The official release of the Google Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro promises the same improvements in design, camera, and performance we’ve come to anticipate from any yearly phone update. But since Google phones are all about the software, the Pixel 8’s collection of AI-powered image editing features is among the most innovative we’ve ever seen on a phone, in ways that vary from helpful to slightly unsettling.
Are the new Pixel gadgets from this year worth the upgrade? After spending some time with Google’s new phones up close, here is what we thought.
Release date and preorders for the Google Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro
The Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro models may be preordered now and will go on sale on October 12 for $699 and $999, respectively. If you preorder the Pixel 8 through Google, you’ll receive a free set of Pixel Buds Pro, and if you preorder the Pixel 8 Pro, you’ll receive the new Pixel Watch 2.
2 Amazing designs — but the Pro’s is better
Although there are a few pleasant improvements, the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro appear very similar to the Pixel 7 we received last year. Both phones felt comfortable in my hands during my brief hands-on time and appear to have slightly softer edges than before. However, even with the larger-than-before camera modules, the massive aluminium bar on the back that houses them is still not my favourite.
The Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro are still an appealing, reasonably uncluttered pair of Android smartphones, and they also have a decent selection of colours: Obsidian, Hazel, and Rose for the Pixel 8, and Obsidian, Porcelain, and Bay for the Pixel 8 Pro. My favourites were the Bay Pixel 8 Pro, which has a beautiful baby blue tint, and the Rose Pixel 8 (which should compete well against the pink iPhone 15 and accent any Barbiecore style). Congratulations to Google for realising that “Pro” phones should also be available in vibrant colours (come on, Apple). To match the light new colour of the Pixel 8 Pro, the firm is even releasing a new pair of Pixel Buds Pro in the Bay shade.
Despite the fact that both phones looked great, I considerably preferred holding the Pixel 8 Pro due to its new matte texture. This matte surface not only improved grip but also reduced glare and fingerprints, which I appreciated while I took pictures of the phone. While most people won’t care that the ordinary Pixel 8 has the same glossy finish as earlier models (especially if you’re using a case), I personally prefer the matte, smudge-proof finishes used by the Galaxy S23, iPhone 15, and now the Pixel 8 Pro.
A number of helpful new features, some crazy AI stuff
The camera and AI features of the Pixel 8 are some of Google’s most promising yet. Pixel phones have always prioritised useful apps and high-quality photography over raw processing power.
On paper, the phone’s camera specifications appear to be largely similar to those from the previous year (with the exception of an enhanced ultrawide lens on the 8 Pro), but both promise significant enhancements to the shooting experience. The Macro Focus setting from the Pro, which enables you to take close-up pictures of tiny details, is finally available on the Pixel 8. The 8 Pro, according to Google, will offer superior nighttime image enhancement for video for the first time as well as improved low-light photographs and better zoom. But once you begin editing, the real magic happens.
In one presentation, a Google representative displayed a somewhat unremarkable image of a runner on a beach. They were then able to freely move and resize the person who had been highlighted around the beach without causing the image to appear noticeably distorted or heavily manipulated. They may also apply a variety of filters to the picture, changing everything from the time of day to making it look like a Japanese manga illustration. This is good news for Google’s AI capabilities and the new Tensor G3 processor in these phones, but it may be bad news for third-party image editing apps because all of these effects processed almost fast within Google’s own images app.
Have you ever taken a tonne of group shots only to discover that in each and every one, at least one person isn’t grinning or looking directly at the camera? With its latest AI innovation, Best Take, Google hopes to remedy the situation. Once you’ve taken enough pictures of various individuals, you may enter the editor and go through each person’s face individually until everyone is perfectly posed. While this addresses a real prevalent issue—I’ve spent a lot of time trying to get the ideal Instagram snap that won’t offend anyone—it also has a very unsettling, “Black Mirror”-esque quality to it when one person’s face changes in a picture while everyone else’s remains static.
Smaller, but actually appreciated, improvements
Aside from the eye-catching AI features, Google’s phone portfolio gains a few minor but useful updates with the Pixel 8 and 8 Pro. With the addition of a temperature sensor, the Pixel 8 Pro can now measure a variety of surfaces’ temperature just by placing the camera close to them. The functionality appears to work well with the many beverages Google set up in their makeshift office space and is compatible with everything from walls and fabric to liquids and food. I’m especially excited to test out the food temperature and cast-iron settings because they should reduce some of the guessing involved in making dinner because I’m a hurried and erratic cook.
The standard Pixel 8 receives a welcome refresh rate increase from 90Hz to 120Hz, which should result in even smoother browsing through websites and photo albums. This makes the Pixel 8 more competitive with the Galaxy S23 and puts it ahead of the base iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus, which are still operating at a rather slow 60Hz.
The new “Actua” displays on the Pixel 8 and 8 Pro promise improved colour accuracy and increased brightness, with the Pixel 8 Pro topping even the iPhone 15 Pro with a staggering 2,400 nits. This should make Google’s flagship device perfect for outdoor use. In my very little demo time, both OLED displays—6.2 inches for the Pixel 8 and 6.7 inches for the Pixel 8 Pro—looked beautiful enough, but as always, we’ll have Google wait and see how they hold up over time.