We’re constantly on the search for the “perfect” smartphone, but it’s still impossible — and will likely remain as such — to even get close in that endeavor. Google’s Pixel smartphones came as close as any smartphone before, in my eyes at least, but they were still very flawed phones with tons of room for improvement.
What made the Pixel so great? As we detailed in our review, it really came done to the software and performance. Google created a phone that offered performance and reliability on Android like we had never seen before. Combine that with a clean Android interface, useful features like “Moves” and Google Assistant, and top it all off with one of the best cameras ever on a smartphone, and it becomes clear that you’ve got an amazing smartphone….
However, the Pixel still has so much room to be improved. The design is boring, the hardware is good (but nothing special, really), and it seems like as time goes by, we’re hearing of more and more hardware issues.
Now, we’re already talking Google’s Pixel 2 smartphone, which likely set to debut later on this year. So, what’s new? Well, as we reported last month, we’re hearing that the Pixel 2 will see a spec bump, further improvements in the camera department, and water resistance, among other things. However, there’s still a lot Google can do to improve this device. So, let’s take a look at what I’d really like to see in Google’s second-generation Pixel.
A more inspired, practical design
As I said, Google’s design on the Pixel is just straight up boring. It looks like the iPhone 6 with a really weird glass panel on the back. Now, that’s not to say the hardware itself is bad, the Pixel actually has a very solid and durable build which is very comfortable to hold. The external design just looks like a generic smartphone you’d see in a bad movie.
And that’s without even mentioning the front of the phone. Not only does it look boring, but there’s tons of wasted space. The bezels along the sides are decently thin, but the top and bottom ─ especially the bottom ─ are just unnecessarily huge.
So, how could Google improve that design in the second generation Pixel? The possibilities are limitless. Google could adopt new materials or even experiment with new colors. As we’ve noted, the current Pixel looks pretty dang good when you apply a colored skin to it, and that “Really Blue” option is certainly a stunner.
It doesn’t really matter what Google does design-wise on the next Pixel, as there are countless ways to improve it. Right now, most smartphones adopt more or less the same design, a “glass sandwich” or an all-metal design. They work, and sometimes, they can stand out. However, I’d love to see Google take a step back, and put practical features first.
Look back to the Nexus 6. It was a pretty good-looking design, with a solid build quality overall, but that design, aside from the size, was very practical. It had a curved back that gave better grip (although you could argue it was impractical since it rocked when set down on a table), and since it wasn’t metal, it still allowed for wireless charging. Plus, the phone was more durable.
Better attention to audio
I’m by no means a true audiophile, but I absolutely love listening to music whether it’s through a good pair of headphones or a solid set of speakers. In Google’s previous Nexus 6P, I was in heaven with the dual front-facing stereo speakers. And then that was ripped away from me with the utterly horrible speaker in the Google Pixel XL.
Not only does this speaker suffer from hardware issues, but it just doesn’t sound good at all. To me, the audio situation in the original Pixel feels like an afterthought. It feels like Google was 2/3 of the way through developing the phone and someone reminded them, “um, this needs a speaker.”
So, what could Google do to improve the audio experience on the Pixel? First, toss on an improved set of speakers. Even if Google doesn’t opt for true stereo speakers, at the least give us a bottom facing speaker backed up by one in the earpiece, like on the HTC 10 and Mate 9. If they’re going to keep the huge bezels, give us some pair of stereo speakers.
Further, why not toss an enhanced audio DAC in there? We’ve seen both HTC and LG do this, and while not something everyone will use, it certainly helps to enhance the experience. Alas, we’ll likely not see this one. At the very least, let’s just keep the headphone jack around…
A different camera layout
We’ve heard that Google wants to further improve the camera in the Pixel, but given what the current Pixel is capable of, it’s unclear how the company plans to do that. Perhaps we’ll see the addition of OIS, backing up Google’s ridiculously good electronic stabilization. However, what I think Google will focus on is refining the experience.
The only place the company really needs to improve is with that lens flare issue. We still don’t know exactly what caused that issue for many Pixel users, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it’s due to the camera’s placement. By hiding that camera under a larger piece of glass, perhaps the camera suffered. As much as we hate camera bumps, it might be the solution to fixing that flaw.
Carrier sales across the board
Easily the biggest flaw with the Pixel was availability. Selling unlocked via the Google Store is great, but locking the carrier deal down to only Verizon undoubtedly hurt the Pixel’s potential. Clearly, Google’s partnership with Verizon worked out when it came to getting word about the Pixel out there, but the “Only on Verizon” tag deterred a lot of customers. One can only hope that with the brand established in the market, Google will wise up and put the Pixel on other carriers, like T-Mobile and AT&T.
Further, it’d be fantastic if Google could start selling unlocked Pixels in brick and mortar stores, like Best Buy, or more online outlets, like Amazon. The Pixel has already been to Best Buy, but only the Verizon variant. And as we’ve seen, sellers on Amazon can be pretty greedy since Google never officially opened sales there.
Google needs to actually ship phones
It’s been four months since the Pixel was first released. For those of us who ordered day one, shipments weren’t too much of an issue. There were delays for many, but everyone got their phones at the end of the day. However, the Pixel, especially the XL, hasn’t seen steady supply since then. Variants go in and out of stock constantly, making ordering the phone a game of pure chance. At the time I’m writing this piece, the Pixel XL is actually in stock, at least the 32GB model, but by the time this post goes up, it could very well be out of stock again. That’s just ridiculous.
Further, this isn’t the first time Google has had trouble keeping up with demand. The Nexus 4 and 5 both went out of stock nearly instantly, then disappeared for months. The Nexus 6P faced similar issues as well. Google says that the stock issues were due to “unexpected demand,” so one can only hope that given the response the current Pixel has received, Google will learn its lesson and get these phones out the door to eager buyers.
What do you want?
So, there you have it. That’s what I want from a new Pixel. What about you? Is there a certain feature or change you’d like to see in the Pixel 2? Drop a comment below and let’s talk about it!