With the purchase of HTC’s smartphone division for $1.1 billion and the launch of the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, Google aims to challenge the dominance of Apple’s iPhones in the premium segment. Right now, Apple fans are going crazy for the iPhone X. So much so that they are skipping the latest iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, which have the world’s best smartphone cameras. Leaks have confirmed that the regular Pixel 2 would look similar to the original Pixel, and offer only internal upgrades. Only the Google Pixel 2 XL phone will be capable of taking on the iPhone X.

Google Pixel 2 XL Phone
Image Source: Droid-Life.com (screenshot)

Consumers will certainly draw comparisons between the Google Pixel 2 XL phone and Apple’s revolutionary new iPhone X. Both the handsets will hit the store shelves in November, and vie for the attention of holiday shoppers. The Pixel 2 XL will also be up against Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8, another premium Android device. Let alone the iPhone X, Google’s latest flagship may not even be able to come close to the Note 8 in terms of sales.

With Apple struggling to manufacture enough iPhone X units, there is an opportunity for Google to pitch the Pixel 2 XL as an attractive alternative to the 10th-anniversary iPhone. However, the search engine giant has lost that opportunity by delaying the launch of the Google Pixel 2 XL phone to November 15. Also, Google is a minnow in the hardware market compared to Apple and Samsung. Even though it’s a powerful brand, it has to spend years and billions of dollars to enjoy the same global distribution presence as Apple.

For instance, the original Pixel was one of the best smartphones released last year. But how many units did it sell? Less than three million since last year. Apple sold nearly 200 million iPhone units in the same period. Google doesn’t have an Apple-like expertise in scaling production. It struggled to meet the demand for the Pixel phones last year even though demand wasn’t that high.

The Pixel 2 XL will have top-of-the-line Snapdragon 835 processor, 4GB RAM, and an LG V30-like bezel-less display. The Quad HD screen will cover nearly entire front panel. The device is said to have a starting price of $849 for the 64GB option and $949 for the 128GB variant. It is slightly cheaper than the iPhone X, which starts at $999. However, consumer response for the latest and greatest iPhone is at feverish levels.

Before it can challenge the iPhone X, the Google Pixel 2 XL phone will have to beat the Galaxy Note 8, which comes with a beautiful Infinity display and an S Pen stylus for multi-tasking. Samsung’s device is already flying off the shelves. Google has little advantage over the Note 8 in processing power because Samsung’s device comes with the same Snapdragon 835 processor and has a higher 6GB RAM. The Korean company is also working to bring the Android Oreo update to the Note 8 soon, which should negate Google’s software advantage.

In contrast, almost every Wall Street analyst predicts insanely strong demand for the iPhone X.  KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicted that Apple would sell 30-35 million iPhone X units by the end of this year. The actual demand is far higher, but Apple will be able to produce only 30-35 million units by the year-end. Kuo says the company will continue to face supply shortage through early 2018. Many fans are even skipping the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus in favor of the iPhone X despite knowing that the anniversary model will be in short supply for months.

One area where the Google Pixel 2 XL phone could really challenge the iPhone X is the camera. The iPhone 8 Plus has the world’s best smartphone camera with a score of 94/100, according to DxOMark. The iPhone X will have dual Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) on rear lenses, so it should perform better than the iPhone 8 Plus. Google has already proved its mettle in photography with the original Pixel, which is still one of the best smartphone cameras one year after launch. The new Pixel 2 XL will be better than its predecessor.

The Pixel 2 XL would have a single camera, but it would allow you to take Portrait Mode images, thanks to software algorithm. The search engine’s giant’s HDR+ camera technology is an example of Google’s expertise in improving image quality through software. The HDR+ combines multiple underexposed shots into an excellent image.

However, camera and new features will not be enough to beat the iPhone X. With new smartphones, Google needs to prove that it can do hardware better than others. The recent acquisition of part of HTC’s mobile business for $1.1 billion should help Google in that aspect. Another challenging thing is how it will differentiate the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL in the crowd of Android phones. With the launch of Nokia 8, the Pixel 2 will not be the only premium phone that runs pure Android and delivers timely software updates.

In its attempt to build its own hardware, Google may also end up upsetting its allies – the Android smartphone vendors. Today, Android powers nearly two billion devices manufactured by third-party vendors such as Samsung, LG, Sony, and Huawei. It would be a high-risk game if it starts competing with its partners.