Google’s new Pixel smartphones are even better at making your phones look great. The latest Pixel 8 models employ some AI photo editing tools that ride the line of helpful yet wildly creepy.
I was at the launch event in New York City where the company got on stage to show off the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro. While Pixel phones have always been known for taking great pictures, this time around there’s an even bigger emphasis on AI to help make them look even better.
The new phones are slightly smaller in the hand, making them much easier to hold, especially the Pro model. They have brighter screens and better camera setups, especially improved on the Pro model.
We’re seeing a trend among the big three tech companies – Apple, Samsung and Google – of putting their absolute best specs in their top-of-the-line phones. Users can no longer get the smaller size phone and still enjoy the best features.
These phones have AI overload – from a smarter Google Assistant to smarter spam call screening.
“When we’re thinking about building products, I think we really do think about helping users,” Stephanie Scott told me. She’s a product manager for Google Pixel.
The Pro phones come in fun colors including a bright blue called Bay which seems to be the fan favorite.
Another new AI feature is called Audio Magic Eraser. This feature separates the sounds in your videos, so you can dial them up or down. For instance, you can turn down the background sound of a barking dog if you’re trying to focus on your baby taking for the first time.
It’s like having a pro audio editing system built into your phone.
Perhaps the most interesting new AI feature is called Best Take. This feature allows you to pick the facial expression for each individual person in a group photo. It works really well to craft the perfect shot, but it’s also sort of creepy how good it is at fooling us into thinking we took the perfect picture.
“We’re really helping you to get that photo that you intended to take,” said Scott.
Oddly, there’s a new temperature sensor on the back of the phone. Google says this is to let you take the temperature of “objects” for now, but they have asked the FDA for approval so you can measure body temperatures with it. It’s like having one of those touchless forehead thermometers we all used during the pandemic built right into your phone.
Google says Pixel users get about 50 percent less spam calls and they’ve improved their call screening AI so it can respond to routine calls like confirming a doctor’s appointment for you.
One major announcement: These latest Pixel phones will now get 7 years of updates. That includes new operating systems, security patches and new features. That means the Pixel 8 phone you buy next week could theoretically last you until 2030.
For perspective, Apple’s OS updates typically support phones for 5 to 6 years.
“I think this is an amazing time to switch to pixel because you’re not only getting amazing new hardware, upgrades for displays cameras, beautiful new colors but also its jam packed with all these amazing new features,” said Scott.
Google also unveiled a new Pixel Watch 2 with improved battery life. They say it now lasts 24 hours even with the display always on. There’s also a more accurate heart rate sensor and it will alert you when you’re stressed out. Maybe don’t wear it to work.
“Our mission is to help everyone stay healthier … and this I think is a pretty big step towards that,” said Pixel Watch project manager Sandeep Waraich.
The new phones are available for pre-order now and they’re available October 12. They start at $100 more than last year’s price. $699 for the Pixel 8, $999 for the Pixel 8 Pro.
You can see some of the photos I’ve taken with the Pixel 8 Pro so far here.