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Pixel 2 vs original Pixel: Should I upgrade my Google phone?

Google has just released the sequel to its first Pixel phone, unsurprisingly dubbed the Pixel 2. So what’s changed for the Pixel 2 and is it worth an upgrade? Here’s our full comparison of Google’s mobiles, for specs, camera tech and other essential features.

The Pixel phone was one of the best smartphones launched in 2016, offering premium specs and a snazzy design, plus a fancy-free vanilla version of Google’s Android Nougat OS. Of course, this flagship handset didn’t come cheap; even now, a full year after launch, the Google Pixel costs around £599 SIM-free. You can add an extra £100 onto that asking price if you want a decent storage option, too.

We’re expecting that price to drop in the immediate future however, as the Pixel 2 has just hit the UK. Offering updated specs, new camera tech and Android Oreo as standard, the new Google phone is certainly a solid handset. Although once again, you’ll need to empty your wallet to bag yourself this premium device.

Perhaps you’re struggling to decide whether to grab the older mobile or the shiny new Pixel 2. Or maybe you’re considering an upgrade to the Pixel 2 from the first phone, and want to know if splashing your cash is really worth it. Either way, read on for our in-depth comparison between Google’s flagship devices. And check out our long-term Google Pixel review to see our thoughts on the original handset twelve months later.

More Pixel comparisons:

Pixel 2 vs Pixel XL 2

Pixel 2 vs OnePlus 5

Pixel XL 2 vs iPhone 8 Plus

Google Pixel 2 (2017) vs Pixel (2016): Specs

Phone Google Pixel Google Pixel 2
Screen size 5-inches 5-inches
Screen resolution 1920×1080 1920×1080
Fingerprint sensor? Yes Yes
Water resistant? No Yes
OS Android Oreo 8.0 Android Oreo 8.0
Processor Snapdragon 821 Snapdragon 835
Memory 4GB 4GB
Storage 32/128GB 64/128GB
Battery 2770mAh 2700mAh
Rear camera 12.3MP 12.2MP
Front camera 8MP 8MP

Google Pixel 2 (2017) vs Pixel (2016): Design

Not much has changed when it comes to the look and feel of the new Pixel handset. Like last year’s device, the Pixel 2 sports a metal frame with a part-matte, part-glass finish on the rear. It’s certainly a unique design, which means Google’s phones are easy to distinguish from rival blowers.

Both blowers sport a reasonably compact 5-inch display, which means they’re quite easy to operate with a single hand. Of course, there’s no sexy edge-to-edge screen or super-slender bezels on the standard models. If you want that kind of funky design you’ll need to upgrade to the Pixel 2 XL, or check out competitors such as the Galaxy S8.

Read next: Pixel 2 vs Galaxy S8, which is best for me?

However, one big difference is the general ruggedness of these handsets. The first Pixel phone is tough enough to survive a lot of punishment, but water is its weakness; you only get basic splash proofing. Thankfully that’s something rectified by Google in the Pixel 2, which enjoys full IP67 water and dust resistance. Now you can dunk the device in liquid and it’ll be absolutely fine.

Google Pixel 2 (2017) vs Pixel (2016): Screen and media

Boot up either of the first Pixel smartphone and you’ll no doubt be impressed by the bright and vibrant 5-inch AMOLED screen. Somehow the Pixel 2 doesn’t offer the same punchy colours, despite once again packing an AMOLED panel – you can expect more realistic hues here, even with the ‘vivid colours’ mode activated.

Although most rivals have updated to Quad HD resolution for their flagships, Google has stuck with Full HD for the standard Pixel. This still produces crisp and clear visuals of course, helped by the relatively small size of the display. On top brightness, visibility is perfect in any conditions.

However, the Pixel 2 does ditch the 3.5mm jack, so if you’re planning on using headphones you’ll need to get a USB adapter. Or switch to Bluetooth, of course. The new Pixel 2 comes packing Bluetooth 5 support, so you can at least stream audio to two speakers or headphones at once; ideal for parties and travelling with your bestie.

Google Pixel 2 (2017) vs Pixel (2016): Features and OS

Both Pixel phones obviously use Google’s own mobile OS, in its shiny new Android Oreo incarnation. This offers a decent range of useful new features as well as smart resource management. However, Google needs to improve on some of those tweaks and new bits, such as the stunted Picture-in-Picture mode. Check out our full Pixel 2 tips and tricks guide to see what we mean.

However, while the first Pixel phone is only guaranteed to be updated one more time (to Android P), the Pixel 2 will enjoy at least two more updates in the future (all the way to Android Q – good luck finding a sweet treat that starts with that letter).

One of the Pixel 2’s big changes is its new Active Edge sensor, similar to the Edge Sensor on the HTC U11. This allows you to squeeze the handset as a shortcut, to open Google Assistant. Nothing particularly thrilling, of course, and certainly no reason to upgrade – especially as you can’t remap the sensors to open a different app, if you’re not a fan of Google’s voice-controlled assistant.

You do at least get more storage space with the Pixel 2 as standard; your choices are 64GB or 128GB, compared with the 32GB and 128GB models of the original Pixel. However, neither device can be expanded using microSD, annoyingly. Although you can craftily boost the Pixel’s storage space, using hacks and workarounds.

Google Pixel 2 (2017) vs Pixel (2016): Performance and battery

Last year’s Pixel still performs admirably thanks to the capable Snapdragon 821 platform and 4GB of RAM in backup. Plus of course, the Android OS was deliberately left untampered and is therefore naturally paired with the hardware, to keep things running smoothly.

Naturally though, Google has updated the specs for the Pixel 2. This time around you get the same super-charged Snapdragon 835 platform as the biggest and best Androids out there, such as Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8 and the Sony Xperia XZ Premium.

While you won’t notice much difference right now, beyond the fact that apps load a little quicker, the Pixel 2 will definitely be more future-proof. Good news if you aren’t in the mindset of replacing your handset every year. Plus, the 835 chipset offers other benefits such as support for up to 1Gbps download speeds.

Google has stuck with an almost identical battery size for the Pixel 2, compared with the 2016 model. We happily get around a day and a half of life per charge from the original Pixel now that it’s updated to Android Oreo, though, so that’s fine by us.

You can expect quick charge support from the Pixel 2 as well, for those frantic moments before leaving the house when you realise your phone’s almost dead. Apparently you’ll get seven hours of (presumably very basic) use from just fifteen minutes at the plug.

Google Pixel 2 (2017) vs Pixel (2016): Cameras

Although the Google Pixel phone is a year old now, that camera tech is still among the best. You can shoot detailed photos in bright or dim light, even with tricky contrast trying its best to mess things up; that’s in large part thanks to the great HDR+ mode. Home movies look just as great, with up to 4K resolution recording on offer.

Check out our full Pixel camera review for samples and all you need to know.

For the Pixel 2, Google hasn’t completely scrapped the camera tech of the original phone although some significant changes have been made.

You still get a 12-megapixel f/1.8 rear snapper, with a single lens rather than a popular dual lens setup. However, the new snapper scored an impressive 98 in DxOMark’s tests, showing that its photography chops have improved. The HDR+ mode has been boosted to capture even more detail in tricky contrast situations, while the new Portrait mode can be used to capture bokeh-style backgrounds.

As for video, a combination of OIS and EIS makes for even smoother footage when moving and shooting at the same time. Although sadly video capture tops out at 30 frames-per-second, while we noticed some artifacting and audio issues too.

Take a look at our full Pixel 2 camera review to see what’s improved, and what still needs some work.

Google Pixel 2 vs Pixel phone: Video comparison

Here’s our side-by-side hands-on with the new Pixel 2 phone and last year’s Really Blue Pixel, so you can see how they stack up.