Released in November 2017, the Google Pixel 2 delivers top-notch performance, battery life and photo quality. More than any feature or specification, it’s the Pixel 2’s software that makes it stand out from the rest of the smartphones. Its stock version of Android 8.0 Oreo feels clean and much more streamlined than other versions of the OS. Also, the AI enhancement makes the Pixel 2’s camera one of the best, and the Google Assistant is delightfully useful.
Admittedly, the Pixel 2 looks a bit dated. In a generation of edge-to-edge displays and ever-smaller bezels, it looks like smartphones did a few years ago: a little boxy and less sleek than something like the Samsung Galaxy S9 or even the larger Google Pixel 2 XL.
Looking past its distinctly not-futuristic design, the Pixel 2 makes some improvements over its first generation. For example, the back now has more metal than glass, so there are fewer smudges to deal with. It is also IP67 rated against dust and water immersion, so it can survive being submerged in up to 1 meter of water for an hour.
However, this increased resistance to the elements comes at the cost of a headphone jack. It’s not a bold move, since most smartphones are going jack-less, but it’s a bit annoying that Google doesn’t provide USB-C compatible headphones with your Pixel 2 purchase. It does come with a USB-C to 3.5mm converter, though.
Both the Pixel 2 and the larger Pixel 2 XL feature a single rear 12MP camera. It’s one of the best cameras on any smartphone, excellent for portraits and snapping photos in dim lighting. The camera uses AI to create a portrait mode, where images have blurred backgrounds to make the subject pop. You can use this mode on both the front- and rear-facing cameras. It can also apply blur retroactively and lets you access both versions of the photo. In addition, the camera gives you access to Google Lens, which provides information about things like buildings, books and paintings when you point your camera at them.
Google Assistant makes the experience of using this phone so much better. You activate the Assistant by squeezing the sides of the phone, a feature we found incredibly useful – way more so than the Bixby button on the Samsung Galaxy S9+.
The Pixel 2 also has the distinct advantage of being made by the same company in charge of the OS, so it gets updates first. It also has the stock version of Android, free from bloatware other manufacturers tend to load their phones with, something Samsung is notorious for. This makes the interface clean and functional.
There are also some low-key features like the always-on display, which shows you the time. In addition, the phone can identify music playing around you.
Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 processor and 4GB of RAM power the Pixel 2. It wasn’t the top performer in our benchmark tests, but in our real-world use testing, the smartphone never felt slow or failed to handle anything we threw at it.
It is available with either 64GB or 128GB of storage. There isn’t an SD slot to expand storage, which is a bummer, but it comes with free unlimited cloud storage for photos and videos.
The Pixel 2 also contains a 2700 mAh battery, which lasted for an impressive 11 hours and seven minutes of LTE web surfing in tests performed by Tom’s Guide, our sister site. The phone supports rapid charging with its included charger, which can add seven hours of battery life in just 15 minutes.
You can purchase the Google Pixel 2 from Verizon or unlocked from Google, and you can use it with all major carriers. It’s available in Just Black, Clearly White and Kinda Blue.
The Pixel 2 holds its own in the fierce competition between smartphone manufacturers striving to make the best and brightest devices possible. Its smart camera, clean Android experience and Google Assistant integration make it stand out among other flagships.