February 24, 2024
The Google Pixel 8 with the Google Pixel 7 and Pixel 6.
Google Pixel 6 (left) with the Pixel 7 and Pixel 8. Andy Boxall / Digital Tendencies

Nearly each single evaluation of the Google Pixel 8 and Google Pixel 8 Professional talks about how these two take us to the promised land of AI nirvana on smartphones. Google Assistant screening requires you? Examine. Extra clever sensible reply ideas? After all, my lazy soul deserves that comfort. Enhanced zoom that depends on pixel-level picture reconstruction to de-haze blurry edges? My Instagram dump would love that.

Erase noise from movies? I would like that, too. Summarizing net articles? That’s each tab-hoarding journalist’s dream. These all are the AI options that rightfully put the Pixel 8 duo in a unique league. However they aren’t unattainable to emulate. Furthermore, it additionally seems that Google deliberately locked some digicam wizardry to the Pixel 8 Professional to justify its thousand-dollar asking worth.

The pitch for a Google Pixel cellphone continues to be a superb one, however between some questionable choices from Google this 12 months — and fierce competitors that simply received’t cease — it’s not unreasonable to suppose the Pixel household is in peril.

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A dragon burning down Google’s home

Xiaomi 14 Pro in white.
Xiaomi 14 Professional, powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 SoC. @Daniel_in_HD / X

For ease of comparability, let’s deal with the Pixel 8 Professional. It’s an excellent cellphone for $999. However it’s not the perfect cellphone for $999. And as soon as smartphones powered by Qualcomm’s AI-loving Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chip hit the cabinets, the vaunted AI fringe of Pixels will dilute additional. Check out the Xiaomi 14 duo, launched on October 26, and likewise the OnePlus 12 sitting proper across the nook.

Because of the brand new Qualcomm chip inside and the brand new HyperOS software program, the Xiaomi system affords AI-aligned perks like speech technology, an article summarization trick that transcribes video calls into notes and makes brief summaries, AI picture technology, text-to-slide creation, and the power to show doodles into paintings. Similar to the Xiaomi 14, Honor’s upcoming flagship utilizing the identical Qualcomm chip will even have the ability to natively run basis generative AI fashions on smartphones.

However that’s not all. Qualcomm says the upgraded NPU and the AI stack on its newest flagship chip will enable customers to take away undesirable objects from movies, similar to the Pixel telephones. Increasing the canvas of photographs utilizing AI plugins to get multi-step complicated duties finished with a voice immediate, plus text-to-image technology, are among the many many different tips it will probably pull off.

Someone holding the Google Pixel 8 Pro in front of a colorful mural.
Joe Maring / Digital Tendencies

The most recent Qualcomm chip doesn’t fully strip away the Google Pixel’s AI” credentials, however a median Android flagship has by no means been this near matching the intelligence that Google usually touts for its telephones. Will the Pixel all of a sudden develop into “simply one other premium Android cellphone” after the onslaught of Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 telephones? Not likely. However is their worth deprecated? Completely, and for extra causes than simply fancy AI tips.

And that’s simply what Qualcomm is doing. On November 6, MediaTek introduced the Dimensity 9300 — its personal newest technology of cellular chipsets. Much like the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3, the Dimensity 9300 additionally touts massive AI upgrades that influence show output, 5G, and different features of your cellphone. We might not see the Dimensity 9300 in as many handsets because the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 will seemingly be in, however regardless, Google’s days because the AI champion are shortly operating out.

After all, Google has a number of key leverage factors — like a better Google Assistant, a generative AI pup known as Google Bard, and a few software-side digicam chops. However these are barely the options which can be a “should” on a thousand-dollar cellphone.

Even the ageing rivals rank up

An iPhone 15 Pro in Blue Titanium (left) and Google Pixel 8 Pro in Porcelain showing camera modules.
Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Tendencies

Seven years of OS updates, you say? It’s nice. However is there an assurance that every one the brand new software program experiences that Google develops within the coming years will run in your ageing Pixel 8 in 2029? Nearly actually not. Look no additional than the Pixel 8, which may’t pull each trick that the Pixel 8 Professional can. After which there’s the large characteristic gulf you see between the Pixel 7 and Pixel 8 technology. I received’t dig additional into the previous, however you get the thought of the place I’m going.

Now, let’s speak about benefit. Is the Pixel 8 Professional the perfect $999 cellphone? Arguably so. Can it beat the newest “Professional” iPhone? Actually not at uncooked efficiency. Undoubtedly not at ecosystem advantages. Clearly, not on the longevity of software program assist. Sadly, the Pixel additionally lags behind the Apple flagship at battery endurance and video seize finesse by a wholesome margin.

Let’s look into the Android world. Final 12 months’s Galaxy S22 Extremely nonetheless fares higher than the Pixel 8 Professional’s Tensor G3 chip at some main benchmark checks. It has a terrific zoom digicam and gorgeous night time mode capabilities. The software program is extra feature-rich from a customizability perspective than the Pixel 8 Professional. It has some neat ecosystem advantages that play nicely with Home windows PCs. The yesteryear Samsung flagship additionally affords a desktop-like subsystem known as DeX. The battery life is healthier, and so are the thermals.

Issues, issues, issues

Holding the Google Pixel 8 Pro, showing its Home Screen.
Joe Maring / Digital Tendencies

So, the place precisely is the “wow” side of the Pixel 8 sequence, particularly the Professional? Let’s say a cellphone is the sum of its components. However the sum of the components – even essentially the most basic components – just isn’t entire for the Pixel 8 sequence. Heck, the Pixels merely can’t shed the curse of its predecessor.

There are precise Pixel 8 sequence customers complaining, as soon as once more, concerning the unhealthy antenna on the Google telephones — leading to unhealthy community reception. One consumer ran a take a look at utilizing an Android app and located the newest Pixel delivering sub-par community reception outcomes. That’s a fundamental trait, and a cellphone should get it proper. In spite of everything, we purchase a cellphone to have the ability to make calls. Apple legend Steve Jobs is ridiculed to today for downplaying the iPhone’s unhealthy antenna downside with a “You’re holding it flawed” blunder.

Unhealthy telephony just isn’t forgivable.

It’s distressing that Google nonetheless hasn’t managed to unravel one thing as severe as a Pixel cellphone not with the ability to name the 911 emergency hotline. The final 911 concern put up was dated just some days in the past on Reddit. There’s a complete thread of documented 911 name failure posts on Reddit narrating the scary ordeal. There’s no assure that Pixel 8 customers received’t run into related issues.

There’s already a complete bunch of complaints relating to connectivity points plaguing the Pixel 8 sequence telephones on Reddit. The Pixel 7 duo, and the Pixel 6 sequence earlier than it, additionally gave related complications to patrons. There are additionally dozens of complaints protecting different woes like heating, battery drain, and totally different sorts of software program bugs.

The Tensor stress

Render of Google's Tensor G3 processor.
Google

Now that we’re knee-deep into discussing Pixel issues let’s talk about the laggard scenario of the Tensor chips, which trickles down all the way in which to its third iteration in 2023.

Proper from the beginning, issues had been shaky. Google has confirmed to 9to5Google that it blocked benchmarking apps – those who run artificial load situations to check a processor’s may – to keep away from leaks. Some say Google did it to forestall unflattering benchmark scores from stirring a web-based furor. Let’s give Google the advantage of the doubt right here. However the numbers don’t lie.

At demanding checks just like the 3DMark Wildlife Excessive simulation, the Tensor G3 was in the identical class because the two-generations-old Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 and Apple’s A15 Bionic chips. On GFXBench Aztec operating at 1440p in offscreen mode, it as soon as once more returns decrease numbers in comparison with the aforementioned Qualcomm and Apple processors and even falls behind MediaTek’s Dimensity 9000.

A person holding the Google Pixel 8.
Andy Boxall / Digital Tendencies

Climbing as much as the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 and the Apple A17 Professional, the Tensor G3 doesn’t even need to be in the identical league as different flagship chips of 2023. The A17 Professional averages round 2,800 on Geekbench 6 single-core take a look at and over 7,000 at multi-core runs. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 (contained in the Galaxy S23 Extremely) clocks 2,000+ and 5,200+ at single-core and multi-core checks, respectively. The comparable tally of the Tensor G3 is merely round 1,700 at single-core and within the 4,400 vary at multi-core checks.

On AnTuTu, the A17 Professional proves to be round 60% quicker, whereas the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 is about 40 to 45% mightier. The A17 Professional’s lead on some demanding graphics-intensive checks is nearly 150% above the Tensor G3. These are usually not small numbers by any stretch of the creativeness. And because the Pixel 8 sequence ages, they may drop out of favor as extra new AI experiences arrive that demand increased firepower.

Add all of that along with the spectacular chip design used on MediaTek’s Dimensity 9300 — a chip that’s already benchmarking barely increased than the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 — and there’s little doubt issues aren’t trying good for Tensor.

What this implies for the Google Pixel

The Google Pixel 8 Pro sitting upright on a park bench.
Joe Maring / Digital Tendencies

So, right here’s the brute commentary following a tough Pixel 8 Professional commentary. Finally, your cellphone will preserve getting Android OS upgrades spaced throughout seven annual generations, however they received’t get all of the snazzy options that the brand new Pixels will flaunt within the coming years. And that brings us again to sq. one. How a lot laggardness is forgivable in favor of some AI tips earlier than you resolve to splurge on a Pixel when the competitors clearly affords a greater expertise?

A cellphone just isn’t all about AI. A technology or two of lagging behind is forgivable. However after that, it’s essential to reinvent the wheel. We’re on the fringe of a shift the place on-device generative AI is knocking on the Android doorsteps. On the opposite aspect of the cellular ecosystem, Apple is pushing console-grade video games and pro-grade digicam tips on the iPhone. The Pixels look worryingly weak and undoubtedly not prepared for that shift.

On the finish of the day, the Pixel 8 duo just isn’t unhealthy, a minimum of not in 2023. However Google must catch up, and by so much.

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