After I started using the Google Pixel 4XL in 2019, I have been a Pixel owner and love the overall clean UI experience, but had to live with a “primitive” dual-camera setup and a facial unlock system without fingerprint which is a hassle during the COVID years. I gladly moved to Pixel 7 Pro early this year with an excellent triple-camera system, fingerprint sensor, and all the UI goodness. When the Pixel 8 series was launched, I was excited to review it, as well as the Pixel Watch 2 which officially goes on sale in Singapore.
Between Pixel 7 Pro and Pixel 8 Pro
Even though the phone appears similar to the Pixel 7 Pro, the Pixel 8 Pro has different dimensions, which means the casings are not interchangeable. The new model has a matt glass back which prevents fingerprint marks, but this feature no longer matters if you use the phone with a casing, which most people do. The 6.7-inch display is now flat on the sides, which means the screen protector can adhere snugly without popping up.
I find that the Pixel 8 Pro is less aggressive in sharpening, which makes images appear less digital. The colour saturation is also slightly elevated so the images appear less dull. At the maximum 30x zoom, the Pixel 8 Pro maintains its ability to make sense of images thanks to its conservative extrapolation. Here, the Pixel 7 Pro’s sharpening engine creates a more positive impression of being more detailed. But the new Pixel 8 Pro can enable 50MP high-res mode that allows users to manipulate the images with more pixels. Shooting at high-res mode requires a bit more time to save the image.
Google Imaging AI
The Pixel 8 Pro supports offers many AI-driven editing capabilities not available in other smartphones. Any photo saved in Google Photos can be processed. In “Best Take”, the Google Photo app provided suggestions on swapping some of the faces with better expressions. In “Magic Editor”, the app cleverly traces the subject accurately for me to reposition and resize to another area. It then tries to fill in the details. I find the results very convincing as long as I do not push the edit too extreme.
On the Pixel 8 Pro, I have also rediscovered better use of on-device machine learning and generative AI. It is a snap to listen to on-screen content by telling Google Assistant to “read this article”, and can also accurately translate the page to another language with a natural accent. Google Assistant seems to be handling speech-to-text better, which is exceedingly useful for replying to messages from the Pixel Watch 2, since it is not convenient to type on the small round surface.
Pixel Watch 2: A Smart Health Tracking Watch
Speaking of which, the new Pixel Watch 2 feels like a natural extension of the smartphone for notification, quick replies, and health monitoring. The Wear OS now supports more apps to be installed natively into the Watch, like Gmail and Whatsapp, which means you can browse all your chats and send messages on it without touching your phone. The Google Home is also available and you can control the smart devices. I feel confident about getting on with my life without having the phone with me all the time, as the Pixel Watch 2 offers a good amount of integration and synchronisation of emails, messages, calls, and accessing many Google apps like YouTube Music, Calendar, Notes, Maps, Wallet. There are also hundreds of apps that you can install from the Play Store.
More importantly, the Pixel Watch 2 keeps track of my biometry through the Fitbit app that is now tightly integrated. From the basic steps, sleep, heart rate tracker to the advanced workout features like heart zone training, pace training, using numerous sensors including skin temperature, the Pixel Watch 2 can monitor my overall wellness, stress and mood. It is comfortable enough for me to wear to bed and to wake me up with the alarm.
Conclusion: Constantly Improving
If one would judge the Google Pixel 8 Pro from the hardware specs, there are hardly anything outstanding. The camera system does not have the same 100x zoom reach as Samsung, nor the processor is faster. But it is a true-blue Google smartphone that give you access to the latest AI and machine-learning features that Google is developing. For anyone who embraces all apps Google – browser, email, calendar, photos, smart home, storage drive, etc. – the Pixel phones make a spectacular conduit to all these capabilities. Any new Android features and security patches, you will be sure that Pixel phones will get it first before any other Android phones out there, for the next 7 years. It is the equivalent of an Apple iPhone in the Android world, and I’m just glad that the Pixel phones continue to work well for me. And with my recent positive experience on the Pixel Watch 2, it too has made me embrace Wear OS, largely thanks to the 2-day battery life and speedy recharge.
For heavy content creators, the Pixel 8 Pro’s new photo and video AI features are helpful. But the Pixel 7 Pro remains relevant and I would still hold on to it unless a good deal comes along.
Google Pixel 8 Pro
Google Pixel 8 Pro