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Google's Pixel 2 Earns High Marks in Spite of Dull Design

By John P. Mello Jr. TechNewsWorld ECT News Network
Oct 18, 2017 9:31 AM PT
google-pixel-2

As Google's new Pixel 2 smartphones get ready to hit the shelves, reviews of the models have begun mushrooming online.

While the new phones generally have received positive grades, many reviewers found the their design boring.

"The Pixel 2 hardware is ho-hum," observed Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy.

"Google didn't take many risks in its design," he told TechNewsWorld. "The Pixel 2 is the only premium Android smartphone without an edge-to-edge display, two cameras, and support for fast gigabit LTE service."

Appreciation for Function

Google's design philosophy won praise from Dieter Bohn, however, in his review for The Verge.

For example, although the Pixel 2 phones are made with the same aluminum and glass materials found in competing premium mobiles, they don't feel the same, he pointed out. Google deliberately gave the phones' metal body a textured finish that makes them easier to grip.

"Google took what could have been a visually impressive design and covered it up in the name of ergonomics. It literally made a metal phone feel like a plastic one. It chose function over form," Bohn wrote.

"At nearly every turn, with both the hardware and the software, Google made that design decision again and again," he continued. " There have been a few times when I wish the company had risked a little more razzamatazz, but mostly I've been appreciating the focus on improving the basics."

Stunning Photos

The Pixel 2 cameras garnered praise from most reviewers. Unlike other premium phones, the same quality cameras are included in both phone models, the 5-inch Pixel 2 and 6-inch Pixel 2 XL. Each has a 12.2 megapixel camera with f/1.8 aperture on the back and an 8 MP with f/2.4 shooter at the front.

"The photos I took with the device were stunning," wrote Avery Hartmans for Business Insider.

"They're almost impossibly detailed without looking fake or overwrought," she noted. "Their colors are beautiful and true-to-life. And the camera has extra controls that make it feel closer to a DSLR."

What makes the camera really special, though, is it's ability to create photo effects with a single lens that competitors need twin cameras to create.

"It's a testament to what Google has been able to do with computational photography," said Ross Rubin, principal analyst at Reticle Research.

"The results are competitive to what's done with two cameras," he told TechNewsWorld, "and they can do them with both the front and back cameras -- something Apple will only support on the iPhone X."

Software Is Strong Suit

Google's software for the new Pixels also received praise from critics.

"The Pixel 2's strongest feature is its software, which is pure Google and optimized for Google services," Moor Insight's Moorhead said.

Integration with Google services give the Pixel 2 line a leg up on the iPhone and Galaxy lines, maintained Hayley Tsukayama, writing for The Washington Post.

"Not only will the Pixel continue to get the latest updates immediately from Google itself, but it also hooks into Google services in a deep way," she wrote.

"Google Assistant is embedded in the phone and getting smarter with conversational speech," she continued, "and Pixel 2 users get a generous cloud photo storage offer for unlimited photos and videos through 2020."

Conflicted Views

In a market where all high-end smartphones are beginning to blend together, Google services, and their use of artificial intelligence, could be a big differentiator for Pixel 2.

"Consumers already have very robust devices in their pockets and purses, so a little sharper display, a little more processing power, and a little more memory isn't going to get them to upgrade," said Tuong Nguyen, an analyst at Gartner.

However, "when you talk about something like Google services, that's significant," he told TechNewsWorld. "The AI features of the Pixel 2 are the biggest deal about this device."

For some reviewers, the new Pixel phones stirred conflicting feelings.

"The Pixel 2 isn't a luxury device, and its design isn't going to wow anyone," Business Insider's Hartmans wrote.

"But I'm a fan of the Pixel 2," she added. "It's easy and comfortable to use. I could imagine owning the Pixel 2 for years and not wanting or really needing to upgrade."

Great Choice for Android Fans

The Pixel 2s are "a great choice for Android fans that care about camera quality and having an easy-to-use interface above all else," wrote Lisa Eadicicco for Time magazine.

"Yes, nothing about the Pixel 2 sets it apart from Apple and Samsung's phones," she continued. "But while Google's rivals are setting the stage for what's to come by incorporating potentially trendsetting new technologies like facial recognition and iris scanning, Google is quickly catching up."

While acknowledging the larger of the two new Pixel phones' shortcomings, USA Today's Edward C. Baig still recommended upgrading to the model.

"Although it is not perfect, the Pixel 2 XL is a strong upgrade over Google's first foray into producing its own phones," he wrote. "While it lacks some features found on other top phones from Samsung and Apple, photo buffs and Android fans will be very pleased with what Google's done with the Pixel 2."

After calling the first Pixel mobile "the greatest phone on the planet," Wired magazine's David Pierce reined in the praise a bit on this generation of Pixels.

"My whole Pixel experience comes down to this: It has the fewest flaws of any Android phone on the market," he wrote.

"If you want a phone that does the most stuff, you're going to want a Samsung phone, probably the Note 8. It remains the All The Things phone to beat," Pierce continued. "But if you want a phone you don't have to learn to use or fuss with just to make work properly, you want a Pixel 2."


John P. Mello Jr. has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, IT issues, privacy, e-commerce, social media, artificial intelligence, big data and consumer electronics. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including the Boston Business Journal, the Boston Phoenix, Megapixel.Net and Government Security News. Email John.


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