Google’s first Pixel phones are barely 3 months old, but already we’re starting to hear the first rumors of what the next generation of Pixels will bring. Reports from 9to5 point to (entirely unsurprising) improvements to the camera and CPU, along with a slight price bump and possible water resistance.
That’s all well and good, but those are things I could’ve taken a guess at at any point after the Pixel’s release. Obvious feature omissions (water resistance) will be addressed. The usual parts will get a yearly refresh. And further progress will be made in the areas where the current Pixels excel, like camera performance.
Here’s the more interesting question: What’s coming in these next-gen Pixels to bring the fight to phones like the Samsung Galaxy S8 and iPhone 8? And what’ll be Google’s take on the major smartphone trends of 2017, like AI, minimal bezels, and the looming possibility of 4K displays?
The current Pixels are at odds with the coming wave of handsets, like the Galaxy S8 and LG G6, with the tiniest sliver of a border around the display. The iPhone is said to be going that same way — one of many rumored upgrades for that phone’s tenth anniversary. Google had a relatively easy time against a relatively boring iPhone upgrade cycle in 2016, but the iPhone 8 is going to be another matter altogether.
The obvious path for Google to take is the one now being worn by Samsung and LG — keep the phone roughly the same size, bump up the display dimensions significantly, and in the process switch to a weird new (taller) aspect ratio. (The other, less likely option, is to lop the top and bottom bezels off and have less space for things like the battery and camera.)
Google’s gotta do something with an extra-tall phone, right?
So then the question becomes: What will Google do with an extra-tall Android phone? The company has often used its own handsets to show what’s next for the ecosystem as a whole — features like NFC and USB Type-C made their debut in Nexus devices. So there’s a possibility that Google may choose to do something extra with a new, taller aspect ratio and code it in at the OS level so other manufacturers can build upon it. We’ve already seen some possibilities in LG V20’s “second screen”, although none of these approached killer app status. Equally, a taller screen might simply serve to make multi-window more palatable on a phone-sized device. Things can become a little claustrophobic, even on the 5.5-inch Pixel XL.
With a new (and sure to be heavily hyped) iPhone on the way, a new, hungrier Samsung fielding a Note 8 in the third quarter, and leaner upstarts like OnePlus becoming stronger, it’ll be fascinating to see how Google reacts.
Will it run into a sophomore slump? Or will the second-gen Pixels retain the crown? Stick with us in the coming months to find out!