Two new Pixel phones and a competitor to Amazon’s Echo Dot are among the products expected to be unveiled today at an event held by Google.
The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL phones will be iterations of the first Pixel phones released a year ago, according to leaks, while the Google Home Mini smart speaker is expected to be similar to Amazon’s shrunk-down Echo Dot smart speaker, squeezing the voice-control features into a smaller package but requiring a separate speaker for high-quality music playback.
It appears the phones are part of the company doubling down its efforts to compete directly with Apple in smartphone hardware. Additionally, they will continue to provide Google the opportunity to demonstrate the extent of its software prowess when freed from the requirement to work closely with other Android device manufacturers.
Of the two devices to be released, the smaller will be made by smartphone manufacturer HTC, a chunk of which Google recently acquired. That phone, the Pixel 2, features a design reminiscent of the iPhone 8 crossed with its predecessor: on the front of the phone there are sizeable bezels at the top and bottom, and there is a single camera sticking out of the back. It’s expected to cost from around £600.
The Pixel 2 XL, however, is expected to be much more than a larger version of the same device. Made by LG, and featuring an almost bezel-free screen on the front, the 2 XL looks to be pitched more directly against Apple’s top-tier iPhone X – but with a price expected to be almost £200 less, starting around £800.
The Pixel 2 XL won’t just take its lead from the iPhone X on screen size, however. Like Apple’s device, it is expected to arrive significantly later than its smaller sibling. Pre-orders for the normal Pixel could be open as soon as this week, with the XL following up to a month later.
A delay could enable Google to build up a large supply, ameliorating some of the problems it faced with the first-generation Pixel phones, which were heavily back-ordered for almost their entire lifespan.
Both Pixel 2 smartphones are expected to have Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 processor, 4GB of memory and either 64 or 128GB of storage. They are also expected to have pressure-sensitive sides similar to that introduced by HTC, with its U11.
Both phones are expected to follow the prevailing trend in smartphone design and drop a separate headphone socket, just a year after Google used the first Pixel (which did have room for headphones) to mock Apple for taking the lead. The company will also follow competitors including Samsung, Sony and Apple in making the new Pixels waterproof.
On the software side, the amount of leaked information is slimmer, but early reports have shown an entirely redesigned launcher, focusing on a smart content area near the top of the screen and moving the ever-present Google bar to the bottom of the phone. Others have noted that the Pixel 2 may have a new “portrait mode”, similar to that launched with the iPhone 7 Plus, but capable of producing high depth-of-field images with just a single camera using advanced algorithmic editing.
The Google Home Mini has also been leaked, looking like a small, fabric-covered pebble and with a mooted price of $49 (likely to be around £40). Also discussed, but unlikely to be actually released any time soon, is the prospect of a Google Home Max – a high-quality smart speaker to compete with audio-focused rivals such as Apple’s HomePod.
Elsewhere, Google-watchers expect an update to the company’s high-end online-only laptop, the Chromebook Pixel (including a rebrand to “Pixelbook”), a new Daydream VR headset and a focus on some fancy new USB-C and Bluetooth headphones to make up for the lack of headphone socket on the Pixels.