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5 things the next Google Pixel needs to defeat the Galaxy S8

Now that the Galaxy S8 is the Android phone to beat, what does Google's next flagship need to stay ahead of the curve?

Josh Miller

Now that the Samsung Galaxy S8 and LG G6 are out, Google's followup to its Pixel and Pixel XL phones are the only big-name Android flagships left to be excited about this year (sorry HTC).

When it launched last October, the Pixel was one of our favorite phones, and it did a lot of things right. It looked great; it received quick Google software updates; it had a great camera with unlimited photo storage; I loved its near-vanilla version of the Android Nougat interface; and Google Assistant gave it a leg-up for a while (at least before other devices updated with the digital search assistant, too).

But, alas, things move fast in the phone industry. And if Google wants its successors to keep up with its rivals this year, which includes the superb S8, it'll need to do a few things...

Waterproof it

Now that the S8, G6 and Apple iPhone 7 can all survive a dunk underwater, the Pixel 2 (or whatever Google will wind up calling it) will have to be able to do the same if it wants to stay afloat. Though the current splash-resistant Pixel can shrug off a few droplets of water, that won't be enough this time around. Instead, it should be fully dunkable, at least in up to 3 feet of water for up to 30 minutes. Known as IPX8, that's the standard most of today's flagships satisfy.

And while we're on the subject of surviving the elements, Google still needs to ensure the Pixel's durability. When I accidentally dropped the Pixel last year, the screen survived but the glass shade on the back cracked. I'm not saying Google should all-out ruggedize its upcoming flagship, but it should keep in mind that the S8's display survived all our drop tests (the G6 on the other hand... not so much).

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More than just splashproof, the S8 is fully dunkable underwater.

Josh Miller/CNET

Include expandable storage

The Pixel was available in 32GB and 128GB variants with no option to expand. But because both the S8 and G6 house external storage up to 2TB, it'd be a major drag if the next Pixel couldn't do the same. As mentioned before, Google offered unlimited cloud storage for photos (including high-resolution images and 4K video). But if you're like me and feel uneasy about uploading pictures onto a server, it'd be nice to save your memories on a microSD card instead.

Improve the camera

The Pixel already has a first-rate camera, and if Google didn't feel like touching it, it'd still fare well, if not better, than many of the phones out now. But it had a couple of weaknesses that could be improved. Its Lens Blur feature, for instance, which blurs the background with a "bokeh effect" to make for more dramatic portraits, didn't look as smooth compared to the iPhone 7 Plus. The iPhone also captured clearer low-light video and recorded steadier footage when in motion. If the Pixel's successor shored up these holes, its camera would be nearly perfect.

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Boost the battery

Both the Pixel and Pixel XL lasted about 13 hours during our battery drain test for continuous video playback on Airplane mode. That's a great time to clock in, and if the next Pixel held that same time, it'll be on par with the G6 at least. But if Google wants to stay competitive, it'll have to do better. The S8 and S8 Plus lasted 16 and 18 hours, respectively, so it'll be fantastic if the upcoming Pixel can hit those numbers if not higher.

Thin out those bezels

I was already fond of the Pixel's elegant design, and I'm not one to hop on every phone trend that comes through the pipeline. But people have always been infatuated with bezelless phones long before this year, and now that the S8 and G6 have thin bezels, the new Pixel risks looking dated if it doesn't follow suit. I'm not saying that barely there bezels are a must-have, and if Google flipped the script in phone design in another welcome way, I'd be all for it. But thin bezels will help usher the handset into today's sleek tech aesthetic.

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We'll have to wait until the fall to see what Google has in store.

Josh Miller/CNET

When will we know?

Google's annual developer conference, I/O, will be held in a couple of weeks, starting May 17. The company usually doesn't make hardware announcements then (though it has done so in the past). Instead, we expect the next flagship phone to be announced later in the fall, usually around October. Stay tuned when Google officially announces it, and until then, keep tabs on the rumored features that have already been speculated, like: