Google Pixel 2: everything we think we know

Nice debut... so what's the follow up?

In 2016 the Nexus was out and the Pixel was in: Google rebranded its flagship Android phone line, took more control over the manufacturing process (with a little help from HTC) and added some extra AI intelligence in the form of the fledgling Google Assistant.

We don't know just how many devices Google has shifted, but the reviews have been largely positive, and the move seems to have been a success. Now Google has made a clean break, it's in brand new territory - so what will it do with the Pixel 2 in 2017?

The story so far

The very first Pixel has only been with us since October 2016, but the way Google handled the Nexus range of phones might give us some clues about what the future holds.

From the Nexus One to the Nexus 6P, the flagship stock Android handsets were released in January 2010, December 2010, October 2011, November 2012, October 2013, November 2014 and September 2015, with the Pixel and Pixel XL then appearing in October 2016.

There's obviously a pattern there of an autumn release and it would be a surprise if the Pixels didn't follow that - even more of a surprise considering the likes of Apple, Samsung and Google's other rivals are locked into yearly release cycles at this stage.

The Pixel 2 and Pixel XL 2 are likely to be with us in October 2017 then, and Google may well stick with HTC as its uncredited hardware partner - that is if it still needs a hardware partner this time around.

If Google is relying less on someone else to make the phone, and bringing more of the hardware process in house, it may be able to launch the Pixel 2 even sooner.

How many Pixels will there be?

We've now used to Apple launching a smaller and a larger handset every September, and it makes sense to cater to as wide a group of people as possible, with two different screen sizes and two different starting price points every year.

That was probably Google's thinking last October and there's no real reason why it would deviate from it in 2017. Both Pixels are pretty much identical, except for the screen size, screen resolution and battery capacity - unlike the iPhones, there's no variation in the camera configuration.

Of course Apple has the iPhone SE as a third option - but that kind of nostalgic blast from the past is unlikely to be an option Google's going to take anytime soon.

In fact we don't think there's going to be a third phone of any size, and we'd be very surprised if Google didn't stick to the Pixel 2 and Pixel XL 2 in October. Don't forget Google already has a Pixel C tablet, which may well get an update of its own at some point during 2017, so it has the larger screen covered.

Google Pixel 2: rumours and speculation

It's been quiet on the Pixel 2 rumour front so far - very quiet - so we can only assume Google runs a tight ship as far as smartphone leaks go. News of the original Pixel did trickle out a few months ahead of time, but there wasn't quite the same level of speculation as we're used to for the Apple iPhone.

There is one rumour of note worth mentioning that concerns the last Pixel: that HTC replaced Huawei as Google's hardware partner late in the day, just nine months before the phone was due to be released.

If Google has a longer run up this time around then we can expect a handset that's even more polished and desirable - perhaps we'll get those optional extras like waterproofing and wireless charging that were missing from the 2016 Pixel phones.

No doubt we'll start to hear more about what the Pixel 2 and Pixel XL 2 have in store for us as the year progresses, but don't hold your breath for anything revolutionary - as Google Assistant shows, the biggest innovations may well be on the software side.

Google Pixel 2: what we're expecting

The Snapdragon 835 already looks set to be the go-to mobile CPU of choice during 2017, and it's a good bet that it's going to find its way into Google's Pixel phones too, bringing better performance alongside less drain on the battery.

Elsewhere there are likely to be minor improvements: the 4GB of RAM might get bumped to 6GB, and the smaller phone might get an upgrade to the 2,560 x 1,440 QHD resolution sported by the larger one, though it makes less of a difference on a 5-inch screen.

Much was made of the camera on board the Pixel and Pixel XL last year, and Google will probably want to focus on this again in 2017 - there might even be room for a dual-lens approach, to follow Apple's lead, and perhaps optical image stabilisation too.

Don't forget the virtual reality angle either. There might not be a new Daydream View headset in 2017, but the new Pixels will definitely be built to be compatible with it, and any spec bumps will be made with VR in mind.