Will Current Design Trends Define Pixel 2

Pixel 2
Pixel 2 Design Concepts

Admittedly information about this year’s Google Pixel 2 smartphone is very sketchy at this point. The only comments on the product were made by Rick Osterloh, VP of Google Hardware at Mobile Congress World.

There is an annual rhythm in the industry. So, you can count on us to follow it. You can count on a successor this year, even if you don’t hear a date from me now.

Being the top premium device will be difficult to pull off this year as Apple is expected to release a very premium iPhone in commemoration of the iPhone tenth anniversary. Released and pending products from LG and Samsung are expected to push the bar up a notch or two for Android users.

Maximize Screen To Body Ratio

A major push in 2017 smartphone design is maximizing the screen to body ratio. In simplistic terms this means reducing the size of the bezel to allow for the largest possible screen. The end game is to create a device which offers a large screen that fits comfortably in your hand. A good example of how this works is comparing the HTC U Ultra against the LG G6.

HTC U Ultra vs LG G6

Historically, manufacturers focused much of their attention to slimming the left and right bezels. The Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge is a good example. By curving the display around the left and right edge the bezel appears to disappear. Samsung will continue this trend with the S8. This year, it looks like the top and bottom bezel will also be reduced. Although anything can happen, the Pixel 2 will probably follow LG’s design language as displayed in the concept render above. Doing so opens the possibility of growing the display to 5.7 inches without increasing the overall size of the XL version. Of coarse the alternate is also possible of maintaining the 5.5 inch screen and reducing the overall size.

It is important to note what ever the improvements, the display will be designed to enhance the Google Virtual Reality / Augmented Reality experience. As you can see from the following table Google has some catching up to do in order to compete.

Model Screen / Body Ratio Panel Resolution Pixel Density
LG G6 ~78.6% IPS LCD 1440×2880 564 ppi
Samsung G8 ~84.4% Super AMOLED 1440×2960 568 ppi
Xiaomi Mi Mix ~83.6% IPS LCD 1080×2040 362 ppi
Pixel XL ~71.2% AMOLED 1440×2560 534 ppi

There is no reason to believe Google won’t include a high quality AMOLED display with excellent color reproduction in the Pixel 2.

Improved Camera

As with the Pixel, the camera of the Pixel 2 is a quest to build the ultimate shooter excelling in low light and everyday use cases. It is rumored Google is testing improved chipsets from two different manufacturers. A likely candidate is the Sony sensor which claims to shoot 1080p slow-motion video at a blistering 1,000 frames per second (see lego clip for 1000 fps). The new 3-layer CMOS sensor can capture slow motion video about eight times faster than its competition with minimal focal pane distortion, according to Sony. It is also alleged to take 19.3MP images in 1/120th of a second which Sony says is four times faster than other chips, thanks to high-capacity DRAM, and a 4-tier construction on the circuit section used to convert analog video signals to digital signals.

The other specs for this sensor aren’t too bad either:

1000 fps Example
  • 5520 (H) x 3840 (V) 21.2 megapixels Sensor
  • Diagonal 7.73mm (Type 1/2.3)
  • Pixel Fill Rate: 2,316 Megapixels/sec or 2.3Giga Pixels/sec
  • Rolling Shutter Extremely Reduced at 1/120 sec and up
  • Read Speed 8.478 ms (4:3 19.3 mp) / 6.962 ms (16:9 17.1 mp)
  • Maximum frame rate of 1,000 fps in full HD (1920×1080 pixels)
  • 60fps 4K (3840 x 2160)
  • Still images/sec 30fps 4:3 19.3 megapixels / 16:9 17.1 megapixels
  • 1G bit DRAM or 125 Megabytes
  • Bayer RAW Output

Improved SoC

When talking about smartphones it would be remiss not to discuss the processor (SoC); but in all honesty, I haven’t read a review in a very long time where SoC performance was an issue other than benchmark ranking. Although contenders like Intel are courting Google, in all likelihood the SoC will be the Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 835. A fact that weighs heavily in Qualcomm’s favor is the 835 is one of a very short list of processors manufactured using an advanced 10-nanometer design. Others include the Samsung Exynos 8895 and rumored upcoming Apple A10X. Qualcomm states the 10-nanometer design is 27% faster, 35% smaller, use 25% less power, and is engineered to deliver exceptionally long battery life, lifelike VR and AR experiences, cutting-edge camera capabilities and Gigabit (802.11ad) download speeds. A set of features that will be hard to beat. To be announced on March 29th, the Samsung Galaxy S8 will be our first opportunity to discover what the 835 can do.

Other Items

3 Development Systems

It is rumored Google is developing not two but three new smartphones for 2017. All three units use fish as their dev names.

  • taimen
  • muskie
  • walleye

Place what ever significance you like to the names but I believe Google is considering taking a page out of the Samsung playbook and will introduce a six inch phablet with a stylus. Whether this device will be labeled Pixel remains to be seen.

Water / Dust Resistance

Lacking water and dust resistance is a common criticism of the current Pixel. I believe IP68 certification is on the table, but not high on the list. That is to say, it may be included if it doesn’t have a negative impact on other features and the price.

Wireless headphones

I am sure Apple was surprised by the push back to wireless headphones when introduced with the iPhone 7/7 Plus. Whether Google will jump on this band wagon remains a mystery. There are certainly arguments to be made in support of wireless headphones when using VR/AR.

New OS

Of course it is anticipated the new Pixels will showcase Android O. From the Android developer’s blog here’s what to expect.

  • Autofill Framework (forms)
  • Picture-in-Picture mode (from Android TV)
  • Background Execution Limits
  • Background Location Limits
  • Notification Channels
    • Snoozing
    • Notification timeouts
    • Notification dismissal
    • Background colors
    • Messaging style
  • Flexible use of Fonts
  • Adaptive Icons
  • Autosizing TextViews
  • Managing WebViews
  • Pinning Shortcuts/Widgets
  • Media Player Enhancements
  • Wi-Fi Aware
  • Android in the Enterprise

Wrap up

What I see in my crystal ball is a Pixel 2/2 XL that offers thin bezels, a screen to body ratio which equals or exceeds 78%, a Snapdragon 835 SoC, Android O, and last but certainly not least; popular current features like Google Assistant and Daydream support. If the the third device makes it to market, it will be Google’s vision of the Galaxy Note.

Source: Various internet posts