So many smartphone manufacturers have already fired their shots this year, with new upgraded models or all-new devices altogether. But now it is the turn of major internet giant Google to show its hand. Theirs is also an upgrade, the successor units to the first Pixel and its XL variant, released almost a year ago. Still, This Wednesday on the first-year anniversary of its predecessors’ introduction, the new Pixel 2 smartphone and its larger brother the 2XL phone-tablet were officially unveiled by Google. The HTC-built Pixel 2 (and LG-made 2XL) looks to be everything that is expected in a leveling-up of the original Pixel.

Establishing a Google ‘phone identity’

In a brilliant move to make their products look uniquely distinctive apart from the Apple iPhone series and Samsung Galaxies, Google had its contracted manufacturer, Taiwanese smartphone maker HTC, establish a signature design aesthetic for the Pixel 2 and 2XL, taking from their previous model and building on it further. The design scheme is a two-tone coloring of the back casing, with the default colors being piano-white and black as if to honor is operating system, the Android 8.0 Oreo. The new devices retain the first Pixel’s 12-megapixel rear camera but with added video stabilization features.

Now, the fact that the new Pixel 2 has not followed the footsteps of Apple and Samsung in implementing two lenses, but Google is moving on an alternate path that still leads to similar results.

For instance, the twin-lens rear cams of Apple and Samsung’s latest phones make for an impressive bokeh effect to make portraits where a subject stands out clear while the background gets blurred. The Pixel 2 and 2XL can do the same with its one lens, but while the effect of the other brands is made possible by the hardware, Google has achieved it with better software learning and AI capabilities.

Old and new combined

Spec-wise, the Google Pixel 2/XL has 4GB RAM, 64GB storage upgradeable to 128GB, 8mp front cam, 12mp rear cam, USB-C, Bluetooth 5.0 and Android Oreo. There is about a one-inch screen height difference between the basic 2 and the 2XL phone-tablet, with 2700mAh and 3520mAh batteries respectively. Interestingly, they retain last year’s Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor while other phone brands have traded up.

While the Pixel 2 has no wireless charging, it does feature the “Active Edge” function that activates features by squeezing the phone. This was a singular tech feature by HTC, and Google was impressed enough by their corporate collaborator that they have acquired some of its smartphone dev-team to form an embryonic Google hardware division of their own.

The basic Google Pixel 2 is priced at $649, and the 2XL phone-tablet starts at $849, with memory extension adding $100. Both will start releasing on October 19.