Last year's Pixel wasn't the world-beating Google phone we hoped it would be. It's a fine handset, especially with stock Android Nougat in the mix, but it sadly feels like a retread.
With its iPhone-esque design and lack of flagship features like a Quad HD screen or water resistance, the Pixel was merely good in a time of brilliant smartphones. But that could all change with the Pixel 2.
Or at least with the Pixel 2 XL. Actually, right now it's all rumours and reports – but they paint a compelling story of Google going for a flashy new design with the Pixel 2 XL, and maybe sticking with what worked OK last time with the standard Pixel 2.
We'll have to wait and see for sure, but if you're curious what the speculation suggests, here's a look at what we've seen and heard about from the Google Pixel 2.
WHEN WILL THE PIXEL 2 BE OUT?
Every flagship smartphone maker carves out a window for its big, annual announcement, and early winter is no exception. Samsung's Galaxy Note is usually in August, Apple's iPhone is in September, and Google's new Pixel (original shown) should come in October.
That would follow the pattern from last year, plus the Nexus 6P and 5X were debuted at the end of September the year prior. Earlier this year, Google hardware head Rick Osterloh told Android Pit, "There is an annual rhythm in this industry. So you can count on us to follow it." In other words, expect the Pixel 2 this early winter.
Hard to argue with this one: the current Pixel will have lost even more thunder by the time this early winter rolls around, and Osterloh is right: people expect a new version after a year.
We could see slight variance here, but there's no reason for Google to try and move up earlier and get muddled by the hype around the iPhone 8.
HOW MUCH WILL THE PIXEL 2 COST?
At ₹57,000 for the base model (and ₹67,000 for the base XL), we thought the Pixel was maybe a bit too pricey for the kind of specs and features it packed in. But you probably won't see a price drop for the sequel.
In that same interview, Osterloh said that "Pixel stays premium," and that there won't be a cheaper, lower-end version available for the next Pixel. Meanwhile, back in January, a source told 9to5Google to expect the Pixel 2 to be "at least" US$50 more expensive than the original US$649 standard model.
We'd like to see Google give us a more premium-feeling phone for the same cost as last year, but we won't be surprised to see some kind of price bump this time around.
Samsung keeps pushing the top-level price barrier with its handsets, and Apple's iPhone 8 is rumoured to cost a pretty penny, so don't be shocked if Google follows suit as well.
WHAT WILL THE PIXEL 2 LOOK LIKE?
Last year's Pixel had a distinctive edge, thanks to that glass cutout on the back, but otherwise looked a bit too much like a dull iPhone knockoff. This time around, however, we might get a phone that's closer in trend to Android's current flagships.
Did you see that video above? It's a leaked render from Onleaks and MySmartPrice, who claim that it's from a trusted source and should represent the near-final design of the Pixel XL 2.
As you can see, it seems to find the middle ground between the Samsung Galaxy S8 and the LG G6, with a flat, extra-tall, 18:9 display and very minimal bezel. It's reportedly a 6in AMOLED display – falling right between the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus in size – and will surely be a Quad HD screen again for the XL 2.
We still get a glass cutout on the back, but it's shorter and the fingerprint sensor has been moved below it. It should still be within comfortable reach despite the taller phone design. The camera module seems to stick out slightly from the main body, which suggests Google has given up on the wedge-shaped chassis it went with for the original Pixel. It potentially points to even better camera hardware than last year's phone, but all signs point to a single snapper instead of dual-camera shenanigan.
If that's really the Pixel XL 2, then we're into it – it's like a slick hybrid of the two most appealing-looking Android phones right now, and dramatically better-looking than the current Pixel options. It doesn't seem far-fetched really, and if Google's Pixel design aesthetic is following trends, well… these are pretty good themes to mimic.
We're more bummed about the lack of change on the smaller Pixel - it seems to be sticking closer to last year's look (with a few minor differences). That could mean the XL is the phone to buy.
WHAT ABOUT THE REGULAR PIXEL 2?
Here's where we might be set up for some disappointment. Rather than just make the Pixel 2 XL a larger version of the basic model, Google seems to be going for a split design this year, leaving the regular Pixel with standard screen bezels instead of super-thin ones.
Really? Yes, really. In June, XDA Developers issued a report claiming that the Pixel 2 will be "almost identical" to the previous model, with another 5in, 1080p display. However, it may lack the headphone jack this time around, following Apple's iPhone 7 lead. That seems to match the latest set of leaked prototype images doing the rounds online.
The lack of skinny bezels is disappointing, but that will at least leave room for stereo speakers above and below the screen, and space at the sides for HTC's touch-sensitive Edge Sense abilities - only here they will apparently be called "Active Edge" and open the Google Assistant when you squeeze it.
We wanted to call this one fiction, if only because it seems massively silly to continue on with last year's slightly underwhelming approach. And that's doubly true if the larger model is going to be this big, beautiful beast – leaving quite an ugly duckling here by comparison.
Maybe we'll see something that splits the difference: a smaller size and lesser specs, but with more of the modern flourish of the supposed Pixel 2 XL. That's our hope, at least, because an identical Pixel with slightly better specs doesn't sound all that appealing to us. Based on the latest leaks, though, that seems to be what we're getting.
HOW MUCH POWER WILL THE PIXEL 2 PACK?
No matter which size Pixel 2 you pick, it sounds like Google is going for top-of-the-line specs in both.
We were originally expecting to a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 within – the same used in the OnePlus 5 and some regional versions of the Galaxy S8. However, new leaks suggest Qualcomm's latest and greatest Snapdragon 836 will be used instead. According to Fudzilla, this new CPU will be about 10 per cent faster than the 835, while finding some battery improvements too.
Whatever chip makes the cut, it will be flanked by 4GB in the Pixel and the XL. Android Police's big leak had those details mentioned for the Pixel 2 XL, while the XDA Developers leak just before then mentioned the same specs for both models. Even if they end up varying in design and screen specs, at least you should get the same power from both.
Sounds spot-on. Last year's Pixel used the latest Qualcomm flagship chip at the time, the Snapdragon 821, and it's likely that this year's Pixel 2 will bump up to the next step. Whether Google will have secured the first run of Snapdragon 836 CPUS, though? That's more of an unknown.
Even with an 835 inside, though, it will make the Pixel 2 one of the most powerful smartphones on the market, and surely super-speedy with stock Android O inside. It's certain to be an appealing combination.
IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE I SHOULD KNOW ABOUT THE PIXEL 2?
A couple of things. According to the Android Police report, the Pixel 2 XL is being manufactured by LG this time around. Of course, HTC manufactured the original Pixel and Pixel XL for Google. As the standard Pixel 2 is reportedly keeping the same design as the first 5in model, it makes sense that HTC has held onto the smaller version.
Another report from XDA claims independent verification that the Pixel 2 XL will have the squeezable sides, which will be used to awaken Google Assistant whether the phone screen is on or off.
Honestly, we have no idea. LG has produced Nexus phones for Google before, so it's not a stretch to believe that they could handle the Pixel 2 XL – especially since it has more than a whiff of the LG G6 about it.
But the whole squeezable sides bit throws that detail for a loop, since that's currently a distinctive HTC design element. We'll just have to wait and see on this one. Hopefully, the rumour mill churns out some more compelling proof before winter rolls around.