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Why would Google make the Pixel 2 and Pixel XL 2 look so different?

If the renders and leaks are correct, Google is making its two flagship phones' screens different from each other. But why?

Published onAugust 15, 2017

Leaks and renders are as much a part of the mobile tech industry as milk and cereals are a part of my breakfast every morning… which is to say, there’s probably something a little unhealthy about both. Fortunately, in the “leaks and renders” part of my world, I can understand that, while these things might be good guesses as to what’s going to happen, they are in fact guesses.

This leads us to the topic of the day: by all reports, the upcoming Google Pixel 2 and Pixel XL 2 are going to have different designs from each other in a couple of key areas.

CAD renders released a few weeks ago, along with leaked photos of the device in the wild, suggest that the Google Pixel XL 2 will feature bezels more in line with what we see on the LG G6, while the smaller Pixel 2 will sport a front panel that looks more like a Nexus 6P. So, while the bigger device will likely sport a display with rounded corners and an 18:9 aspect ratio, the Pixel 2 might not look like the future phone we were hoping for.

Bezels! Get your bezels here!

For the sake of this article, let’s assume that the leaks we’ve seen so far are legitimate. And if they are real, at least with the smaller Pixel 2, we’re seeing bezels galore. Granted “galore” might be overstating it a bit, but compared to its larger sibling, we’re seeing a more “traditional” look in Google’s smaller flagship. Traditional, that is, until this year.

2017 has been the year of the shrinking bezel, with the previously mentioned LG G6, Galaxy S8, the upcoming Essential Phone, and maybe even the iPhone 8 sporting front panels that are mostly all screen. We know not every phone has gone that route – looking at you HTC and Motorola (and others). But while a phone that sports a substantial top and bottom bezel might not look completely dated, it’s certainly starting to look like it.

Which leads us to wonder – WTF Google? The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are siblings, which suggests that the difference between one or the other would be somewhat minimal. But design renders are suggesting that will not be the case. In addition to a more traditional/dated look, the Pixel 2 doesn’t seem to be the beneficiary of the rounded screens that other phones have introduced this year. Customers of the Pixel 2 line this year are going to have to take more than just size into consideration when making their choice… not the most comfortable feeling in the world.

But why?!?

Making customers choose between these two looks might not make the most sense. And since we’re talking about leaks and renders, let’s add in some speculation for flavor. What jumps to mind is perhaps this is a cost or production issue. Perhaps LG’s rounded OLED screens cost more than a “standard” screen, so Google might be keeping costs down by only including the rounded screen on the larger phone. It’s anybody’s guess at this point.

Perhaps by keeping costs down, Google will be able to pass those savings along to the consumer

Consider for a moment, that perhaps by keeping costs down, Google will be able to pass those savings along to the consumer. Could we be seeing a resurgence of the Nexus 6P/5X dynamic? I wouldn’t rule it out, however unlikely. Seeing a strong Google flagship and a higher-end mid-range phone would further differentiate the two phones — slick, classy, and (unfortunately) pricey along with budget, economical, and “traditional”. Of course, now I have to pray I’m not wrong because I’ve given you all hope for the return of the budget-friendly Google phone.

It’s also possible that the production of LG’s rounded screens wasn’t capable of keeping up with LG G6, LG V30, Pixel 2, and Pixel XL 2 demand. If that’s the case, then in terms of style and usability, it seems like Google is making the right call here. The larger phone should probably be the one with smaller bezels to aid in one-handed use and the like. So, in that respect, it makes sense. My LG G6 has a much larger screen than my HONOR 8, even though they basically share the same footprint. Props to Google in that respect. It would make this a little easier to swallow anyway.

Which will prevail?

If everything is shaping up the way we think it is, it will make for an interesting choice by Pixel consumers. Will the larger bezels of the smaller phone be more attractive to consumers, or will the smaller bezels of the large phone take the blue ribbon?

Hopefully the two phones won't be fundamentally different from each other in the screen of all places

I’m just a little concerned that the two phones will be fundamentally different from each other in the screen of all places – you know, the part that everyone stares at constantly. Sure, we knew from the start that there would be a small vs. large difference, but now we’re talking about major design elements being different in two phones from the same product line. It’s a little infuriating that consumers will be forced to make this choice at all.

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