What do we want from the Google Pixel 2?

A new, delicious version of Android is upon us, so now we're looking to the next big Google announcement: new phone hardware.

Up until recently, we thought this year's crop was to be a fairly predictable update to last year's — two devices built by HTC with improved specs and a newer version of Android. But things change.

Here's what we do know: two phones, with an unveiling on October 4, 2017 in San Francisco. The rest? Read on for more.

Google Pixel (2017) - HTC 'walleye'

The first rumors around next-gen Pixels suggested that HTC would once again be the manufacturer of two Pixel 2 models in 2017, and that perhaps the company had signed a multi-year contract with Google for the privilege.

Previous Nexus and Pixel devices have been named after various kinds of aquatic life, and so when references to devices named "walleye" and "muskie", appeared, they fitted the bill. Both "walleye" and "muskie" were expected to be HTC-built devices, with updated designs similar to that of the original Pixels.

Specs, according to rumors, would unsurprisingly include Qualcomm's very latest processor — likely a Snapdragon 835. Recently those rumors have been corroborated by a report on XDA suggesting the smaller 2017 Pixel would feature 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. The screen size would purportedly stay around 5 inches, with a 1080p display resolution.

In June 2017 the news broke that "muskie," the larger of the two HTC phones, had been canceled by Google in favor of a new Pixel — this time produced by LG.

In August 2017, the leaks really began: we saw the above "live" photo of the Pixel 2, which greatly resembles the original smaller 5-inch Pixel with a few small alterations, including a much larger camera module and less glass on the top of the phone.

In the same leak, we learned that the smaller Pixel will do away with the 3.5mm headphone jack of the original and instead opt for dual front-facing stereo speakers, a compromise that we're sure won't be to everyone's taste.

In another leak, we saw the front and back of the Pixel 2 in slightly more detail, festooned as they were in barcodes and stickers, all the while confirming the familiar design language.

And in the most definitive of non-photo leaks we've received so far, the Pixel 2 passed through the U.S. telecom regulator, the FCC, telling us a few new things about it, including a confirmation that it's being manufactured by HTC. First, the phone is definitely going to be running the Snapdragon 835, and it will include HTC's Edge Sense "squeeze-the-sides" technology, though for what purpose remains to be seen.

Google Pixel XL (2017) - LG 'taimen'

In March, it emerged that a third potential Pixel device was being produced, codenamed "taimen", likely bigger than both "walleye" and "muskie". Now we know that "muskie" is no more, leaving us with just one big-screened Pixel -- "taimen."

Leaked specs for the device from benchmarking sites include a Snapdragon 835 processor and 4GB of RAM, like the HTC Pixel 2.

Multiple reports later confirmed that LG would be the manufacturer of the new, larger phone.

Pixel XL Taimen

In July, we got our first look at the 2017 Google Pixel XL in all its glory, thanks to the render above, produced in-house by Android Police based on information seen by them. As well as revealing many key design features, like a curved glass front (though with a flat OLED screen, apparently), the render shows just one rear camera, and the return of the fingerprint scanner around the back. It bears more than a passing resemblance to LG's own V30 handset.

According to AP's report, "taimen" would have a 6-inch, 18:9 aspect ratio display, along with a feature akin to HTC's Edge Sense, where users can squeeze the bezel to make certain things happen. (Google Assistant was suggested as one likely contender for squeeze-activated functionality.) It's unclear whether the 18:9 display or the squeeze functionality will make it over to the smaller HTC-made Pixel.

Google, LG Electronics and LG Display

Earlier this year, it was revealed that Google wants to spend nearly a billion dollars with LG Display to secure OLED panels for its upcoming Pixel phones.

LG Display is a separate company from LG Electronics, which creates phones, but the two are connected (LGE is the largest shareholder in LG Display), and it stands to reason that Google would give the latter a manufacturing contract to ensure the success of the former.

OLED displays are the future of screens, and Google wants a piece of the market.

OLED displays are the future of mobile optics, and LG is ramping up production for its own devices and to compete with Samsung Display, which largely has the market cornered. The first Pixel phones were affected by enormous and frustrating manufacturing delays, and though Google never specifically pointed to a shortage in OLED displays, experts believe that may have been a factor. With its sequels, Google wants to ensure it has a reliable supply of panels, and giving LG the rights to manufacture one of its Pixels goes a long way to making sure that happens.

The move makes sense, since LG is ramping up production of phone-based OLED displays for its own LG V30. It's also worth noting that Google and LG have a long history of partnerships on Nexus, Android Wear and Google Play edition devices. LG has historically been keen to team up with its major partner in the mobile space.

Design and hardware features

Much of what we know about the upcoming Pixels' design comes from a recent leak showcasing both devices. Google (and LG) is clearly moving towards the "bezel-less" ideal of smartphones in 2017, even if the new phone isn't quite as borderless as Samsung's "Infinity Display."

Nevertheless, that larger screen should address the main design criticism of the original Pixels: their large bezels, which look even sillier now that the Galaxy S8 and LG G6 are on the market. What could put off buyers is the fact that the Pixels may not offer a 3.5mm jack.

It looks like the Pixel 2 and Pixel XL 2 will share a similar design aesthetic.

A more recent XDA report suggests that both Pixel 2 and Pixel XL 2 will have a few more hardware goodies to look forward to, including an HTC U11-like "squeezable" frame that would launch Google Assistant whether the screen is on or off. An all-new ambient display could make the Pixel series a bit more like Moto Display, allowing users to interact with what they see of their notifications without turning the screen on — a direct benefit of having an OLED panel. And that OLED panel could allow Google to offer a true sRGB color option in its display settings, something that has until now been relegated to the little-visited (for most people) Developer Options.

Whether the new Pixels will be waterproof remains to be seen, but it would not be too off-base to assume that waterproofing would be on the table this year, given that both the HTC U11 and LG G6 are at least nominally water-resistant. Water resistance is an expectation at the high-end this year.

Google Pixel 2 Specs

We've already dropped a few hints around specs, based on numerous reports, earlier in this piece. But for the sake of completeness, here are the details we have so far in a handy spec table:

Category Pixel 2 Pixel XL 2
Manufacturer HTC LG
Operating System Android 8.1 Android 8.1
Processor Snapdragon 835 Snapdragon 835
RAM 4GB 4GB
Storage 64GB 64GB + 128GB
Display 5-inch 1080p (16:9) 6-inch Quad HD (18:9)
Camera Single rear shooter, single front-facer, EIS Single rear shooter, single front-facer, EIS
Other features Rear fingerprint scanner Rear fingerprint scanner
Water resistance IP68 IP68

In early September, we learned that unlike earlier rumors, Qualcomm has no plans to launch a Snapdragon 836 processor to replace the Snapdragon 835 this year like it did with the Snapdragon 821 in 2016.

We also learned in a recent leak that Google will once again forgo optical image stabilization in favor of electronic stabilization, which fared so well in the previous Pixel devices. That same leak also confirmed that the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL will both be IP68 water resistant.

Software

Similar to last year, the Pixel 2 series may launch with Android 8.1, a version that may remain exclusive to the phones for a couple of months. The final release of Android 8.0 is expected on August 21, so it'd make sense for the first maintenance release, version 8.1, to ship with the new Pixels.

That strategy allowed Google to roll out some great new features for all phones running Android 7.0 Nougat while keeping some exclusive features for the Pixels, which ran Android 7.1 when they launched a few months later. At the same time, Google's excellent Pixel Launcher remains unique to the lineup, as does Project Fi support, which should fall over to the phones, too.

We don't know anything specific about what we'll see on Android 8.1 right now, but we're keeping our ear to the ground and will update this as we know more.

More: What you need to know about Android 8.0

Pricing and availability

When will the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 be announced? That's easy — the event is scheduled for October 4 in San Francisco, with satellite events in Toronto and London. What we don't know is whether the phones will maintain a $649 / $749 price point for the smaller and larger phones, respectively. (It's possible that, due to the greater differences between the 2017 Pixel and Pixel XL, the price delta may also be broader. But we'll have to wait and see.)

We're hoping that Google ups the default storage to 64GB and that all of our spec wishes come true, but we only have a few more months to wait before we find it all out.

Google may buy HTC

The last wrinkle in the Pixel 2 story doesn't directly involve the phone itself but a new rumor that HTC is set to be acquired by Google. HTC, despite building one of the best phones of 2017 in the U11, hasn't had a great year in terms of financial results, and has reportedly been looking for a buyer to take over its manufacturing business. Google makes sense as a potential acquirer mainly because the companies are aligned in terms of hardware design, they have an existing relationship through the Pixel contract, and Google has been moving further into hardware over the past few years.

Of course, with the history of Motorola's botched acquisition in mind, things may not be as they appear.

Update, September 17: This article was last updated with the latest information on all the Pixel 2 and Pixel XL 2 leaks.