Google's set to show off the next step in its Pixel smartphones on October 4th, 2023, and they're sure to bring some interesting features to the party. And it just happens that Google has managed to leak this phone to kingdom come (like, they posted that image below on their store), so there's a lot we already know.
If you saw the Pixel 6 or 7, the Pixel 8 will look very familiar. The biggest change here is that the black glass window set into the camera bar now encompasses all of the sensors in one pill shape instead of having separate windows. Otherwise, it'll look basically the same. And that's fine, it's a good design.
Inside, expect some iteration. There will undoubtedly be a new Google-designed Tensor processor (that hopefully has better power efficiency) and will enable more of Google's AI-centric features.
And, for some reason, Google is adding a thermometer to the Pixel 8. It's not a Flir-style infrared camera sensor — just a non-contact infrared thermometer that will give you a temperature reading by holding the sensor close to something for a few seconds, like a forehead. Like the hands-free gesture-based Motion Sense controls from the Pixel 4, I wouldn't be surprised if the thermometer is dropped in future versions. It feels like a feature that may have started development during the COVID era and has arrived too late to be consequential.
One of the standout features of the Pixel line has been the cameras, and that's mostly on the software. In fact, for several years they continued to use the same camera sensor over and over and just improved on it with better processing. But in recent years Google caved and started updating the sensors as well, and this year will be no exception. Both the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro will see updates to the main 48MP sensor, while the ultrawide sensor on the Pixel 8 Pro will also see a revision.
Importantly, the camera app interface is getting an overhaul, with a cleaned-up layout that will make it easier to navigate through the plentiful features it offers.
Google is also reportedly shifting to a new HDR model, switching from taking a rapid series of photos with differing exposures to capturing multiple exposures simultaneously. Doing so will allow them to exert less computational effort on resolving the minute differences from frame to frame, but will require increasing the bandwidth from the camera to memory to process all of that data at once.
But the coolest imaging stuff happens not in the sensor, but after the fact. There are two big-deal AI features coming to the Pixel 8, and the first is "Audio Magic Eraser" (a promo video of which leaked already):
Think of Audio Magic Eraser like a next-generation AI-powered noise reduction tool. It'll dial in on the audio subject of the video and allow the user to squash extraneous sounds without hurting the overall quality of the subject (be it voice, music, etc). Depending on how good it ends up being it could reduce the need for external wireless microphones to capture good quality audio.
The other big feature is the kind of thing that will be a real "wow" moment: video unblur. We've all been there before, having recorded a video that seemed great in the moment, but when you watch it later you see that it was a blurry mess from missed focus and a shifting camera. Google's already shown this off with "photo unblur", so bringing it to video is the next natural step and could help to salvage what would've otherwise been unusable footage.
Both of these features are aiming to amp up the Pixel line's video chops, where it has lagged behind Apple's iPhone for serious on-the-go videography. Depending on the quality of these tools, it could even end up leap-frogging the iPhone's video capabilities just a month after the iPhone 15 Pro is unveiled.
There will certainly be other AI tools on the Pixel 8. Google is all in on AI and they'll want to put as much of that right in your hands as they can.