Somewhere inside a deep, dark lab in Mountain View, a fully assembled Pixel 2 is being put through its paces. With a launch likely less than five months away, Google has all but wrapped up development of its next flagship phone, and very little about it is going to change between now and when it lands this fall.
But unlike last year, when the Pixel was a pleasant and somewhat unexpected surprise, there’s a whole mountain of expectations on this year’s model. The original Pixel was sort of given a pass on some of the premium features we normally expect from a $700 phone, mainly because the overall experience was so good. But as 2017 phones like the LG G6 and Galaxy S8 pack on the features and make the Pixel seem more and more outdated, there are some things this year’s model absolutely needs to do to keep pace.
We already know that the Pixel will have the smoothest version of Android O, but it’s going to need a little more than that if it wants to take the best phone crown away from Samsung.
What makes Pixel so good?
The greatness of the Pixel can be summed up in one word: friction. “Friction” is everything that gets between you and having a good experience doing what you want to do. The Pixel is the lowest-friction of all Android phones.
Waiting for Android OS updates is high-friction. With Pixel you get them immediately (and it was first with Android N, and first to support Daydream).
Dealing with photo and video backups and running out of storage space is high-friction. Pixel gives you unlimited full-resolution cloud backups of all the photos and videos you take with it.
Getting a great photo can be a high-friction activity. The Pixel has a dead-simple camera (maybe too simple) that is super fast and delivers a killer shot every time.
Slowdowns, jittery frame-skipping, unresponsive touchscreens…other Android phones are littered with minor performance annoyances that make using the phone “feel” worse than it should, even with top-end hardware. The Pixel’s performance may not lead all benchmark charts, but its instant response and consistent smoothness remain unmatched by any other Android phone.
Apple or Motorola taking away our headphone jacks? That’s the very definition of a high-friction move. While we would prefer the headphone jack to be on the bottom, the Pixel kept it right at the height of headphone-removal hysteria.