays, it just doesn’t stand out. Of course, if you don’t mind the bezels and really aren’t into the whole ‘tall display’ trend, the Pixel 2 is probably worth buying.

Keep in mind that the phone feels a lot more like a 2016 flagship, with large bezels and a water-resistant design. That’d be okay, if they priced it more in line with other phones that are rocking 2016-inspired aesthetics.

For example, the OnePlus 5 and Pixel 2 have very similar specs with waterproofing on the Pixel 2 being one of the few on-paper improvements. Yet the OnePlus 5 is $170 cheaper. There’s even a few tall-display options out there that out-price the Pixel 2, such as the LG G6. The G6 trades down for a Snapdragon 821 but at $525 it’s still a hell of a phone, I personally consider to be among the best phones you can buy even now. As it stands, the Pixel 2 feels like a missed opportunity

Mid-range or just cheaper – either route would have helped

I’ll admit I’m being a bit bold here. Even though there’s some anecdotal evidence to suggest the Pixel 2 XL will outshine the Pixel 2 in sales, we really can’t say for sure what will happen. Apples and oranges Pixels, after all.

How could Google have done things better? One obvious possibility would have been to simply give the Pixel 2 the same design as its bigger brother. Of course, there could be more behind Google’s decision, like possible supply constraints. This is something that Apple is already reportedly running into.

Beyond that, pricing it at $550 or below would have also likely made the Pixel 2 seem like a much more attractive option, considering the Pixel 2 XL starts at $849. Pricing a high-end Google flagship at rock bottom pricing isn’t exactly unprecedented either, considering the 2015 Nexus 6P was only $500 at debut. A $299 discount to get an older design but the same raw performance? That sounds like a bargain. Of course, lower pricing isn’t the only possible move Google could have made.

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are official: IP67 ratings and no headphone jack
Google hasn’t exactly been forthcoming with sales numbers so we can’t say with any real certainty how well the Pixel did versus the Pixel XL, but the XL seems much more popular. Not only does our own team tend to rock XLs over Pixels, but pretty much every review on the web has focused on the XL over the Pixel. This might have been part of the motivation behind why Google focused more effort into the Pixel 2.

A simple solution would have been to test the waters with a mid-range Pixel flagship. If sales aren’t likely to be phenomenal for the Pixel 2 anyhow, going in a new direction with the smaller Pixel might have been a worthwhile experiment.

A simple solution would have been to test the waters with a mid-range Pixel flagship

Jumping down to a mid-range Snapdragon would have also allowed Google to be even more aggressive with its pricing, possibly opening up its Pixel series to a whole new audience.

Those of you who prefer smaller screen phones with flagship level specs are probably already brandishing your pitchforks, and honestly, I somewhat agree with you. Having two high-end size options may well be the better strategy. I’m only suggesting that the Pixel 2 in its current form doesn’t quite hit the mark and that there were plenty of other roads Google could have gone down.

But that’s just my take. What are your thoughts? Let us know down in the comments.

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