Last year marked an important shift for Google’s mobile efforts — gone are the days of developer-focused Nexus hardware. We’re now living in a time where Google makes its own smartphones (with some help from other manufacturers) to compete head-to-head with the other devices dominating the Android space.

With a bigger focus on appealing to all users (not just developers and the most die-hard Android purists), the Google Pixel and Pixel XL offered a fantastic camera, stellar performance, a refined software experience, and, at least at the time, the Pixel-exclusive Google Assistant. As great as the Pixels may have been last year, though, there was some obvious room for improvement.

Now Google is back with the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, perhaps two of the most-anticipated phones of the year. Here’s what you need to know about the company’s new flagship smartphones.

Pixel design, refined.

You’ve probably noticed by now that the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL don’t look too far off from their predecessors, at least on the back. Both devices feature a mostly-aluminum chassis, complete with the glass panel towards the top of the device. This time, the glass is much shorter and doesn’t cover the fingerprint sensor like it did with last year’s phones. The camera sensor on the rear is larger this time around, too.

Aside from those minor changes, the back panels look similar to the original Pixels. You’ll find the “G” logo towards the bottom of the back, while the power and volume buttons sit on the right side. Google also says the rear-facing fingerprint sensor “unlocks faster than any other smartphone”.

What’s the difference between the two?

As expected, the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL have a few differences between one another.

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The most notable difference can be found on the front. The smaller Pixel 2 sports a 5.0-inch OLED 1,920 x 1,080 display with a more traditional 16:9 aspect ratio, while the Pixel 2 XL goes the more modern route with its 6.0-inch 2,880 x 1,440 P-OLED display with an 18:9 aspect ratio. There’s a noticeable amount of bezel on the top and bottom of the Pixel 2, whereas the 2 XL has very slim bezels around its screen.

Also, due to the difference in size, the Pixel 2 comes with a much smaller 2,700 mAh battery while the Pixel 2 XL sports a 3,520 mAh cell.

Of course, there’s a pretty huge difference in price too, which we’ll cover at the bottom of this article.

They’re basically the same under the hood.

While the design of the devices may differ, the Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are basically the same under the hood, save for a few specifications.

Both devices feature an octa-core 2.35 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Mobile Platform, an Adreno 430 GPU, and 4 GB of RAM. While neither device comes with a microSD card slot, the on board storage options have been bumped up this time around. Both phones come in 64 and 128 GB models.

A smarter Always-On Display

Both the Pixel 2 and 2 XL will sport a brand-new, smarter Always-On Display. What makes it so smart?

The Pixels’ Always-On Display will now continually listen to audio playing around you (if you choose to enable it), which allows it to show you song information without the need to unlock and ask it manually. Just tap on the song title from the Always-On Display, and Google Assistant will bring up relevant information relating to that song.

The Pixel Launcher is getting a redesign.

The Pixel Launcher’s home screen is getting its biggest redesign ever with the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. This time around, Google is doing away with the “pill” and weather widgets that took up the top section of the launcher, instead bringing back the search bar and placing it in a much more sensible place — under the docked icons. It may take some time to get used to, but from a usability standpoint, this will make it much easier to reach the search bar — especially on the Pixel 2 XL.

There’s also a new “at a glance” section at the top of the launcher that gives you quick access to your upcoming events and weather.

The highest-rated cameras on any smartphone

Last year’s Pixel phones had really great cameras. But more and more manufacturers have been bringing their A-game this year, giving the Google phones a run for their money.

But according to DxOMark, the new Pixel 2 devices are in a league of their own.

With a score of 98, the Google Pixel 2 trumps both the iPhone 8 and the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, which just received a score a 94. With a 1/2.6-inch 12.2 MP sensor and an f/1.8 aperture, the Pixel 2 camera is going to be extremely hard to beat.

Google finally goes water resistant.

One of the biggest things that set Google’s Pixel devices apart from the other 2016 flagships was their lack of waterproofing. Many users were upset with Google’s decision to forgo the feature, even though the search giant says it didn’t have enough time to include it.

Apparently Google spent a little more time on this year’s devices, as both the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL come with water- and dust-resistance ratings of IP67. That means the Pixels can survive in up to 1 meter of fresh water for up to 30 minutes at a time.

Further reading: Water resistant phones: the essential do’s and don’ts

No more headphone jack…

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It was one of the rumors that nobody wanted to believe, but unfortunately it’s become a reality. The Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL do not feature a 3.5 mm headphone jack, which means you’ll need to rely on your USB Type-C port for wired headphones. That also means you can’t charge your phone and listen with wired headphones at the same time. Boo.

Samsung and LG managed to squeeze a headphone jack in their flagship devices, so why can’t Google?

It has squeezable sides, too.

By now it’s no secret that Google and HTC have been working very closely with one another for the past couple years. Not only has HTC manufactured the smaller Pixel 2, Google recently bought a big chunk of HTC’s workforce for $1.1 billion. Now some of HTC’s own smartphone features are making their way to Google’s Pixel line.

Now, a similar version of HTC’s Edge Sense is coming to the Pixel line. It’s called Active Edge, and it allows you to squeeze the sides of the Pixel phone to quickly launch the Google Assistant.

Black, White, & Blue

Google is getting a little more creative with the color options this time around. The Pixel 2 will be available in Just Black, Clearly White, and a muted blue variant dubbed Kinda Blue. The Pixel 2 XL color options are Just Black and Black & White (black front, white back, and an orange power button). We hope Google launches a Pixel 2 XL in Kinda Blue, because that color is hot.

You can pre-order them starting today, October 4.

Pre-orders for both the Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL go live today, with the shipping date set for October 19. The Pixel 2 costs $649 for the 64 GB model and $749 for the 128 GB version, while the 64 GB Pixel 2 XL costs $849 and $949 for the 128 GB variant. As an added bonus, the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL will come with a free Google Home Mini for a limited time. Not bad! 

Don’t miss: Head here for all the Google Pixel 2 pricing and availability information

As far as carrier partners are concerned, we’re looking at a Verizon exclusive yet again. That means, aside from buying unlocked through the Google Store, Verizon will be the only carrier selling the new Pixels in-store and online. Of course, you’ll still be able to activate the unlocked Pixels on any of the major U.S. carriers.

Diving deeper in the Google Pixel 2

Want to learn more about the Google Pixel 2 and Pixel XL 2? Check out our related coverage below:


So there’s the new Pixels in a nutshell. What are your thoughts so far? Are you buying either one? Let us know in the comments below!

Jimmy Westenberg
Lover of all things Android, Star Wars, dogs, coffee, and music.