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Google Pixel 2 XL Teardown: Here’s How That “Active Edge” Feature Works

Google calls the Pixel 2 XL a smarter smartphone, but that covers most phones these days—consumers won’t even consider a new phone if it doesn’t offer a better camera, display, and processor. But new input methods, like Apple’s Force Touch and, now, Google’s Active Edge, feel way more futuristic than simply adding pixels to a screen or camera sensor. Google’s squeeze factor feels new—so we had to find out how it worked.

After subjecting the Pixel to X-rays, heat, spudgers, and a screwdriver, we had the squeezy sensors in hand. Turns out the input method is similar to the MacBook’s Force Touch trackpad, but cooler. Each set of sensors is made up of a dual-layered strip of deformation-sensitive strain gauges straddling a row of little metal blocks, like a little chain of sausage links.

As you squeeze, the outer strain gauges compress and the interior ones lengthen. By measuring the deformation across all four portions of this system, the Pixel gets a high-resolution picture of your squeeze—even through the case. It may sound gimmicky, but this is exactly the kind of feature Apple will “invent” in a couple of years. You won’t need to waterproof buttons if the case is the button.

Pixel 2 XL Teardown Highlights:

  • In a happy departure from standard smartphone opening procedure, we leave the iOpener behind today—the 2 XL employs a foam tape that can be separated without applying heat.
  • This stubbornly adhered battery packs 13.6 Wh, slightly more than last year’s 13.3 Wh. That’s roughly on-par with the Samsung Galaxy S8+ (13.5 Wh), and considerably more than the iPhone 8 Plus (10.3 Wh).
  • We found Google’s very first in-house, custom designed SoC, the Pixel Visual Core, lying in wait next to the RAM and Snapdragon 835. Currently dormant, the Pixel Visual Core will be enabled for developers starting with Android Oreo 8.1.
  • Due to the complex layering of components and additional adhesive, especially on the battery, the phone loses a point from last year—earning the Pixel 2 XL a 6 out of 10 on the repairability scale.

This is just our teardown highlights. You can see the full Google Pixel 2 XL teardown—with more analysis and more disassembly photos—at iFixit.com/teardown.