Google Pixel 8 Pro
Google is rolling out a new "Feature Drop" software update for its Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro phones. It adds the new Circle to Search feature that was initially announced for the new Samsung Galaxy S24 series. It also activates the body temperature sensor in the Pixel 8 Pro. The Thermometer app lets you point your phone at your forehead to take your temp, and results can be saved to your Fitbit profile. Google is also introducing a new Mint green color option for the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro. Circle to Search lets you circle, highlight, scribble, or tap to Google search anything on your screen, in any app, including images. Android phones already offer this feature in the app switcher, but this makes the feature easier to use. Finally, the update also includes the tweaked Quick Share function that replaces Nearby Share. Circle to Search launches January 31st, the same day the Galaxy S24 series goes on sale. Some other features are launching today, while some will roll out over the next few weeks.
Google is rolling out the promised December Feature Drop for its Pixel devices. On the Pixel 8 Pro, this includes replacing the AI model for some features with Google's brand-new Gemini Nano on-device AI model. Gemini is Google's new AI model designed to compete with models like ChatGPT. It's a multi-modal model, meaning it can work with text, voice, images, video, and code. Google claims it performs better than other models based on multiple benchmarks. There are several different versions of Gemini, with Gemini Nano being the version designed to run on devices like smartphones. With this December update, Gemini Nano will power the Summarize feature in the Recorder app on Pixel 8 Pro. It will also power Smart Reply in the Gboard keyboard, although this will be available in a phased rollout, initially available only when using WhatsApp. The December Feature Drop also includes a long list of other features first announced when the Pixel 8 series launched.
Google has added two key new features to its existing Pixel Buds Pro: Bluetooth Super Wideband and Conversation Detection. Bluetooth Super Wideband offers wider bandwidth, covering a wider range of audio frequencies. This "doubles the bandwidth for voices, making you sound fuller, clearer and more natural than ever before." The feature currently only works with the new Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro. Conversation Detection is an optional new feature that automatically pauses audio and enables Transparency Mode whenever you start speaking. Google has also improved Clear Calling with better AI for eliminating background noise. For gaming, Google has also reduced latency when paired with a Pixel 8 or Pixel 8 Pro. Finally, Google is also introducing new color options to match the new Pixel 8 series: Bay (blue) and Porcelain (cream). The Pixel Buds Pro sell for $200.
Google has announced its Pixel 8 series flagship phones with many expected upgrades, but most of the headline-grabbing new features are exclusive to the larger, more expensive Pixel 8 Pro. In a major shift, Google is promising seven years of full OS updates and Feature Drops for the 8 series. Both the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro sport Google's new Tensor G3 chip, which upgrades all aspects and supports twice as many machine learning (ML) models. Upgraded ML performance enables new features like Audio Magic Eraser, which sharply reduces unwanted background noise in already-captured videos. Another new ML feature is Best Take, which captures a series of photos of a group of people, then lets you combine them with each person's best take. Despite using the same Tensor G3 processor, the Pixel 8 Pro is capable of running more powerful "foundation" generative AI models on-device. At launch, this includes an upgraded Magic Eraser tool for photos. A Feature Drop due in December will add Zoom Enhance to create detail when zooming in on already-captured photos. That update will also bring Video Boost, a new HDR+ for video that combines on-device AI with cloud AI. Finally, the December update will also bring smarter suggested replies in the GBoard keyboard and text summaries of voice recordings in Recorder. The Pro model also has a remote temperature sensor, which Google is working to get FDA approval for health uses. The smaller Pixel 8 has a 6.2-inch FHD+ "Actua" OLED display with always-on and up to 120 Hz refresh. It also has a 4,575 mAh battery, 30W fast charging, fast wireless charging, 8 GB RAM, 128 or 256 GB storage, 50 megapixel main camera with OIS and laser focusing, 12 megapixel wide camera, USB 3.2, Wi-Fi 7, and Bluetooth 5.3. Some models support mmWave 5G. The Pixel 8 Pro steps up to a 6.7-inch "Super Actua" display with LPTO OLED technology for 1–120 Hz refresh, 1344 x 2992 resolution, and 2400 nits peak brightness. It also has a 5,050 mAh battery, ultra-wideband, and 12 GB of RAM. Storage options include 128 GB, 256 GB, 512 GB, or 1 TB. The cameras include a 50 megapixel main camera, 48 megapixel wide camera, 48 megapixel 5x telephoto, and 10.5 megapixel front camera with auto-focus. The Pro also has exclusive Pro controls in the camera app, including a hi-res option, long exposures, and RAW output. The Pixel 8 will be available in Hazel (gray), Obsidian (black), or Rose starting at $699. The Pixel 8 Pro will be available in Obsidian (black), Porcelain (cream), or Bay (blue) starting at $999. Both are available for pre-order now, shipping October 12th.
Google has posted an official page on its web site for the forthcoming Pixel 8, Pixel 8 Pro, and Pixel Watch 2. The page includes a few photos plus a short video with a all-around views of both phones. Side-by-side shots show a significant size difference between the two. Few concrete details are provided, but Google promises that the phones will offer "the most advanced Pixel cameras yet, and Google AI to help you do more, even faster." Examples of Google AI include smart photo editing and live language translation. As for the Pixel Watch 2, Google promises "even more personalized help, safety features, and health insights." All three products are going to be announced October 4th, and could be available the same day.
Google has ended its Pixel Pass subscription bundle after just 22 months, even though the offering was advertised as including a new phone after two years. The news comes as Google prepares to announce a new lineup of Pixel phones (presumably the Pixel 8 series) on October 4th. The monthly fees paid so far did cover the cost of an initial Pixel phone, plus a bundle of cloud services. Google is also offering a $100 credit to affected customers. But those customers are losing access to special discounted rates for streaming music and other services. Google has a long history of killing off products more quickly than other companies.