At first glance, there’s little in the Pixel 2 or the Pixel 2 XL to justify the higher prices, they look quite similar and even weigh the same, though the matte finish on the Pixel 2 makes it more comfortable to hold. It’s when you start to use them that the difference is evident, and, sadly for someone who is just reviewing them, it’s difficult to go back to the Pixel 1 once you’ve used the Pixel 2. At 441 pixels per inch, both have the same screen resolution, but for some reason —is it the AMOLED display on last year’s phone versus the P-OLED on this year’s?—Pixel 2 has a superior quality. Apart from the fact that Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 is faster than the 821 which is what the Pixel 1 used, the quality of the sound is far superior on the Pixel 2. That may have something do with the fact that, unlike the Pixel 1 that had the speakers at the base of the unit, the Pixel 2 has them above and below the screen, but it does appear this is yet some more magic with software that Google has managed to accomplish.
The Pixel 2 is supposed to be water-resistant, as in you can dunk it in a pool of water for an extended period of time and even take it into the shower with you. And the higher version of Corning’s shatter-resistant screen means it is supposed to survive being dropped from a greater height. While that’s reassuring, it has to be a very brave person who will take his phone into the shower or not buy a cover and a case for the phone. The Pixel 2 offers 64GB storage as the base option, double that offered by Pixel 1, but the USP of both versions continues to be the unlimited—and free—storage on the cloud for pictures and videos.
While the Pixel 1’s camera was amazing, the Pixel 2 takes it to another level, though iPhone loyalists swear their cameras are the best. Everyone loves the slight blurring of the background that professional cameras offer while taking portraits and that studio-look that even professionals can’t always pull off—the iPhone is the obvious exception. The Pixel 1 tried this with the Lens Blur, but that blurred the background too much; the Pixel 2 manages it perfectly, a bit of sharpening of the subject with just a little bit of a blurring of the background; the ‘bokeh’ effect that professional photographers talk of. There’s more for professionals. Tap the screen once to fix the aperture—you can increase or decrease the amount of light coming in by moving your finger up or down; make two taps, and you can adjust the zoom. Fresh software updates, we’re told, will also offer face retouching to get rid of those pimples and dark circles. To the extent the new features are driven by software, at some point, Google should roll them out to other phones as well, starting with the Pixel 1 and Nexus ranges.
The Panorama and PhotoSphere options remain the delight they were in last year’s Pixel. Panorama is used to shoot large groups or landscapes—you move your camera from the left to the right slowly and take several shots of the picture in front of you; Google’s software stitches the photographs into a seamless one, leaving viewers impressed with your great photography/ camera. PhotoSphere allows you to swivel 360-degrees, and take pictures from all angles, and then allows viewers to feel they were inside the same place you were as the photograph moves like a slow-motion camera.
Other delightful additions include the details of your next appointment coming up on the home screen just a bit before it is due, and the NowPlaying option allows you to know which song is playing around you by just looking at your screen—the built-in shazam-like feature, for some reason, recognised only western music when I tested it. Being able to get the selfie-camera to work after turning the phone around twice is, undoubtedly, an innovation, but it would be easier to tap the camera icon to do the same thing. The squeeze-to-get OK Google is a great innovation, but it’s not clear why this is better than speaking to the phone as you did earlier.
Google Lens, as in the Pixel 1, is a delight —while testing, it was able to give the address of the manufacturer by simply shooting a picture of the medicine carton, it correctly identified the Taj Mahal and even the Hyatt Regency hotel in Mumbai once you shot a picture of them, told you that The Rooster Bar is John Grisham’s 25th legal thriller and Thomas Freidman had won three Pulitzers after shooting a picture of Thank You for Being Late. A great purchase, though the lack of the conventional headphone jack—the phone comes with a converter—is irritating, as was the move, for all Google phones, to switch to C-type charging cables given how few other phones use them.
Estimated street price:
Rs 61,000 (Pixel 2, 64GB),
Rs 70,000 (Pixel 2, 128GB)
Rs 73,000 (Pixel 2 XL, 64GB),
Rs 82,000 (Pixel 2 XL, 128GB)