The Pixel 8 Pro brings an updated camera system, an impressive display, a new and improved chipset, the promise of 7 years of software support, and an unexpected design change – what is Google’s flagship phone for 2023 all about and should you get one?
The bread and butter of Pixel phones has been their camera, and the 8 Pro has no shortage of improvements in that field. Key among those is the ultrawide on the back, which gets a new, larger sensor, while the main camera and the telephoto get revamped optics. It may not sound like a lot, but evolutionary steps can mean a lot when they add up.
Super Actua display is Google’s branding for the new panel on the Pixel 8 Pro that should go as bright as 2400nits – while we didn’t quite get that, we measured some remarkable numbers elsewhere. The Tensor G3 chipset’s performance in the things Google deems important is more difficult to measure, but it’s undoubtedly an upgrade over the previous generation in the things we can quantify. Putting a number on software support is also somewhat difficult, but 7 does sound remarkable – years of updates, that is.
And while the Pixel design language has been mostly dialed in these last couple of years, it turned out that 2023 did still have something new to bring – or, rather, the well-forgotten old flat display. Time is a flat circle and all that.
Here’s a quick refresher on the key specs of the Pixel 8 Pro before we move forward with the unboxing.
Disclaimer. We can not guarantee that the information on this page is 100% correct.
Google Pixel 8 Pro unboxing
Not that there’s a whole lot of unboxing to be done, really. The Pixel 8 Pro shows up in a rather standard half-height white cardboard box with a likeness of the phone printed on the lid.
Inside, the list of accessories is pretty short – you get a USB-C cable and a USB-A-to-C adapter to facilitate data transfer from as many types of older phones as possible. Sure, there’s also a SIM eject pin and some paperwork, but nothing all that useful, like a charger.
Being the company’s ultimate smartphone, the Pixel 8 Pro only competes with similarly top-tier offerings from rival brands. And with the increased price this year (€1,100/$1,000), looking at it from the perspective of a value proposition isn’t quite as justified as before.
A Galaxy S23 Ultra costs about as much as the Google flagship and has a lot going for it – the S Pen is essentially a one-of-a-kind feature, battery life is better on the Galaxy, the Samsung cameras are about as close to the Pixel’s in versatility as it gets. The Pixel 8 Pro does counter with unique features of its own (in supported regions), the longest software support in the industry, and, if we have to admit it – a camera experience which, if you’re a fan of, you can’t really be entirely happy with a Galaxy.
Pixel 8 Pro (left) next to Galaxy S23 Ultra
Another similar comparison is against the iPhone 15 Pro – that non-tangible and very subjective ‘it’s about how it makes you feel’ debate. On the objective side of things, we have the iPhone’s generally superior video quality and notably longer battery life, which the Pixel counters with €350/$200 of savings, though the situation gets trickier if the 15 Pro non-Max joins the discussion. We’d be happy to leave this dilemma to ecosystem considerations and personal preference.
Pixel 8 Pro (right) next to iPhone 15 Pro Max
Less obvious alternatives can be found too. For example, the OnePlus 11 can save you several hundred Euros or dollars (depending on who you ask and when, but around €300/$300), and it’s only going to be a significant compromise if you’re after long reach with your camera. Or, of course, the Google software, but that’s a concession you might be forced to make anyway.
An unorthodox option could be a Xiaomi 13 Pro – we’d consider the Ultra, but that could prove difficult to track down. For about Pixel 8 Pro money, you could get a higher-specced 13 Pro with a 1-inch sensor main camera and a unique close-focusing telephoto – it’s not the Pixel’s camera system, but it’s a hugely capable camera system that may align more closely with your wants and needs.
Last, but not least, why not an Xperia 1 V? It’s about as Pixel-like as you’d get in this bunch when it comes to software, before you get to its myriad camera apps, and those can open a world of possibilities for your photo and video capture. And the Sony also has quite remarkable imaging hardware, even if not all of it translates into real-world image quality. It does also feature a microSD slot and a headphone jack, if you’re that kind of person.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra • Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max • OnePlus 11 • Xiaomi 13 Pro • Sony Xperia 1 V
With the Pixel 8 Pro Google has made strides to address a host of the complaints we had about the previous generation. No longer is the selfie camera a hit-and-miss affair, and the new ultrawide is also miles better than before. The improvement in charging speed didn’t go unnoticed either, but the Pixel had so much to catch up here that it couldn’t all happen in one generation.
Some of the old pain points remain, however, key among them is the battery life that’s a bit below average. The in-house chipset isn’t quite up to the standard of the day in absolute performance and doesn’t handle sustained load with much grace. The limited regional availability of the exclusive software features also rubs us the wrong way, though a valid counterargument is that if Google doesn’t sell it in your country, you can’t expect it to work to its fullest in your country.
Moving to the good stuff, it’s not just that the ultrawide camera is no longer a source of grievances, but the telephoto has been improved too. So, with both flanks of an already great main camera now covered, the normally excellent cameraphone is now somehow even better.
The brand-new display is now up there with the leading efforts in the industry – not that the old one was bad, it’s just that this Super Actua panel is more deserving of high praise, than a simple ‘yeah, that’s good enough’. Similarly, the already stellar software support gets promoted to best-in-business – we’ll see how quickly Google will forget about that 7-year promise, but right now, it sounds really nice.
When first introduced, the visor on the back of the Pixel 6 Pro was quite polarizing, but two years later, it’s evolved into a somewhat appealing trademark design element. This year Google has also fitted a thermometer in there – we’re not quite sure just how useful it is yet, but if no one else has one, it has to be a plus for the Pixel 8 Pro. What we find to be another welcome development is the flat display – even one of the biggest supporters of curves in this office has grown to appreciate screen protectors and truly trouble-free handling.
In the end, we think the Pixel 8 Pro is the evolutionary upgrade you’d expect it to be and then some. Google could have done less this generation and still charged the extra $100/€200, but instead, they actually did bring some meaningful improvements that move the series forward. We approve.
Always evolving, the visor still makes for a recognizable design; the flat screen helps with usability and screen protectors.
Spectacularly bright display, but also sharp, color-accurate, and with a competent adaptive refresh rate.
Android from the source, exclusive feature set, 7 years of software support.
Great camera quality overall.
There’s a thermometer on board?
Battery life is not competitive.
While improved, charging speed is still behind the curve.
Some software features are limited to certain countries.
The Tensor G3 chipset doesn’t compare well in raw performance or stability under load.
There are 34 bug fixes in U1B2.230922.013, which is still on the October 2023 security patch. This release is available for all devices out of the gate, with the on-device Android 14 QPR1 Beta 2.2 OTA coming in at 40.35 MB on a Pixel Fold.
There’s a fix for the pink text issue on the Pixel 8 Pro AOD.
Fixed an issue that sometimes prevented devices from receiving calls. (Issue #298747690)
Fixed an issue where tapping or long-pressing a Quick Settings tile sometimes failed to launch the corresponding app or settings menu. (Issue #302147272)
Fixed an issue that sometimes caused the Settings app to crash when checking for system software updates. (Issue #303739210)
Fixed an issue that sometimes caused the Camera HAL to apply the wrong tuning profile when an app requested a certain camera mode.
Fixed an issue that sometimes caused the system UI or device to crash if accessibility magnification mode was toggled rapidly.
Fixed an issue that sometimes caused the package installer to crash due to a null pointer exception.
Fixed an issue that sometimes caused the system launcher to crash due to a null pointer exception.
Fixed an issue that interfered with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity until the device was rebooted.
Fixed issues with Face Unlock reliability.
Fixed an issue that sometimes caused the device unlock animation to stutter.
Fixed an issue that sometimes caused the screen to flicker when transitioning from always-on display mode to the lock screen.
Fixed an issue that caused the animation to display incorrectly when a user gestured to open the notification shade.
Fixed an issue that sometimes caused the system UI to crash or consume more memory than necessary.
Fixed an issue that caused the picture-in-picture window to stop displaying with rounded corners after locking and unlocking the device.
Fixed an issue that sometimes caused device-to-device transfer data to be saved to an incorrect account.
Fixed an issue that caused some UI elements to render incorrectly when the device font scale was increased.
Fixed an issue that sometimes caused the work profile badge for an app icon to be displayed in the wrong place while viewing the list of recent apps.
Fixed an issue that caused some text to display in the wrong colors when always-on display features were enabled.
Fixed issues that sometimes caused a device to crash and reboot.
Fixed an issue where additional power was still being consumed by mobile network connectivity even after a device connected to Wi-Fi.
Fixed an issue where audio failed to play back or was interrupted if Adaptive Sound was enabled.
Fixed issues with audio playback when using spatial audio.
Fixed an issue that sometimes caused Wi-Fi service to be interrupted and fail to connect until the device was restarted.
Fixed an issue where the battery level in the status bar sometimes displayed temporarily as 0%.
Fixed an issue for Pixel Fold and Pixel Tablet devices where the “All Apps” button on the taskbar was slow to appear immediately after launching an app.
Fixed an issue for Pixel Fold devices where the lock screen was sometimes still displayed if the device was unlocked and unfolded at the same time.
Fixed an issue for Pixel Tablet devices where a primary user’s live wallpaper selection would sometimes be overridden after a secondary user selected a different live wallpaper.
Fixed an issue for Pixel Tablet devices that caused an unsmooth animation when tapping to return to an app from the list of recent apps.
Fixed an issue for Pixel Tablet devices that caused audio to pop when adjusting the volume if a wired headset was connected.
Fixed an issue for Pixel Tablet where a user was returned to the Home screen instead of the app that was open when the device was locked if they unlocked the device using their fingerprint while a screen saver was active.
Fixed an issue that caused memory corruption in rare cases.
Fixed various issues that were impacting system stability, performance, and connectivity.
Depending on the device, this issue can result in the primary user being unable to access media storage. Alternatively, the issue can reboot the device with a “Factory data reset” message. If this message is accepted, data that is not backed up can be lost, and if it is declined, the device repeatedly reboots with the “Pixel is starting” message.
Google starts by saying that this storage issue impacts the “Pixel 6 and later models” that “have both received the Android 14 update and have multiple users (other than the primary user) set up.” This includes “users, guests, restricted profiles, and child users,” but not simply having more than one Google Account signed in “within the primary user or work profiles.”
The company has already rolled out a Google Play system update to “help prevent this issue from being triggered on additional devices.” To install, open Settings > Security & privacy > System & update > Google Play system update. The latest version we’re seeing today is October 1, 2023.
For those currently “unable to access media storage,” Google is working on a system update that “will repair the issue and restore access to media files without requiring a factory reset.”
Google is also “investigating methods that may be able to recover some data” for devices in a “Pixel is starting” boot loop. However, this seems more tentative: “We’ll provide more information as soon as it is available.”
For all other users, including those that factory reset their device, Google says to avoid “creating or logging into a secondary user on the device until the OTA update is available.”
Google ends with an apology:
We’re sorry for the inconvenience this has caused, and we appreciate your patience.
Android 14 breaks storage on Pixel 6 phones with multiple user profiles
Android 14 is a solid update to Google’s smartphone OS, but the update does seem to be causing some significant issues regarding user profiles on Pixel 6 series devices.
Following the update to Android 14 that rolled out earlier this month, some Google Pixel 6, Pixel 6 Pro, and Pixel 6a owners are seeing some considerable issues with their devices, specifically around storage becoming unusable. A growing number of users across Google’sforums, Reddit, and elsewhere reporting that their Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro devices are drastically hindered, to the point of breaking most tasks users would perform on their devices.
The storage problem takes effect if the user, before installing Android 14, had multiple profiles on the device.
Following the installation of Android 14, the main profile on a Pixel 6 series device seems to lose access to storage, which prevents users from taking photos or videos, downloading files, and both installing or uninstalling applications. However, on the second profile, things seem to work as expected.
Other limitations include that apps report the device as having no available storage, Google Photos can’t refresh a user’s library (only showing low-quality previews), and files can’t be accessed via USB from a connected PC, as one of our readers explained in an email.
Given that Android’s user profiles are more of a niche feature on smartphones (primarily used for personal and work profiles), this issue doesn’t appear excessively widespread, but the symptoms of the problem are affecting users pretty consistently.
Google has, so far, not offered any solution for this issue or public statement.
Google wants every Android version to be ‘higher quality than the previous release’
Dave Burke, VP of Engineering for Android, was interviewed during The Android Show today and shared a lot of interesting tidbits, especially around quality and performance.
In the context of Android releases, Burke considers quality the “number one feature” given how much we use our phones:
If you think about how much we depend on our devices and how much we use them [in] a day, it’s just really important that the device runs really, really well. Really, really reliably. The highest performance, highest fidelity.
The Android team has a “pledge” internally to “ensure that every release was higher quality than the previous release by a set of expanding metrics that we measure in the lab and in the field.”
We’ve been holding ourselves to that. It’s difficult, I can tell you, because you’re only as good as the weakest metric. So you’ve got to chase everything down, but it’s really causing us to force the bar higher and higher.
Burke described one way the team is doing that:
Even internally, we’re looking at actually changing some of our developer practices in 2024 where rather than sort of go[ing] off for a year and work[ing] on a release for a very long time, we break that up into chunks internally so that we sort of keep the branch green as we go.
From the description we have today, this just seems to be an internal change rather than anything that would impact the yearly cycle.
On Android 14, Burke highlighted expression (gen AI wallpapers, lockscreen clocks, and shortcuts) and performance as the big tentpoles. Burke said the team “may not have talked enough” about performance. (Frankly, Google should have discussed it on-stage at I/O in May.)
We’ve done a ton of work to reduce CPU activity of background apps, and the result is that there’s 30% less cold starts now on Android 14. Cold starts are when you have to literally read the code pages off the flash and read them into memory before you execute them. A 30% reduction is pretty dramatic, and you feel that as a user.
This involved increasing the number of cached processes, but doing so risks increased CPU usage and, therefore, battery drain. Android 14 does a better job of properly freezing the processes.
Burke also mentioned how large-screen-related work, like the transient taskbar, was originally part of Android 14 but moved up into Android 13 (QPR2) as Google worked to be more competitive in the space and to support foldables.
Google has been making its own smartphones since 2016, but it’s really never felt as though the company has really hit the nail on the head. Each model has had some random dealbreaker or quirk that left it just short of really getting it all right. After the Pixel 7 Pro showed that Google was finally pointing itself in the right direction, the Pixel 8 Pro feels like it is the device that brings everything together.
Hardware & display
This feels like a Google phone
Every brand has its own key voice that you feel throughout, and for Google, it’s felt like that vision diminished in the past few years, at least on the hardware and aesthetic level. Where the pre-Tensor Pixel era culminated in the Pixel 4 series, which felt like the ultimate in Google design with its high-contrast colors and quirky design choices, the Pixel 6 and Pixel 7 both felt a little more generic.
With the Pixel 8 Pro, as well as the smaller Pixel 8, Google feels like it is finally letting itself be different.
This starts with the delightful rounded design of these phones. The four corners are less boxy compared to the previous two generations and have bezels that perfectly (at least to my eyes) match those curved corners. The metal rails, which are unfortunately still polished, meld into the camera bar that wraps around to the other side of the phone. It’s a great look, and the “camera bar” is a design that, three years in, is really standing the test of time when it comes to keeping an iconic look despite some big hardware changes.
On the Pixel 8 Pro, Google also steps back into a design trait where, back in 2018, the company was ahead of the curve. The Pixel 3 and Pixel 4 were glass phones with a matte finish, but the Pixel 6 and Pixel 7 both ignored that and went glossy, just in time for literally every other brand to go all-in on matte finishes. The Pixel 8 Pro revives a matte finish, and it’s just delightful. The soft back doesn’t feel as nice as it did on the Pixel 4 (mainly due to the lack of matte side rails), but it feels wonderful in the hand and grippier than some other matte finishes I’ve used.
And, in the color department, Google has something for everyone this year. There is, of course, the typical black, called “Obsidian.” This variant is clean, easy on the eyes, and less boring thanks to the matte textures. “Porcelain” is an off-white and a top pick in my eyes. But the signature “Bay” is a wonderful, if slightly polarizing, blue. The light shade looks great, especially in less intense lighting and really sticks out in a world that is otherwise full of pastels (Apple’s “blue” on the iPhone 15 is literally just white). But, some folks don’t seem to like it, and I think it just boils down to personal preference.
I’m a huge fan of the blue here, but if you’re not, the black and white colors are equally great this time around.
This is the best display in a smartphone (at least here)
The other big new hardware change on the Pixel 8 Pro is the new “Super Actua” display. Google’s branding for the LTPO AMOLED display is meant to stand out, and I think it genuinely does. The display tops out at a massive 2,400 nits, which beats every other smartphone sold in the US market. It’s a wild change for Google, which has, in years past, tended to shy away from beating out the competition on specs.
Of course, like any other very bright display, you’ll only see that peak when viewing HDR content. This happens when viewing pictures taken by the Pixel 8 Pro through Google Photos, for instance, with the app taking advantage of Android 14’s Ultra HDR support. This leads to the occasional jarringly-bright image on the display, but Google’s implementation feels less aggressive compared to the iPhone 15 Pro I used recently. You won’t really see this used in a lot of places outside of Google Photos, though. Netflix uses it on select content, and it looks great, as Max Weinbach tells me. I think that I also saw HDR active on a couple of Reels on Instagram, but it was definitely showing less frequently than on the iPhone.
“Super Actua” also tops out at 120 Hz but can move between 1 Hz and 120 Hz as needed. I still don’t feel like Android takes full advantage of this, but in day-to-day use, all you’ll see is a smooth display.
The panel’s overall quality is also quite stunning beyond its brightness. Colors are vibrant but not oversaturated, and this display feels sharper than past Pixels. Where the Pixel 6 Pro and Pixel 7 Pro both almost felt like there was more space between the glass and the actual display panel, the Pixel 8 Pro feels more like “paper.” For lack of a better comparison, it feels on par with the iPhone or a Galaxy S23 series device and is the first Pixel I’ve felt has managed that feeling since the Pixel 4/XL.
Genuinely, I’d argue that this is the best display you can get in a smartphone in North America today, both in terms of its raw specs and how it performs in real life. You can do better internationally, but right here, right now, this is as good as it gets in the US market.
The 6.7-inch size of the Pixel 8 Pro feels familiar compared to the Pixel 7 Pro and 6 Pro and very much fits with the rest of the flagship smartphone space. But, as more and more time on foldables has shown me, I also really love using smaller smartphone displays. The Pixel 8 seems like the obvious answer there, but I do feel that Google has struck a decent balance on its Pro device. It’s not so unwieldy that I don’t want to use it (which happened with Galaxy S23 Ultra over time) but also not so small that I feel like it’s not big enough.
It’s a flat display, finally
While the quality of Google’s panel really speaks for itself in person, an even more practical benefit this year is to the display’s hardware. Not only are the bezels smaller and symmetrical, but Google has finally ditched the stupid curved glass trend and has a flat display in place on the Pixel 8 Pro.
Of course, like many devices, the glass isn’t totally flat, with a very slight curve on the very edges of the screen. But this, importantly, doesn’t impact screen protectors or anything else. It’s purely an ergonomic choice, as the curve feels a little nicer under the finger.
That said, I immediately slapped a screen protector on this device. It cost me $10, and I did it out of pure principle for the literal hundreds of dollars I’ve spent trying to keep a good screen protector on Pixel 6 Pro and Pixel 7 Pro.
Curved screens are dumb.
Software & performance
Android 14 is a great update, treated as a vehicle for Google AI
Android is a very mature operating system, so I’ve largely not expected much from its yearly updates for a while now. That said, the Android 14 update feels like one that’s actually rather good. My favorite change year-over-year is to the lockscreen, which I can now customize with more clock faces. It’s not nearly approaching the flexibility that iOS currently offers in this area, but I think that’s in part because the lockscreen serves two entirely different purposes across Android and iOS.
The rest of Android 14 is less impactful but just welcome on the whole. I like that the new back gesture is more visually apparent, that the system share menu has become more capable and, in turn, more widely used by apps, and that I can now have the system automatically unlock when I enter my PIN (as long as it’s six digits long). I also love that my little notification shade shortcut to open the clock app (by tapping the time), has finally returned.
We’ve got a full breakdown of what’s new in Android 14 over on YouTube. Overall, though, I think the update really just boils down to a lot of quality-of-life changes that make for a more polished Android experience, and I’m all here for it.
On Pixel, though, Android 14 really just acts as the delivery method for a heaping helping of Google AI.
That includes existing applications of this, like Google Assistant. While many long-time Android users have started to feel like Google Assistant is losing its touch, it’s easy to forget that, if you’re coming from an iPhone and Siri, Google Assistant is actually incredibly accurate and intelligent, and AI is just making it even more useful.
A good example of this is the “Summarize” feature in Google Assistant. This feature, with the help of Chrome, can create a bulleted summary of a webpage. It’s a neat little trick that in theory can save time, but I don’t trust it enough to use it on anything remotely important. The feature gets most things right but can occasionally get little details wrong, or just be missing really important context.
The one thing I really want the feature to do is summarize a recipe thanks to the annoying trend of appending a novel to every recipe for butter chicken. But, really, “Summarize” is just not good at this. Some pages don’t work at all, and the ones that do give me a summary that’s of minimal help. For instance, on a butter chicken recipe, the summary tells me a few ingredients and how the chicken is cooked, but what I’d actually want to know here is what ingredients are used and what cooking tools I’d need.
“Summarize” is a genuinely great idea in theory, but right now, I don’t think we’re quite there. An AI specific to the topic at hand will likely be better at generating these summaries, because it can change to better suit the specific needs. And, while I’m certainly biased, I think a good source that you can trust is still a far better way to get information than using AI when it comes to news.
Another feature I’ve quite enjoyed is AI wallpapers. Using generative AI, you can now create custom wallpapers directly from the Pixel Launcher, and it’s low-key my favorite use of generative AI to date. Google’s wallpaper generator isn’t as limitless as something like ChatGPT or Bard on the text side, or Dall-E or Midjourney on the image side, but it gives you some preset styles, patterns, and ideas that you can choose from to create a unique look for your wallpaper. It works fairly quickly, and the results are consistently pretty stellar. I think that’s the advantage to having some restrictions – you can’t really screw this up.
And really, this is just scratching the surface. We’ll get into the camera stuff later, but Google also has way more features coming over the next few months, including the arrival of Bard in the Google Assistant.
Tensor G3 seems good, but only time will tell
What has really been the make or break point for Pixel phones since the Tensor reboot of 2021 has been that chip, Google Tensor. The customized chip had a strong foundation, but it’s become very clear that its first two generations were not really up to par. Heat issues were by far the biggest problem, but poor modem performance has also been a problem, as has a bit of a deficit when it comes to more GPU-intensive applications, such as games.
Tensor G3, though, really steps it up on a hardware level.
The new chip is based on a 4 nm process and has hardware that’s comparable to the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, at least on paper. At the helm is a Cortex-X3 core, backed up by eight other cores – four Cortex-A715 cores and four Cortex-A510 cores. While these cores from Arm are just a few months from being a generation behind, they’re a massive step up (especially on the power-efficient cores) compared to Tensor and Tensor G2.
But, how does this hold up in actual use?
Thankfully, things are looking bright in the first few days I’ve been using the Pixel 8 Pro. In normal use, the phone doesn’t get hot, which is a big step up from the past couple of years. My Pixel Fold especially showed just how insanely hot Tensor could get – I literally can’t recommend the phone as a result. But the Pixel 8 Pro feels more on par with everything else I’ve used this year. It gets a little warm from time to time, just like the Galaxy S23 Ultra, Flip 5, OnePlus 11, and iPhone 15 Pro have, but only when the situation made reasonable sense. For instance, playing a few matches in Rocket League Sideswipe left the phone feeling a little warm but not to the same extent as on previous Tensor-powered Pixels. And other casual games I’ve tried have been roughly the same. However, at the same time, other reviewers I’ve spoken to have seen random issues with heat in other games, so your results may vary.
Overall, though, thermals on Pixel 8 Pro and Google Tensor G3 seem to be a considerable improvement.
I think perhaps the biggest testament to that, for me at least, has been in wireless charging while under load. I had the Pixel 8 Pro in my car on a wireless charger while running wireless Android Auto for almost two hours, and it didn’t break a sweat. My Pixel 7 Pro in that same use once had me legitimately worried it might shut down due to the heat being generated.
Where I think you’ll still see thermals struggle is on cellular networks. Any time I have felt the phone get unexpectedly warm, it’s been while on LTE or 5G.
How’s the performance? It feels roughly the same. Everything is smooth and fluid for the most part, but thanks to the seemingly better thermal situation, I don’t find myself running into dropped frames like I commonly found on the Pixel Fold. But, as expected, Tensor isn’t going to really hold up to something like the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2. Rocket League Sideswipe wasn’t running very smoothly for me, but I suspect that may simply be an optimization problem. Little Big Workshop is a console port I’ve really enjoyed playing on Android but which struggled on Tensor G2. On both Pixel Fold and Pixel Tablet, I had to drop the game to low settings to keep it playable. On Tensor G3, things are noticeably better, with medium settings running the game without any issues.
But, really, it’s hard to talk about this when I’ve only used the phone for six days and when those six days have included some of the coldest temperatures in my area in a while. Over the next few weeks, I want to do a lot more day-to-day testing to see how Tensor G3 holds up.
Seven years of Android
The most unexpected but most impactful thing about the Pixel 8 series is that Google is going to support these phones for seven years – through 2030. And that’s not just security patches; it’s OS upgrades and new features, too. It’s unprecedented in the mobile industry, beating even Apple, and that’s something that I think people should care about.
Some folks have brought out concern that Google is going to go back on its promise of delivering seven years of support. I vehemently disagree because, frankly, Google would be on the losing end of that battle. Google kills products over money, not this malicious intent that so many people truly seem to believe the company has against the products you love. The backlash and literal lawsuits that would come from pulling the rug on this promise outweigh any benefit that might come from not delivering a couple of OTA updates.
2030 is a long time away. Could Google kill the Pixel in that time? Maybe. I can’t say that’s impossible. But even if it did, I don’t think that would result in Google suddenly ending updates for existing devices.
I think the far bigger question people should be asking is how the hardware will actually hold up to seven years of use. I recently ditched my iPhone X, a device I kept around for just occasional use, and six years later, it was running slow even though I’d barely used it. With Tensor G3’s lower ceiling on performance, I’m far more worried that the hardware won’t physically be up to the task of running whatever Android looks like in 2030. But, genuinely, there’s no way to get an answer to that question any time soon.
Battery life & charging
On par with any other modern flagship
Something that Google has always struggled with on Pixel phones is battery life, which can vary wildly from user to user. In my testing so far on Pixel 8 Pro, Google isn’t exactly making drastic steps here, but it’s also not getting worse.
Generally speaking, the 5,050 mAh battery in Pixel 8 Pro has been enough for about a day of use.
My average day runs from around 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., give or take, with lots of messaging, social media, and other tasks thrown in throughout the day, mostly but not entirely on Wi-Fi. On Pixel 8 Pro, I’ve been able to comfortably get to about 4-5 hours of screen time in that use and about 25% left by bedtime.
Heavier days when I’m out more have also been well within my expectations. A Saturday spent outdoors brought me up to around four hours of screen time with about 15% left by bedtime.. a very busy Sunday running from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. with lots of photography and videos, messaging, maps, social media, browsing, and more left me with around 5.5 hours of screen time and 30% left by bedtime, but that also included about 15 minutes on a USB-C charger after the battery dipped to 25% by 5 p.m. and about 25 more minutes on a wireless charger while running Android Auto wirelessly. It’s one of the heaviest days I’ve put a smartphone through in a while, and I’ve got to say, I’m pleased overall with how the Pixel held up.
The Pixel 8 Pro by no means has even remotely the best battery life on a smartphone right now. I think the Galaxy Z Fold 5, OnePlus 11, and Galaxy S23 Ultra all beat it out on the Android side of things. But, I do think Google is at least in the same ballpark as Apple right now. I don’t have an iPhone 15 Pro Max to compare, but the results I saw this week on the Pixel 8 Pro felt pretty close to what I was seeing on my iPhone 15 Pro. In my eyes, that’s an overall win.
Charging speeds won’t exactly blow you away, either. Pixel 8 Pro tops out at 30W, up from 22W last year, which is fine. I’ve never felt like this is slow, but it’s also not crazy fast like you see in a device from OnePlus. Nine times out of ten, though, I’m usually charging via Qi on the Pixel Stand 2.
The Pixel legacy continues
Google Pixel phones have staked their legacy mainly on the camera, and not to beat around the bush, that legacy just continues to get better. But this year’s focus is clearly on AI over all else.
To start, let’s talk about the basics.
The updated 50 MP main sensor isn’t all that different from last year, and the results are still absolutely stunning. Google isn’t breaking any new ground here. The average shot feels, for the most part, about equal to what I was getting on last year’s Pixel 7 Pro.
New features on the Pixel 8 Pro include the option to shoot in “High-Res,” which turns off pixel binning and exports a 50 MP image. This results in better fine details, but it’s often a bit of a struggle to handle camera shake. It also means you’ll be eating up a lot more storage, whether that’s on the phone itself or on Google Photos. It is something I appreciated a lot more than I expected, though.
Google is also adding “Ultra HDR” this year, which provides a noticeable pop to pictures, at least when you view them in Google Photos, but unfortunately, we can’t show them here on our website. You can, however, view our full-size samples on Google Photos, and any supported devices will give you the full HDR experience.
The new 48 MP ultrawide sensor is also solid, though I can’t say I’ve noticed too much of a difference. I’m not much of an ultrawide guy anyway, though.
What remains my favorite part of Google’s camera hardware suite is the 5x telephoto, which is capable of some truly stunning shots. I had the pleasure of putting the Pixel 8 Pro’s camera through its paces during the US Disc Golf Championship this past weekend, and the 5x lens came in handy for getting in closer to get shots.
Another new feature on the Pixel 8 Pro is support for manual controls. You can now adjust shutter speed, ISO, and focus to your heart’s desire, which is certainly handy for occasional tricky shots. That said, I think this somewhat defeats the purpose of the Pixel camera, which is so good because the computational side of it is so trustworthy. But, really, there’s no harm in adding this – only benefits.
Video is also extremely solid on the Pixel 8 Pro but still not hard to trip up. If I captured video from the main lens, it was generally very good and I had no complaints. However, when moving to the telephoto lens, I often felt like focus could drift off of the subject easily, and I had a lot of trouble with jarring movements at anything over 10x. Overall, though, I remain quite happy with the Pixel video experience, and I can’t wait to try out “Video Boost” later this year to see how it makes further improvements.
One last thing I will add is that, both in video and photos, Google has done a great job in smoothing out the experience of switching lenses. It’s still not perfect, but it’s also not at all bad. The most jarring change is usually just when the feed turns over to a new lens, with a difference in quality noticeable especially when zooming in quickly.
Did you know this camera had AI?
But the real focus, as mentioned, is on AI features that come in after the shot has been taken.
That includes some longtime Pixel AI features, such as Top Shot and facial recognition, as well as Real Tone, which can also help adjust skin tones in video this year.
The headliner is Best Take, which can detect multiple photos that were shot around the same time and of the same people and use AI to replace faces to create the group shot you actually wanted.
While this feature makes some folks uncomfortable, I think it’s going to be a huge point of attraction for families. Really, I just compare it to a good wedding photographer. Taking multiple shots means you can fix mistakes, and any good wedding photographer has probably pulled this exact trick without you knowing it. The Pixel can just help you do it now, and a whole lot faster.
The results, though, tend to be a mixed bag.
As people move their heads, their bodies also move, which can make some face replacements look a little unnatural. This is mainly a problem if the subjects move between shots. Burst mode can go a long way to fix this, but that also slightly defeats the purpose. That said, if you never saw the original, you’d be hard-pressed to actually notice if a shot was edited with Best Take. And, sometimes, the AI just can’t fix the shot, resulting in some weird artifacting.
Magic Editor is Google’s other big flashy feature and, honestly, I just don’t get it. The pitch here is basically AI-powered Photoshop, but on your phone. And that’s a good pitch. But the implementation leaves a lot to be desired. The UI just tells you to circle the object you want to interact with, but fails to give you any further control. Google has mentioned changing the sky on a few occasions, but the generative AI just does it on its own. You have little to no control over what the results are.
But, beyond that, I just didn’t find myself wanting to use this. Some of Google’s demos, like moving someone further into the frame, seem useful, but everything else just seems like a party trick, or something better handled by other tools. Half the time, it feels like Magic Editor just wants to be Magic Eraser, and it’s not like it’s any better at that job. Magic Editor feels like a solution to an obvious problem, but a solution that skips a lot of the steps in between.
There are also new AI features in video, such as Audio Eraser. This allows you to effectively mute other sounds in your video that aren’t the focus of the clip. And it works rather well, as least from my very limited testing. More to come on that when this review gets finalized in the weeks to come.
The selfie camera is a big step up
On a hardware level, Google is really stepping up the selfie camera on Pixel 8 Pro. The 10.5 MP sensor now has autofocus, a feature that’s been revived five years after it first showed up on 2018’s Pixel 3 series. The quality of the camera feels much better as a result, at least in the main camera app, but 9to5Google’s resident selfie camera expert, Max Weinbach says that third-party apps have taken a hit.
The selfie camera on the Pixel 8 is a good improvement over the Pixel 7; it fixes the issues with a fixed focal length while keeping the quality of a Pixel camera. The issue remains in lower than perfect lighting and third party apps. In lower than perfect lighting there is a slight dark tint.
Year over year, the quality of Pixel selfie camera has decreased in apps like Snapchat, Instagram, and TikTok. Rather than getting pictures that look like they’re from the default camera app, like we saw from Pixel 2-4, it now looks like any other Android phone. This is likely due to Snapchat tuning for performance rather than quality, but still ends up with a not appealing end result. It’s inconsistent, but if you’re outside on a nice day, you can almost assume every shot will be great.
That new selfie camera is also being used for better Face Unlock, which this year works with payment apps. You can see more about that in our initial review of the smaller Pixel 8.
Fingerprint sensor & Face Unlock
The fingerprint sensor hardware on Pixel 8 Pro is unchanged from the Pixel 7 Pro and feels roughly the same. I’ve noticed maybe a 10% boost in accuracy, but the speed feels identical (both through screen protectors). In my eyes, it’s fine. I’d rather see Google move over to an ultrasonic sensor like Samsung uses, or at least get closer to OnePlus when it comes to speed, but it hasn’t taken any enjoyment out of my experience. Your results, of course, may vary because that’s just how things have gone with Pixel fingerprint sensors.
On the other hand, there’s Face Unlock. As mentioned, Abner Li took a closer look at this in our Pixel 8 review, but the short story is this. Face Unlock is a welcome addition, and it’s definitely better on Pixel 8 Pro than it was during the Pixel 7 generation. The best part of the whole system is that you can run face and fingerprint in parallel because, when acting as each other’s redundancies, the unlocking experience feels pretty much instant.
The vibrations on Pixel 8 Pro also feel roughly identical to the Pixel 7 Pro, which is to say they’re pretty solid. The haptic motors feel tight and precise, and the Pixel version of Android 14 does a good job in showing off those motors. Just don’t go in expecting any improvements here. And, since I have a point of context in the iPhone 15 Pro, I do think Apple’s haptics are stronger, but not inherently better than what Google is using.
And then there’s the signal performance. Cellular connections have been a major pain point of Pixel phones powered by Tensor, and that’s largely due to using Samsung modems. Pixel 8 Pro continues with a Samsung modem, the Exynos 5300. The firmware on that modem has reportedly been updated (the review has been updated to correct that only firmware has changed) from when it debuted on Tensor G2, and in theory, the hardware and software both should be more mature, given the Pixel 7 series was running that modem before Samsung formally released it.
The short version here after six days of use is that the signal is mostly fine. Connection strength was as expected in all of my normal areas, and I was getting solid speeds on Verizon’s C-Band while at the US Disc Golf Championship at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, SC. That faster connection didn’t seem to push the modem to generate more heat or suck up more power, either, a flaw I’ve noticed in the past. In more rural areas, the same applied, but I wasn’t able to do any side-by-side testing of actual signal strength and speed.
We’re hoping to do that test in the weeks to come, much like we did on Google Tensor G2, so stay tuned!
The thermometer is kind of stupid
There’s one thing about the Pixel 8 Pro we’ve not talked about thus far, and it’s the built-in thermometer. The reason we haven’t talked about it is because, well, it’s pretty dumb in its current form.
The infrared thermometer can quickly grab the surface temperature of nearby objects through a simple app. It does work rather well, but, honestly, I just cannot even begin to understand the point of it. Google has pitched the idea on multiple occasions of using the sensor to see the temperature of a pan on the stove, which is something I’ve literally never had the impulse to do or have even heard of someone trying to do. I tried it, just for fun, and yeah, it works. However, I have no idea what to do with that information. Have you ever heard of a recipe saying to heat your pan to 300 degrees? I sure haven’t. Measuring my pan to learn it’s 227 degrees isn’t helpful information without context.
Another use case was the temperature of a baby bottle, which is a decent idea, but the 2-inch distance for an accurate temperature makes that one seem a little tough in practice.
Honestly, I can’t think of a single genuinely useful application of this feature. It’s a neat party trick that I’m sure will come in handy for someone out there, but if this survives to the Pixel 9 Pro, I’d be absolutely shocked.
Google is working to get FDA clearance to use this for getting the temperature of the human body, but even that seems like an insanely niche use case. I guess it might be kind of nice to have a body thermometer just on hand, but I think the added cost of the sensor in the phone outweighs its usefulness. As 9to5’s Seth Weintraub says, it’s absolutely a gimmick, and this slot would have been better used by a Flir-style heat mapping camera, or just using a 3D LiDAR camera like Apple’s Pro phones use.
For me, if we’re going to get a kind of pointless gimmick, I’d rather just see Google bring back the IR blaster instead. At least that could come in handy from time to time.
The verdict, so far
It sounds like a cliche at this point, but the Pixel 8 Pro is genuinely Google’s best phone yet and the culmination of the entire Pixel series thus far.
It takes the camera and AI legacy of the first few Pixel phones and mixes that with the improved hardware that’s come from everything after the Tensor reboot, as well as finally (probably, maybe, hopefully) getting that chip right. Throw in that the Pixel ecosystem is getting much stronger and that this phone is potentially going to have better resale value thanks to its seven-year update promise, and you’ve got a pretty compelling device in my opinion.
I’ve enjoyed every minute with the Pixel 8 Pro so far, and I can’t wait to keep running it daily. I don’t think anyone who picks up a Pixel 8 Pro will regret it.
Pixel 8 Pro is the biggest leap Google has taken in smartphones since the first Pixel device, and really for the first time in years, this is a device that feels like it’s not just waiting on a better future but is ready for customers today.
Where to buy the Pixel 8 Pro
You can buy the Google Pixel 8 Pro from most major retailers and carriers in the US. Below, we’ve linked some of the main places to buy. And, if you’re buying before October 12, you can take advantage of getting a free Pixel Watch 2.
The 50 MP main camera sensor on the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro has been a bit of a mystery, but it seems we might finally have an answer.
Ahead of the Pixel 8 launch, early rumors claimed that Google would switch to the Samsung ISOCELL GN2 camera sensor. But, as the launch approached, that seemed less and less likely. Most notable was a spec leak that lined up much more closely with the ISOCELL GN1 from Pixel 6 and Pixel 7 than it did the ISOCELL GN2.
During the Made by Google event earlier this week, Google directly said that Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro use a “new main sensor” that has up to 21% better performance in low-light scenarios but still at the same 50 MP as the Samsung GN1 sensor that was used in Pixel 6 and Pixel 7. However, Google neglected to mention what that sensor actually was.
We did ask Google what sensor the Pixel 8 series is using earlier this week, but the company wouldn’t comment on specifics. Google lists Pixel 8’s main camera sensor with a 1/1.31-inch sensor, 1.2 μm pixel width, and f/1.68 aperture.
According to Ben Sin of XDA-Developers, though, the most likely answer to the question of what camera sensor the Pixel 8 series is using is the Samsung ISOCELL GNV, not the GN2.
The ISOCELL GNV is another 50 MP sensor, but one that Samsung doesn’t publicize. However, it has been used on multiple Android devices over the past couple of years. Most notably, it was found in the Vivo X80 Pro, which launched in mid-2022. Kimovil, a smartphone comparison website, also mentions this sensor for Pixel 8 and 8 Pro, but it’s unclear where that’s being sourced from.
Officially, we still don’t know for a fact what sensor the Google Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro are using. That said, with Google having explicitly confirmed that there is a new sensor being used and the specs not pointing to GN2, Samsung ISOCELL GNV seems like the most likely explanation. We’ll likely find out more in the inevitable teardowns.
Google will provide 7 years of repair parts for Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro, too
One of the biggest new features of the Google Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro is the new update commitment – seven years of software support including Android OS upgrades. And, to further sweeten that commitment, Google also says that it will provide spare repair parts for Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro for seven years.
Google’s new update schedule for Pixel phones is quite literally unprecedented, as the highest promise prior to this came from Samsung. The company’s commitment came with four years of OS upgrades and five years of security patches, which in itself was and still is quite good. But Google’s new commitment blows even Apple out of the water – iPhone X, for instance, was just killed off after six years of software support.
But, what’s all that software support worth if the hardware can’t keep up? Everyone still has plenty of questions on how Tensor G3 will hold up to seven years of use, but the physical hardware is also going to be tested to its limits in that time.
Google has confirmed to Android Authority that, through the full seven years of software support, the company will also provide spare repair parts for Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro.
Parts will be available for seven years. That’s part of our commitment as we go to the seven years (sic) that we need to make our parts available so you can keep your hardware alive for that long.
The parts will presumably be available through Google’s partner, iFixit, which carries existing Pixel parts and also publishes in-depth guides to detail how to actually perform the repairs. Google also briefly touted that partnership during the Pixel 8 launch event.
Hands-on: Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro are Google’s most promising phones yet, but it all depends on Tensor G3
Google has seen moderate success with its reboot of the Pixel series in the “Tensor” era, but Pixel 6 and Pixel 7 series phones ultimately ended up earning a less-than-stellar reputation for issues such as overheating and signal. But with the new Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro, Google is debuting what are easily the most promising Pixel phones since the original, but it all rests on whether Tensor G3 is actually the improvement it claims to be.
Pixel 8: A more well-rounded flagship for everyone
The first device we’ll talk about is the smaller Pixel 8, which continues in the legacy of being a more affordable device with the same flagship chip, but a trimmed-down experience otherwise. And, this year more than any other, I think Google has really nailed the balance.
Pixel 8 brings a few really key upgrades to the table, starting with the display. The “Actua” display is a fancy marketing word for a 120Hz panel – an overdue upgrade for sure. The 6.1-inch panel is compact and truly a delight to hold, and the quality of the display is truly wonderful despite its 1080p status. The bezels are also noticeably smaller this year, in an improvement even I, as someone who doesn’t really care about bezels, can appreciate. Something I appreciate a lot less is the continued use of glossy rear glass but, honestly, I don’t really mind at this point, especially because I know fully well that almost everyone who owns this device is going to use a case.
And, something else that’s changed this year is just the look. The Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro look practically identical from the front, which I think is a good move on Google’s part. The Pixel 6 and Pixel 7 both had clear inspiration from the Pro, but they always felt very different, and not in a good way. Pixel 8, from any angle, really does feel like it’s the “little brother” to the Pro, rather than a completely separate entry in the series.
On the camera front, the new camera sensor will have to prove its worth in a full review, but things feel more on par with the Pro here in terms of hardware than we’ve seen in a while. The Pro gets a telephoto camera and Pro features, but the regular phone has the same main sensor and the addition of auto-focus on the ultrawide, which opens the door to macro photography.
Pixel 8 feels like not just an upgrade, but a better phone than Pixel 7
The upgrades on Pixel 8 just make it feel like a more well-rounded device, rather than being a clear step down. It does, however, just throw an even bigger wrench in the whole $300 price difference.
But, let’s talk more about the other end of that spectrum.
Pixel 8 Pro: Finally earning its ‘Pro’ name
The Pixel 8 Pro. This one… it feels special.
Google’s latest Pro device brings a pretty surprising number of upgrades and exclusive features. Let’s do a quick rundown.
5x telephoto camera
48MP ultrawide camera
Auto-focus & secure face unlock for the selfie camera
Manual camera controls
50MP mode for camera
“Super Actua” display with 1-120Hz variable refresh rate
Gorilla Glass Victus 2
Up to 1TB of storage
Coming: “Video Boost” processing
That’s a pretty good list of features that separate the Pro from its “little brother.” Are some of these still a little less hardware dependant than they should be? Of course. Pro controls especially seems like a weird thing to just block entirely from the smaller phone, but at the same time, I’m still not convinced Pixels should have this anyway – an unpopular opinion I’m sure.
But, all of that said, what is it actually like to use?
I only spent a small amount of time with the Pixel 8 Pro, but I was happy with every second of it. The updated hardware with its matte back, rounded design, and long overdue flat glass “Super Actua” display feels like some of the most compelling Android hardware I’ve used in quite some time. It also feels like the most “Google-y” hardware the company has done since the Pixel 4 series. The matte glass here isn’t quite as good as it was on the Pixel 4 series, but it’s extremely close.
And, to close out, let’s spend a brief moment on the colors of the Pro. The Pixel 8 Pro comes in fairly tame “Obsidian” and “Porcelain” colors (both are pretty crowd-pleasing) but also the apparently divisive “Bay.”
The fairly vibrant blue is striking in person, and hard to translate to pictures. It’s a unique color for a smartphone, and one that I immediately fell in love with. It’s also one that stands out in any lighting conditions, and will absolutely have me questioning if I want to use a case.
Oh, and it has a thermometer. No, you shouldn’t care about that at all.
Symmetrical bezels and way better displays
Another aspect that both Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro share is their general display design. The bezels across both devices are symmetrical across the sides and top and bottom. It’s a design trait that enthusiasts love and the iPhone has fully embraced and, while it’s not all that important in terms of functionality, it looks aesthetically great.
More important is the display itself. Google is launching new “Actua” displays on the Pixel 8 series, which is a fancy marketing term for just better overall displays. The panel has the same clean look that you seen on iPhones and Galaxy phones, but not as much on Pixels. The regular Pixel 8 is smaller and lacks variable refresh rate, but it’s 120Hz and is 40% brighter than Pixel 7. The Pixel 8 Pro, meanwhile, has a variable refresh rate at up to 120Hz and the same size as previous Pros, but this time with flat glass on top – finally.
As mentioned, we’ve only spent a little bit of time with the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro, but I walked away with a great impression of the displays.
The Android phone that’s finally matching iPhone on updates
Both Pixel 8 devices are seeing $100 upcharges over their predecessors, but if the new hardware doesn’t make you feel that extra cost is worthwhile, the extended software support might.
Google is providing Pixel 8 and 8 Pro with a whopping seven years of security, Feature Drop, and Android OS upgrades. That’s unprecedented in the Android space in terms of a concrete promise, blowing the Pixel’s previous 3-year/5-year promise, and even Samsung’s 4-year/5-year promise, out of the water. It also comes up to Apple’s typical support timeline, as iPhones tend to get iOS updates for around 6-8 years depending on the model and, well, how Apple feels about updating that device. In any case, it’s a major point in Pixel’s corner, and could have lasting benefits.
Even if you don’t plan to use your phone for that long – I really don’t think many people should – this extended update policy leaves the chance for Google to keep selling its phones for longer (like Apple does) and, maybe, drive up resale value by ensuring that Pixels will still have a life after they’ve been sold to someone else.
How a Pixel actually ages over seven years, we’ll have to wait and see, but this is an ambitious promise on Google’s part.
Really, it just all comes down to Tensor G3. If Google can finally get the chip right, I think Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro will easily be the best Android phones on the market. But that’s a huge if.
Tensor’s legacy thus far has been plagued with issues, heat, and just tons of problems. I genuinely hope that the underlying upgrades – Google’s won’t share specifics aside from “ARM v9” – actually stick the landing, especially given the lifecycle of these devices.
What do you still want to know about Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro?
Google has pre-orders open now for Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro, with prices landing at $699 and $999 respectively. Stay tuned for our full reviews right around the corner but, in the meantime.
Following this morning’s announcement, Android 14 is now rolling out to the following Pixel devices: 4a 5G, 5, 5a, 6, 6 Pro, 6a, 7, 7 Pro, 7a, Tablet, and Fold.
There are 26 security issues resolved in the Android 14 October patch dated 2023-10-01, 26 for 2023-10-05, and one for 2023-10-06. Vulnerabilities range from high to critical. The dedicated bulletin for Google devices has 28 additional security fixes.
Google is starting to roll out a big redesign of the Pixel Camera app with version 9.0 which notably requires Android 14.
With this redesign, you get a Photo/Video switcher at the bottom of your screen. To the left of that pill is how you access the settings panel, which can also be opened by swiping up (instead of down) in the viewfinder. Continuing upward is the carousel of available camera features:
Photo (L-R): Action Pan, Long Exposure, Portrait, Photo, Night Sight, Panorama, Photo Sphere
Video: Pan, Blur [Cinematic], Video, Slow Motion, Time Lapse
Google Camera 9.0
One nice tweak here puts Night Sight a swipe away, while video controls are now more spread out. Camera 9.0 removes “Modes” from the very end, while the switcher is sticky and remembers what Photo or Video mode you were last using.
Meanwhile, for whatever reason, this redesign flips the camera roll preview — long-press for Locked Folder — and front/rear lens switcher positions. There’s no longer any UI at the top of the screen, given the bottom strip, but you don’t get to use that freed up space since it’s used to hide the front-facing camera.
Besides the reorganization to place the vast majority of controls at the bottom of your screen for easier one-handed access, there are no other drastic visual changes. Meanwhile, the themed icon has been updated and is now larger.
Google Camera 188.8.131.521695573.37 requires Android 14 and will not install on Android 13 or older. As such, this update looks to be for Pixel users on the Beta Program. We’ve got it working on a Pixel 7 Pro running Android 14 Beta 5.3.
The new version started rolling out on September 7, but is not yet widely available in the Play Store. First spotted by the Google News group on Telegram, it can be downloaded now from APKMirror today. Notably, this ongoing rollout means the redesign isn’t first debuting on the Pixel 8 series after all.
There are nine fixes with UPB5.230623.009 for Pixel phones, as well as the Pixel Fold and Tablet. It’s notable that Google has moved back to a single build. Looking ahead, this update is still running the August 2023 security patch, with another release bringing September’s seeming likely.
Fixed an issue where apps crashed in some cases after a CallStyle notification was posted.
Fixed various issues that could cause call or carrier service interruptions.
Fixed an issue where the system was using an inefficient path when placing CPU restrictions on apps running in the background.
Fixed issues with SurfaceFlinger that were causing a loss in system performance.
Fixed an issue on Pixel Fold and Pixel Tablet devices where the taskbar sometimes turned invisible while interacting with it.
Fixed an issue on Pixel Fold and Pixel Tablet devices where the animation on animated wallpapers stuttered when launching apps.
Fixed an issue on Pixel Fold devices where the interface layout was misaligned while customizing the Home screen.
Fixed an issue on Pixel Fold devices where the clock on the lock screen was flickering while animating.
Fixed various issues that were impacting system stability and performance.
If you’re currently enrolled in the Android Beta Program and running the latest Beta 5 builds, you will automatically get offered an over-the-air (OTA) update to Android 14 Beta 5.3.
Android 14 Beta 5.3 with the August 2023 security patch is available for the Pixel 4a 5G, Pixel 5, Pixel 5a, Pixel 6, Pixel 6 Pro, Pixel 6a, Pixel 7, Pixel 7 Pro, Pixel 7a, Pixel Tablet, and Pixel Fold, as well as the Android Emulator.
Instead of the stable release of Android 14 for Pixel phones, as well as the Fold and Tablet, we got a series of Google app updates and updated branding this morning. While unexpected, this isn’t Google’s latest OS release just yet.
With Beta 5 at the start of last month, Android 14 looked on track for a stable launch as soon as mid-August, which would have mirrored Android 13’s August 15th rollout. At the time, Google said the “official release” was “only weeks away.” Beta 5 was followed by 5.1 and 5.2, with no other release this cycle seeing a second patch. While Beta 5 was the “last scheduled update in our Android 14 beta program,” Google doesn’t consider patches to be scheduled, so there’s nothing unexpected about those bug fixers.
With no launch in August, the next window shifted to September 5th (since the first Monday of the month is a holiday in the US). Considering that window has now also passed, let’s look at the recent history of Android launches:
The latest launch in recent memory is Android 12, which had an AOSP release in early October followed by an October 19 Pixel launch tied to the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro announcement. However, in the case of Android 12, the last beta milestone (5) came a month before (in September). Before that, Google has launched in August or September since 2016.
The fact we don’t have a stable yet is complicated by the fact that Android 14 does not seem to be a major release from a visual or new features perceptive. Given the Material You redesign, it made sense why Android 12 took so long.
Android 14’s stage presence during the I/O 2023 keynote in May was unusually limited. We’ve been beta testing lockscreen clock and customization shortcuts for some time now, while generative AI wallpapers hardly seem like a showstopper (and are something I’d expect to debut first on the Pixel 8 anyway before coming to older phones with the December 2023 Feature Drop).
Speaking of Pixel Feature Drops, there clearly wasn’t one today. There also wasn’t one in September of 2021 or 2022, with Google waiting until December both years.
For those waiting, Android 14 Beta 5.2 is quite stable on the Pixel 7 series, Tablet, and Fold. I’ve been using it as my daily driver for several weeks now without issues, thus adding to the intrigue of why it isn’t out yet.
It will be interesting to see whether there will be Android 13 or Android 14 Beta 5.3 with the September security patch at this point. Depending on how many bugs are addressed in the latter, that could signal how far away we are from a stable launch.
Google updates the Android brand with new logo and 3D robot
Following our previous report, Google is officially unveiling a new 3D logo for Android. The broad goal of this updated branding is to “help connect Android to Google,” and it follows the previous modernization in 2019.
Each time we overhaul our branding, we evaluate not only changing needs, but also future goals. We know people today want more choice and autonomy, and we want our brand to be reflective of Android: something that gives people the freedom to create on their terms. As an open platform, it’s important that both our technology and brand are an invitation for people to create, connect and do more with Google on Android devices.
Google says it drew “inspiration from Material design to complement the Google brand palette, as well as be adaptable.”
It starts by moving away from Android’s “longstanding lowercase stylization” to help elevate the logo and add “more weight to its appearance when placed next to Google’s logo” (as seen above in the top-left corner).
While we’ve added more curves and personality unique to Android, the new Android stylization more closely mirrors Google’s logo and creates balance between the two. We hope these small but significant updates to the Android typeface will better communicate the relationship between Android devices and the Google apps and services people already know.
The other big aspect is the Android robot, which, since 2019, has appeared alongside the wordmark. In going 3D, Google gave the bugdroid “more dimension, and a lot more character.” It can be depicted with different materials, colors, and even accessories.
As a visual signifier of our brand, we wanted the bugdroid to appear as dynamic as Android itself.
Google has also updated the full-body appearance to “ensure it can easily transition between digital and real-life environments, making it a versatile and reliable companion across channels, platforms and contexts.” The body is now a domed capsule instead of having a flat bottom and legs protruding from it. With the last branding update, it seemed that Google was moving away from this version.
The updated logo, 3D bugdroid, and brand identity will “appear on Android devices and in more places starting this year.”
Redesigned Assistant At a Glance widget rolling out to all Android phones
Android is rolling out its quarterly drop of new features today, with a redesign of the Assistant At a Glance widget being the highlight.
The current widget available on all Android phones was never updated when the fixed Pixel Launcher version was updated with Android 12. Now, it features a Material You redesign in which the weather is prominently shown in an M3 shape at the right, while text appears at the left. Two lines of text are supported, while a three-dot overflow menu provides additional options, as we previously enabled.
This At a Glance redesign is available for all Android 9+ devices and is rolling out starting today.
In terms of new app features, Google is rolling out the ability to ask questions – by voice or typing – about images with Lookout. Announced back in May, this uses a visual language model to describe images that do not have alt text. Lookout is also adding support for 11 new languages (including Japanese, Korean, and Chinese) for a total of 34.
Google Wallet is also rolling out the previously announced ability to import/upload passes with QR codes or barcodes. This could be used with some library or gym cards, parking passes, and tickets.
You can add what time you slept and how many hours (from Google Fit or Fitbit) to your Google Assistant “Good morning” Routine.
Rounding out the app front are Android Auto apps from Zoom and Webex that will let users join conference calls (by audio) and browse meeting schedules. Google says all “active calls are managed through Android Auto,” with the ability to mute your microphone as needed.