Update 3/3/17: This post was updated to add comments from Rick Osterloh, senior vice president of hardware at Google, about the next version of Pixel phones.
While Google’s Pixels might still have that new phone smell, there are already signs that Google is hard at work on the follow-up to its first officially branded Android phone. Google made a huge and somewhat surprising splash with the launch of the Pixel last fall, and all eyes will be on whether the next version of its handset can start to chip away at Samsung’s dominance.
The details are extremely sparse so far, with the only real juicy tidbits coming out of a report from 9to5Google, some stray tweets, and a vague comment from a Google exec. However, stay glued to this article, as we’ll keep updating it with the latest solid information.
Water, water nowhere
Google’s first crack at a premium handset checked off a lot of boxes, but one of the major ones it missed was waterproofing. Already a feature in premium handsets like the Galaxy S7, it was surprising that Google opted to skip it, but it appears it is working to rectify that in its next handset. As 9to5Google’s Stephen Hall explains, the feature is “on the table” for the Pixel 2, although sources had previously informed him that it was a priority for the next release.
Focus on the camera
The Pixel already has one of the best cameras in an Android phone, but that’s not stopping Google from making it even better. Like the iPhone, 9to5Google reports that Google won’t be focusing on megapixels with the Pixel 2, but rather will “compensate in extra features.” It’s unclear exactly what that means, but Hall says the camera will be a “major focus” in the development of the Pixel 2 as Google looks to retain its position atop the smartphone camera rankings.
It’s pretty much a no-brainer that the Pixel will launch with whatever the latest version of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processor will be, and 9to5Google reports that Google is indeed testing the Pixel with the new 835 chipset. But it’s also exploring other options. According to Hall’s sources, Google is also trying out Intel chips, though it’s not clear whether that refers to modems or full processors. If Google does opt to use an Intel SoC for its new Pixels, it would be quite a coup for Intel, which has struggled to make much headway in the smartphone world.
Cheaper and more expensive
When the Pixel launched, it commanded a price commensurate with its premium features, and it doesn’t look the Pixel 2 is going to be any different. In fact, in might cost more. 9to5Google reports that Google’s next handset will be “at least” $50 higher than this year’s model, meaning it could start at $699 for the 5-inch model and top $800 for the Pixel XL. A comment by Rick Osterloh, senior vice president of hardware at Google, confirms that the flagship Pixel will stay a "premium" phone.
However, there may be some relief for users who don’t want to spend quite so much on a phone. 9to5Google reports that Google is also testing a “Pixel 2B” handset, which would serve as a budget version of the flagship phone. As Hall writes, the phone would bring less-powerful specs along with its cheaper price, with a goal of bringing the “Google experience and the Google phone to emerging markets.” It was recently reported that Google was eyeing a U.S. launch for its Android One program, so a budget Pixel would certainly fit with those plans.
As far as a release date, a safe bet would be sometime in the fall, based on comments from Osterloh. “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.”