Google might have missed an opportunity to make a truly great, smaller flagship this year.
One of the best things about the current Google Pixel phones is the ability to pick whichever size suits you without compromising on specs or feature set. Aside from necessary changes like a smaller battery — there’s less room inside a smaller phone — the experience on the smaller 2016 Pixel perfectly mirrored that of its big brother, the Pixel XL.
However, with reports of Google looking to two different manufacturers — LG for the bigger Pixel, HTC for the smaller one — comes the suggestion that this year’s little Pixel might be a second-class citizen.
The video above, produced based on blueprints given to case manufacturers, comes from Steve Hemmerstoffer, A.K.A. @onleaks. Hemmerstoffer has a good but not perfect track record; nevertheless, the presence of chunky top bezels on the smaller Pixel aligns with at least one other report, from XDA.
So it would appear that if you want slim bezels and a curved OLED display, your options are limited to just the larger LG-made Pixel, with its 18:9 aspect ratio and svelte proportions.
Chunky bezels and a flat screen. But will other corners have been cut? And what will the price difference be?
The other question this raises is whether or not any other corners have been cut, and whether we’ll see wider price gap between the two 2017 Pixels compared to their forerunners. Possibilities include, as before, a lower screen resolution and smaller battery capacity. But the baby Pixel also runs the risk of appearing decidedly dated alongside its larger, more bezel-averse sibling. (In the next year, expect most phones with traditional top and bottom bezels to start looking old hat.) It would also be a highly unusual step for two phones in the same family, announced side by side, to sport two entirely different aspect ratios.
If this is what we eventually get from Google in late September or early October, it’s going to be a weird release cycle. Two phones that are similar but not quite identical. In contrast to last year’s message that Pixel is a single phone in two sizes, we’d have (at best) more of a Galaxy S7/S7 edge situation, where the smaller model carries the same core experience but without the extra pizzaz of the premium model.
Unlike Samsung’s conscious choice, however, Google’s use of two different ODM partners likely forced its hand at least somewhat. And for fans of smaller phones, it’ll be hard to view this development as anything other than a disappointing step backwards from last year.
If these are the two Pixel designs we eventually get, Google might well have missed the opportunity to take advantage of the trend towards taller, slimmer phones — and deliver something with improved pocketability and extra display real estate.
And we probably won’t even get a headphone jack for our trouble.
Stick with us for more on Google’s next-gen Pixels as release season rolls around.