Price increase hits new Google Pixel phones, but one thing makes up for it

Google Pixel 8 Pro range

AI features galore, performance upgrades, and a price hike – that’s the new Google Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro in a nutshell.

After an initial tease last month, Google has confirmed details about the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro devices, in addition to the new Pixel Watch 2 wearable. As AI continues to be the hot topic among tech brands, Google went to great lengths to position itself as an AI-first hardware company.

Although its new devices, wielding the Google Tensor G3 processor, are more powerful than last year’s Pixel 7 series, the focus was on what the devices can actually do, as opposed to raw power. The kicker, however, is that the Pixel 8 is $200 more than last year’s equivalent, while this year’s Pro model sees a significant $400 increase.

So, what can the Google Pixel 8 devices do?

One of the biggest improvements said to be coming with this year’s phones is even more AI capabilities. By this, Google means video and image enhancement features, in addition to better Google Assistant performance.

An example of this in action is a feature called Pixel Call Assist, which sounds similar to the iPhone’s Live Voicemail tool added with iOS 17. It lets Google Assistant screen unknown callers for you, adding to improvements to the noise reduction Clear Calling feature.

Magic Eraser, Google’s background object-removing tool, returns with a twist. There’s now an Audio Magic Eraser tool that removes unwanted sounds from recordings. It’s not known how this works in practice, but the idea of cleaning up noisy videos is a good one. Best Take is another new feature that combines multiple images into one idealised version. It seems like the ideal feature for family photos when you can’t get everyone to look at the camera at the same time or someone’s eyes are inevitably closed as the shutter snaps.

As if all the tech companies got together and decided that improving the keyboard and typing experience was a focus for 2023, Google Assistant is faster at dictating your voice. iOS 17 recently did much the same for Apple devices, although anecdotal evidence indicates that Google is one of the best at voice-based typing. A big focal point is the ability to quickly type and use your voice to edit text across different languages, too, which would be great for multilingual speakers.

What about the design and cameras?

Starting at the top, the Google Pixel 8 Pro includes a 6.7-inch 120Hz LTPO OLED display, driving a peak brightness of 2,400 nits. Meanwhile, the base Pixel 8 comes with a smaller 6.2-inch 120Hz OLED display, peaking at 2,000 nits brightness. Which is still plenty bright, mind you.

Alongside the Tensor G3 chip, the Pixel 8 ships with 8GB of memory, while the Pro houses 12GB. Each phone supports fast 30W USB-C charging and Qi wireless charging, with the base model equipped with a roughly 4,500mAh battery, and approximately 5,000mAh for the Pro. As for colours, the Pixel 8 comes in Obsidian, Hazel, and Rose. Also available in Obsidian, the Pixel 8 Pro comes in Porcelain, and Bay. That shade of ‘Bay’ blue is one of the nicest I’ve seen on any phone.

Google Pixel 8 Pro phone Bay

Both new phones have upgraded camera arrays, with photography frequently labelled a strength of the Pixel devices. The Pro has three rear cameras: a 50MP wide lens, a 48MP ultrawide lens, and a 48MP telephoto lens with 5x optical zoom, in addition to a 10.5MP selfie camera. As for the base model, it has a 50MP wide camera and a 12MP ultrawide lens on the rear, supported by a 10.5MP selfie camera.

According to Google, the image processing is better, picking up vibrant colours and aiding low-light photography. Many of the photography improvements are at a software level, with features like Magic Editor coming in a future update. Exclusive to the Pixel 8 Pro, Video Boost – another feature coming in a post-launch update – produces HDR+ and colour grading capabilities for professional-looking videos. Plus, the higher-level phone also benefits from pro controls, giving you greater control over camera settings.

Also, the Pro has a thermometer, letting you scan objects to measure temperature. What a time we live in.

Pixel Watch 2 and new Pixel Buds Pro colours

Accompanying the new phones is the Google Pixel Watch 2, a wearable that’s 10% lighter than its predecessor. Google’s mission is to help people live healthier, which makes sense given its acquisition of Fitbit a while ago.

Hardware and software improvements make up the Pixel Watch 2’ improvements, with fitness enthusiasts likely to benefit the most. Google claims that the integrated multi-path heart rate sensor helps produce up to 40% more accurate readings during vigorous exercise. This, in addition to a newly updated Fitbit app and more auto-detect workout features, should make the Pixel Watch 2 better for those who take health seriously.

Google Pixel Watch 2 launch

From a productivity perspective, the Pixel Watch 2 uses Wear OS 4, which comes with various improvements. Chief among them is the seamless Gmail and calendar integration, letting you view and respond to emails entirely on your wrist.

Battery life was a main weakness of the original device, with the 294mAh capacity only providing up to 24 hours of regular use. A slight increase, the Pixel Watch 2 has a larger 306mAh battery, although the big selling point from Google is that it lasts 24 hours with the always-on display enabled. This implies that you could squeeze more juice by disabling always-on, which we won’t know until it’s testing time.

Google’s final announcement was the reveal of two new Google Pixel Buds Pro colours and several software upgrades. Now also available in Bay and Porcelain, the earbuds will also soon get Bluetooth Super Wideband technology, doubling the bandwidth for voices, which is meant to produce a clearer sound.

Pixel Buds Pro Bay

Doubled with the upcoming Clear Calling support on Pixel phones, the Buds will help cut out background noise. Like other headphones, the Pixel Buds Pro also have a feature that detects when you speak, called Conversation Detection, which then pauses any music playing and activates transparency mode so you’ve got no excuses for tuning out.

Google has priced the Pixel Watch 2 at a starting price of $549 for the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth model, with the 4G LTE version costing $649, while the Pixel Buds Pro cost $299.

About that Pixel 8 price increase

A starting price of $1,199 for the Google Pixel 8, and the Pro’s $1,699 price tag certainly warrants attention. Value-for-money has long been a strength of the Pixel phones, delivering premium-level performance priced well below the competition. Everything’s getting hit by price increases at the moment, but this feels like a substantial leap.

The sentiment from Google was that the company believes it’s still punching above its weight class in terms of value and features. Even though a multi-billion-dollar behemoth needs no defending, it’s a valid point.

$1,199 for the base Pixel 8 is still cheaper than the Samsung Galaxy S23 at $1,349, and the $1,499 iPhone 15. Taking things further, the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra costs $1,949, while the iPhone 15 Pro starts at $1,849 – comfortably more expensive than the Pixel 8 Pro. Although, with hindsight, one can’t help but view the timing of the lower-priced Samsung Galaxy S23 FE as a direct move against Google just as it ramps up its pricing.

In a move seemingly aimed at softening the monetary blow, the Google Pixel 8 devices include a mammoth seven years of operating system, security, and feature updates. Without wanting to sound hyperbolic, this level of software support is unheard of among major phone manufacturers. As new phones make incremental improvements year-on-year, it’s a smart move, positioning the new devices as a long-term investment.

For now, the latest Google Pixel range is available to pre-order now, ready for release on 12 October 2023.

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