It hasn’t been that long since the release of the Google Pixel and Pixel XL, but we’re already hearing rumors and news about the 2017 model that is expected to launch in the fall.
Google hardware boss Rick Osterloh officially confirmed in an interview with Android Pit that there will, in fact, be a second iteration of the Google Pixel. It’s not surprising to hear, but it’s still nice to get confirmation of the phone.
HTC was responsible for manufacturing the original Pixel, and although we’ve suspected for a while that the Taiwanese firm is under contract to produce the second generation, we’ve received another indication in one of the company’s own flagship products. A pair of system files unearthed by blog HTC Soku on the Taiwanese version of the U11, named “S2” and “M2,” point to the unannounced phones. You may remember “S1” and “M1” were the code names given to the Pixel and Pixel XL.
However, conflicting reports indicate that LG may have actually been contracted to build the larger of the two devices. The phones were originally said to be code named “Walleye” and “Muskie,” referring to the standard and XL versions, respectively. But rumors have emerged of another device even larger than Muskie, titled “Taimen.” Word has it that Muskie has been canceled in favor of Taimen, and LG might be responsible for manufacturing it.
As far as final names are concerned, however, we don’t know what Google is planning on calling the next model — so we are tentatively going to stick with the Pixel 2.
Here is everything you need to know about the upcoming phones.
We have yet to see any leaked photos of the Google Pixel 2, but a pair of leaked case designs might have provided us with some early clues. The images arrive to us from Slashleaks by way of PhoneArena, and while case designs are hardly conclusive — third-party accessory makers don’t always necessarily have more information about upcoming products than the public does — what’s interesting about them isn’t so much how they look, but how different they are.
In the case of the standard-sized Pixel 2, we see a device shaped very similarly to last year’s model, with an odd camera cutout at the back. The strange shape could allude to a dual-lens design or some interesting trickery going on with the flash. The rear-mounted fingerprint sensor looks to retain its position.
Moving to the Pixel 2 XL, however, we see a completely different device. Gone are the chunky bezels and awkward camera silhouette. Instead, there’s a massive display that leaves little room at the top and bottom, along with curved corners and an 18:9 aspect ratio. The whole thing smacks of the LG G6 — and if you’ve been following the Pixel XL’s successor, that’s not necessarily an accident.
There have been reports that LG has been brought in to build “Taimen,” the larger of the two phones that is even bigger than the originally proposed Pixel 2 XL, named “Muskie.” If true, this could mean the standard Pixel 2 will continue HTC’s design aesthetic established in the original model, while the phablet could move in a different direction entirely.
While certainly interesting to think about, it would be shocking and unlikely for Google to more or less return to the days of Nexus and release two drastically different devices that so closely emulate Android flagships already on the market. For that reason, it’s best not to lend too much credence to these leaks at this early stage.
Another interesting detail is the presence of a headphone jack in both of these proposals. It contradicts an earlier report from 9to5Google based on internal Google documentation suggesting that the company will remove 3.5mm support in favor of a single USB-C port.
If Google did decide to omit the headphone jack, fans would undoubtedly be frustrated by the news — though the use of USB-C for audio has become more common in recent months as manufacturers have slowly moved away from the old standard.
XDA Developers claims to have obtained details about specifications for both of the upcoming Pixel phones. The interesting part is, the news refers to the devices code-named Walleye and Taimen — indicating Muskie, the device originally considered to be the Pixel XL successor, may have been replaced by the even larger Taimen.
For Walleye, XDA Developers mentions a 5-inch, 1080p display in a chassis that is very similar to the previous model. Reports suggest Google will ditch its predecessor’s 3.5mm headphone jack in favor of stereo speakers. In terms of processing power, the phone looks to receive Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 chipset with 4GB RAM and 64GB of storage space, keeping in line with earlier expectations about the smaller Pixel phone. Both variants are said to include a single-lens, dual-flash rear camera.
Where Walleye looks to be a conservative upgrade sporting largely the same design, Taimen is billed by XDA as an all-new device that may be manufactured by LG, according to bug report findings from 9to5Google. At the very least, rumors suggest it will sport one of LG’s OLED panels, measuring 6 inches in size with a 1440p resolution. Like Walleye, Taimen is billed as having an 835 system-on-chip with the same amount of RAM, though 128GB of storage will be available as an option. The report also mentions smaller bezels and a similar combination of glass and metal design at the rear, with subtle alterations compared to last year’s model.
Supposed Geekbench results for the Taimen dating back to May mentioned a Snapdragon 835 processor running at 1.9GHz, alongside 4GB of RAM. The phone reportedly scored 1,804 in single-core testing and 6,248 in multi-core. For reference, the Samsung Galaxy S8, which utilizes the same processor and same amount of memory, managed 1,762 in single core, and 5,723 in multi-core when we tested it in our review. Android O is listed as the operating system in the results.
A leak from the Android Open Source Project code also suggested the Pixel 2 devices will receive the Snapdragon 835 system-on-chip. The report comes courtesy of German tech site WinFuture.de, which notes the three Pixel 2 code names — Muskie, Walleye, and Taimen — appearing alongside references to the Qualcomm MSM8998, another name for the 835 chip.
Last year’s Pixel and Pixel XL utilized Qualcomm’s 821 chipset — a slight upgrade over the 820 that debuted in the Galaxy S7 earlier in the year. If this leak bears out, Google’s flagship won’t necessarily have a hardware advantage over competing Android handsets like it did last time around.
In the spring, it was revealed that Google may be trying to make its own processor — like Apple does for the iPhone — to power its future smartphones. That was according to Dave Burke, Google’s vice president of engineering, in an interview with Bloomberg.
It seems unlikely that first-party chips would be ready for the Pixel 2, as building a custom processor is no easy feat. New information from Hall’s source tells us that Google is reportedly testing the Pixel 2 with multiple, improved chipsets — “some with Snapdragon 83X chips, others with Intel chips.” MediaTek was also contributing at some point, but not anymore.
An even bigger Pixel?
We initially learned that Google was conducting testing for two phones — the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, code named Walleye and Muskie, respectively. Now, however, it seems as though the larger device, Muskie, may have been cancelled, according to a report from Android Police. But there won’t only be one Pixel — instead, Google might replace it with an even bigger device. According to a report from Droid Life, the third device is currently code named Taimen.
No rumors have specifically mentioned that there will be another phone in the Pixel lineup, but let’s take this opportunity to cast massive doubt on the idea that Google will launch a non-Pixel-branded phone this year. It may not even be the case that a third Pixel variant will see the light of day. Google may be testing multiple sizes for its upcoming phones, and might choose the two best sizes to release after testing.
An even better camera
The Google Pixel was praised for its stellar camera that rivaled the iPhone 7 Plus, and it seems as though Google is prioritizing it again for the second-generation device. That’s according to a source speaking to Stephan Hall at 9to5Google. We cannot verify this source’s claims, and we’re a long time away from the release date, so things can change.
The source said Google is looking to perfect the low-light capabilities of the next Pixel, but it will “not have large [megapixel] size.” Google will reportedly compensate for this with extra features. Furthermore, XDA Developers has reported that the next-generation Pixel line won’t receive dual-lens cameras, as many flagships have recently.
A curved display?
A report out of South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency suggests Google is angling toward making a 1 trillion-won investment — about $876 million — in LG Display for the company’s flexible OLED screens. These panels would be put into use in the next Pixel devices, and lessen Google’s dependence on Samsung, which outfits its own flagship smartphones with curved displays. It’s also pegged as a win for LG as well, which would like to ramp up OLED production and shift away from LCDs, according to the article.
The result could be a strategic partnership between the two companies, rather than a simple order. While we haven’t heard much about the Pixel featuring a curved screen up until now, it does fall in line with a rapidly increasing trend in the industry. In addition to Samsung and its Galaxy S8, Apple is rumored to utilize a flexible OLED panel in its iPhone X. Although we can’t verify the validity of this report, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Google move in a similar direction with the Pixel later this year.
A budget Pixel
Early on in the Pixel 2 rumors, we heard that there could be a more budget-friendly Pixel device called the Pixel 2B. Most recently, however, it seems like that device could eventually get a release — but it won’t be released under the Pixel name. The news comes from a 9to5Google tipster, who claims that while the Pixel team isn’t working on a Pixel branded budget-friendly device, it is working on a budget-friendly device to be released with a different name. This could be launched under the Android One program, or a new name entirely.
The news makes sense. In the Android Pit interview, Rick Osterloh went on to say that the Pixel will “stay premium.” We won’t know what that means until the Pixel 2 is launched, but don’t expect Nexus-style pricing on a Pixel phone.
We first heard of a budget Pixel device at the end of January, when it was revealed that Google was testing a few prototypes of a device code named the “Pixel 2B.” The report came from 9to5Google, which also said that the device would cost a lot less than $650, with the compromise of less-powerful hardware. This device, which may launch alongside the Pixel 2 or after, will be intended to be released in “different markets.”
Hall posted a tweet that the next-generation Pixel will be waterproof — information he received at the Google event last October. Going by what Apple and Samsung have done for their flagship devices, the Pixel 2 will likely be IP67- or IP68-rated, allowing for water submersion up to 1 to 1.5 meters for 30 minutes.
But Hall now says waterproofing may not be so definite anymore. His source said the feature is “still on the table” for the Pixel 2 — which is hardly as concrete as “definitely.”
Little tidbit we were told in October last year that I forgot about: “Waterproofing definitely coming with next Pixel device.”
The reason it wasn’t in the current Pixel? Google ran out of time. According to a Wired podcast, Google said it threw out plans for the device at the end of 2015 and had to start from scratch — meaning the phone was built in a mere nine months. Huawei was supposed to manufacture the device, but the company backed out when Google demanded there be no Huawei logo. HTC took Huawei’s place.
Release date and price
Google has traditionally unveiled its Nexus smartphones, as well as last year’s Pixel, during a fall event. We’ll likely see the Pixel 2, as well as the Pixel 2 XL (Pixel XXL?) in October.
Unfortunately, you may see a price increase for the flagship Pixel 2. Hall’s source said Google is expecting “at least” a $50 price jump for the device, but the Pixel 2B will be “significantly cheaper.” Keep in mind, the company is months away from a release date and all of this is subject to change.
We’ll update this post as we learn more about the 2017 Pixel 2 and the Pixel 2B.
Update: Images of leaked case designs added to article.