Last Wednesday Google unveiled their flagship mobile phones for 2017, the Google Pixel 2, and the Pixel 2 XL. These handsets are a follow up to last years award winning Pixel phone, and they do not disappoint. Both of the 2017 handsets sport smooth edges, a minimalist design and the all new Google Assistant.
But what really stands aside from the other handset suppliers is the camera.
Last years Pixel phone was praised for it’s amazing camera and most reviews were quick to point this out. This year, Google have taken a step up. Most handset giants are taking the approach that more is better, however, the search giant has taken a minimalist design not only in the aesthetics of the phone but they have also taken a “less is more” philosophy where their camera is concerned. Yes, that’s right people, the Google Pixel 2 AND 2 XL have only one camera lens on the back. This is somewhat against the trend of the other tech giants, mainly Apple. The iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X are said to have dual camera lens setups.
The camera itself is basically the same camera that is found in the original Pixel. (Which is not a bad thing.) It still sports a 12.2 megapixel camera on the back but has an upgraded F/1.8 aperture lens rather than a F/2.0 aperture lens found on it’s predecessor from last year. Google have also announced that the camera is using something called a “dual-pixel sensor” that is supposed to divide every pixel in two. Apparently there are a number of benefits for this new system which Google have relayed to us in their press conference last Wednesday. Simply put, it enable the lens on the camera to autofocus much more quickly, but there is also additional wizardry being produced at the same time.
I mentioned earlier that the sensor now halves every pixel in an image taken with the camera, well there is a reason for this – Portrait mode. The split pixels act like a second lens, letting the camera capture a second image ever-so-slightly offset from the first. This then enables Google to create a depth map of the image and then with that information, is able to differentiate the foreground and the background of a photo and blur out everything other than the main focus. And this is without a second (visible) lens on the back of the phone.
Additonally, the front 8 megapixel camera is also capable of portrait mode, even though it doesn’t include the “dual-pixel sensor” found on the back of the handset.
Google have also added something called Motion Photos. These, just like the iPhones Live Photos, work mostly the same way. You take a photo as normal and the software will record a few seconds before, and, after the camera has taken it’s shot, creating this “motion”. The software is then supposed to delete unwanted footage either side of those few seconds automatically so there’s no messing around. We have yet to see this in action.
One big factor with buying a Pixel 2 handset from Google is the cloud storage. When you purchase a Pixel 2 mobile you will receive unlimited storage for your photos and videos, in original quality, on Google Photos. This is a major plus for users as they will be able to offload storage on their phone and free up space that they might need, all with the added security of the Google infrastructure. If you were to buy an iPhone, you would have to pay additional fees if you wanted anything near what Google are offering using their cloud.
Now, AR – Augmented reality. The Pixel line up is also getting support for AR stickers. You’ll be able to insert 3D characters or objects into the camera scene and see them moving around as you’re capturing the footage. This includes things like standard emojis, but Google are also teaming up with third parties to enable some more premium AR stickers. For instance at the unveiling they showcased AR stickers that were seen on every day TV. One of them being an amalgamation of one of the character from Stranger Things and they are also adding Star Wars stickers in the near future. Ok, we all know AR is a tad gimmicky at present but with more development in consumer products, I think it will live up to what we see it being able to do.
Pixel phones will also be the first to support a new feature from Google which is justifiably named Google Lens – When you activate it, you’ll be able to point the camera at different objects, like books, art, and landmarks, and have Google pull up information on them from the web. The newly announced software will also be able to grab important information like email address’s and WiFi passwords and be automatically able to put that information to use, like connecting to a WiFi spot or inserting a persons email address into the recipient field of an email.
All in all, it’s an exciting time to be a Google customer with some great groundbreaking tech on the horizon – If the Google Pixel 2’s camera alone isn’t worth it, then I don’t know what is. Prices vary quite a bit, with the standard (Totally not standard) Pixel 2 starting at £629, with expanded storage increasing to £729. Choices of colour are black, white and kinda blue. The Pixel 2 XL starts at £799 and then increasing to £899 with the addition of added storage. Colours of choice for the XL are business man black or panda black and white. Anyone who purchases a handset before October 19th will receive a Google Home Mini for free!