Here on Phandroid, we sure do love our smartphones, given all the cool stuff that they can do. With that in mind, the Pixel 8 series represents Google’s vision of how an Android phone should be, an ideal blend of hardware and software molded to the Big G’s standards. With the initial excitement having died down, we’ve decided to revisit the device, and view it in a long-term perspective.
So how has the Pixel 8 been doing so far, a few months later? Let’s take a look.
Undoubtedly one of the best features of Google’s flagship smartphone line, camera performance on the Pixel 8 has been impressive, to say the least. Photos shot on the device come with all the usual signature traits of a Pixel-processed image, including the recognizable color tones, exposure, contrast, and saturation for example were all present, and for another year I discover myself enjoying a consistent mobile photography experience with the Pixel 8.
I’ll admit however that the addition of Ultra HDR is something that I didn’t care much for. I like the way that previous Pixel phones shot and displayed photos, and viewing images with an extra bump in contrast wasn’t something I particularly favored. Google has thankfully given us the option to turn this off, which is a much-welcome feature in my opinion.
In the case of the Pixel 8 Pro, we’ve started seeing some rather impressive samples of Google’s Video Boost feature in action, which is a game-changer especially given the Pixel’s reputation for “just okay” video quality. One caveat is its exclusivity, which at the moment excludes base model Pixel devices – nevertheless, it’s another great addition in Google’s arsenal of exclusive features.
Consistency is Key
Besides cameras, the core user experience is what sets Pixel phones apart from competing devices. In the few months that I’ve been using the Pixel 8 it’s safe to say that it gets all the essentials right, and then some. Features like SMS spam filters, Call Screening, Google’s impressive voice-to-text transcription all work nicely on my phone, and have yet to fail me.
Battery life is an improvement, especially coming from a Pixel with Android 13 installed. I’m not sure if it was my usage pattern or if it was the dreaded Android 13 battery drain that heavily affected my usage with past Pixels, but the Pixel 8 has been impressive in this regard, with slower battery drain and somewhat less heating. With Android 14 on the 8, I can easily get between 5-6 hours of screen on time for example, although this of course will vary from user to user.
I appreciate the fact that I can now access payment apps without the need to input my fingerprint
Features like the fingerprint sensor and Face Unlock have also been reasonably fast and efficient, and while I do wish that Face Unlock worked better in low-light conditions, I appreciate the fact that I can now access payment apps without the need to input my fingerprint, resulting in a faster user experience.
Software Updates and AI
A while back, Google announced that it will no longer release monthly software patches on a fixed date, and will instead roll them out for users based on model and regional variations. While previous updates were available within the first week of the month for example, that’s no longer the case these days.
It’s a change which has received mixed reception – on one hand, this gives Google more time to fully optimize updates, resulting in less bugs and issues. However, this does somewhat dull the software experience a bit, especially for users looking forward to getting the latest Pixel updates on time like before. It’s a subjective matter, although I have to admit that watching the rest of the world receive the December 2023 patch only served to lessen my “FOMO.” With that being said though, they did arrive as Google said they would.
As for Google’s much-hyped AI features, I’ve found the experience to be a mixed bag. When it works, Magic Editor manages to get a lot of things right, and can result in some great-looking edits (as seen above), although there are moments when elements such as shadows and lighting aren’t accounted for, resulting in some off-looking images.
As such, Generative AI is still in its early years, and limitations at this point are unavoidable at times. Additionally, it should be interesting to see how Google’s cloud-assisted AI features stack up against Qualcomm’s approach, which fully uses onboard hardware to handle all the AI processing needed by a user.
Who Got Game?
Despite a newer chipset and a RAM count that’s enough for most other Android phones, the Pixel 8 devices aren’t exactly designed to be “gaming phones” – sure, they’ll run most games from the Play Store with no issues, although graphics-intensive titles and prolonged gaming sessions can be an issue at times.
Thankfully, the latest December 2023 software patch includes an update for the Pixel 8 series’ GPU, which does manage to improve the experience a bit. It should be noted that some games might not be fully-optimized for Android 14, although this is more of a software issue. For example, games like Battle Chasers: Nightwar present a couple of graphical hiccups, which were likewise present on my Pixel 6a after updating to Android 14.
So Far, so Good
To make a long story short, the Pixel 8 has been a pretty reliable device so far. I haven’t thankfully run into any performance-breaking bugs, and unlike my previous experience with the Pixel 7 and Android 13, the 8 series (alongside Android 14) hits that sweet spot when nailing the basics of what makes a Pixel phone great to use, and improves on past grievances like battery life and thermals.
It’s not a perfect Android phone however, and we’re not telling everyone to ditch their current smartphone for the Pixel 8 or 8 Pro – but Pixel fans and folks curious about what Google has to offer will find a lot to love here.
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