In October Google officially unveiled the Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. But the first rumors regarding this year’s Pixel devices initially suggested there would be 3 Pixel smartphones codenamed walleye, muskie, and taimen, and that all 3 would sport the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835.
Then the phone was seemingly cancelled, with the LG-made ‘Taimen’ taking its place. Taimen turned out to be the actual Pixel 2 XL, and Walleye became the HTC-made Pixel 2. Recently, more evidence was discovered that Muskie was being made by HTC, and it would have had a massive battery.
Rumors began to pop up in June that Google canceled its HTC-made second-generation Pixel XL. Instead, it went with a different device made by LG for the Pixel 2 XL. This was strange because HTC had made both first-generation Pixel phones and was still rumored to be producing the smaller second-gen Pixel 2. A device called ‘Muskie’ appeared in AOSP (alongside ‘Walleye’), which was believed to be the larger 2017 Pixel device.
What happened to the device codenamed “muskie”? muskie didn’t die, it just became the HTC U11 Plus.
According to The Verge, a source has confirmed that the device HTC had readied for Google as the Pixel 2 XL is now being released as the HTC U11 Plus. Instead of scrapping all of the engineering work and money poured into the project, HTC decided to move forward with some slight alterations and release the phone as its own.
You can see several similarities between the HTC U11 Plus and the Pixel 2 XL. The U11 Plus is the first HTC phone to feature a fingerprint sensor on the back for a long time, maybe as far back as the HTC One Max in 2013. The display size and proportions of HTC’s U11 Plus are a direct match for the LG-made Pixel 2 XL: both have 6-inch screens with 18:9 aspect ratio and a 2880 x 1440 resolution. It also has a massive 3,930mAh battery, which is more than the Pixel 2 XL has and even bigger than the source code suggests muskie would have had.
The major difference, however, is that LG’s display is an OLED panel with a laundry list of problems, whereas HTC’s is a more conventional LCD that just looks very nice.
In hindsight, it appears obvious that Google should have stuck with its muskie plans instead of making a last-minute switch to LG; that would have saved the company a ton of headaches and bad press, and probably would have made the Pixel 2 XL the sort of potent iPhone rival we’ve long been waiting for. While we will probably never know why the HTC-made Pixel 2 XL never materialized, it is interesting to think about what could have been. What do you think?