The new Google Pixel 8 is officially official, despite having been leaked and preannounced by the company already. As with the Pixel 7, the Pixel 8 is smaller and less expensive than its larger Pixel 8 Pro sibling, also officially announced today. But the price has gone up this year, with the Pixel 8 starting at $699.99 for a model with 128GB of storage. (And if you’re a Verizon customer, that starting price is $799.99 for the same storage. You can call that the mmWave tax.) You’ll be able to preorder it starting today, October 4th, in either rose, black, or hazel colors. Shipping is expected to start on October 12th.
Google has slightly tweaked the design of the Pixel 8 to differentiate it from the Pixel 6 and 7, and that’s most noticeable in the device’s corners, which are more rounded now. The design is still immediately recognizable as a Pixel phone, with a metal frame and camera bar across the back. The phone is also ever so slightly smaller, with a 6.2-inch display instead of last year’s 6.3-inch screen. Will you notice that difference in use? I don’t think so, but hey, at least it didn’t get bigger.
That new display now refreshes at 120Hz, up from the Pixel 7’s 90Hz, but it is not LTPO and can only vary between 60 and 120Hz for battery life savings. You’ll have to pony up for the Pixel 8 Pro if you want a screen that can go all the way from 1Hz to 120Hz. Notably, the iPhone 15, which has the same price as the Pixel 8, comes with a 60Hz screen.
Outdoors, the Pixel 8’s OLED screen will ramp up to a peak brightness of 2000 nits, and it supports always-on display features. The Pixel 8’s battery is 4,485mAh, up about 5 percent over the Pixel 7. That battery is not huge but also not small — Google claims “beyond 24 hour battery life,” but I would read that with a skeptical eye. Google’s 30W wired charger (not included) will bring the Pixel 8 up to 50 percent in 30 minutes, or you can use wireless charging for a slower but more convenient top-up.
Under the screen is the same style of fingerprint sensor Google’s used in past models, but now, the Pixel 8’s front camera supports face unlocking with the same amount of security as fingerprint unlocking — yes, you can use it to unlock bank and payment apps now. There isn’t any special hardware for the Face ID-like 3D mapping of your face, so it’s unclear how exactly Google was able to make it more secure.
The Pixel 8 sticks with a two-lens camera system: main and ultrawide
The Pixel 8 maintains the two-lens camera setup, updating its 50-megapixel main camera with a wider aperture and its 12-megapixel ultrawide camera with autofocus and macro capabilities. The new main camera is claimed to be 21 percent more sensitive to light than the Pixel 7’s camera and is the same sensor as used on the Pixel 8 Pro. Once again, though, if you want a telephoto, you’ll have to buy the Pixel 8 Pro.
Google has also redesigned the Pixel camera app to separate video and shooting modes. Unfortunately for the Pixel 8, the new app doesn’t have the extended manual controls found on the Pixel 8 Pro.
Some of the most significant new camera features aren’t related to the hardware at all but are seen in the Google Photos app. The Magic Eraser feature that was announced back at Google I/O will be available after launch for the Pixel 8 and lets you completely change an image by moving subjects around and changing backgrounds. There’s also a new Best Take feature that will combine images taken from a series to make sure that everyone is looking at the camera and smiling at the same time.
Powering these new features is the new Tensor G3 processor, which is paired with 8GB of RAM in the Pixel 8. Google boasts that the G3 runs an AI machine learning model that’s 10 times more complex than what was used on the Pixel 6, and it can do a better job filtering out spam calls, erasing unwanted background audio from video recordings, and making your calls sound clearer. New features in the keyboard and recorder app support seamless switching between multiple languages when using voice transcription, and the Pixel 8 can translate a website and read it aloud to you. It can also provide bullet point summaries for sites in the Google app and Chrome browser, similar to how Bard and other online AI assistants work on the desktop.
Seven years of support is by far the most important new software feature
The Pixel 8 is launching with Android 14 out of the box, but what’s more significant is Google’s promise that it will provide seven years of OS and security updates. That’s more than twice as long as prior Pixel phones received and much longer than any other mainstream Android phone maker commits to, bringing the Pixel 8 (and 8 Pro) in line with how long Apple supports the iPhone. Google also says it will continue to add features to the Pixel 8 through Feature Drops every few months.
In all, the updates to the Pixel 8 this year are largely modest, though if you have a Pixel 5 or older, you’ll appreciate the upgrades. We’ll have to see if the Pixel 8’s smarts are enough to compel anyone to switch from an iPhone or Samsung device once we’ve spent some more time with it.