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Google Pixel 8, Pixel 8 Pro, Watch 2: Everything Google Just Announced

"The most beautiful phones we've ever made."

Lori Grunin Senior Editor / Advice
I've been reviewing hardware and software, devising testing methodology and handed out buying advice for what seems like forever; I'm currently absorbed by computers and gaming hardware, but previously spent many years concentrating on cameras. I've also volunteered with a cat rescue for over 15 years doing adoptions, designing marketing materials, managing volunteers and, of course, photographing cats.
Expertise Photography, PCs and laptops, gaming and gaming accessories
Lori Grunin
5 min read
Google's Pixel 8 Pro and Pixel 8 smartphones in their bay and rose colors
Stephen Shankland/CNET

At Wednesday's Made by Google event, the company launched its Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro phones along with the Pixel Watch 2, to no one's surprise -- the world already knew a lot of the details thanks to information that dribbled out in the weeks leading up.

Like the other hardware-slash-operating system companies, Google highlighted the way its phones use new features in Android 14, which was announced at Google I/O in June, and becomes available with these phones when they ship by midmonth. Unsurprisingly, it concentrates on its AI-based software rather than the changes to the phone's hardware over the Pixel 7 line, including updates to Google Assistant and new photo editing tools. There are some notable hardware updates, like the company's new Tensor G3 AI-accelerator, improved screen brightness, a new temperature sensor and new cameras.

The Pixel Watch 2 also received some modest improvements, such as more accurate heart-rate sensing and updates to its safety features and more. Like Android, the Watch's operating system, Wear OS 4, was announced at Google I/O and ships with the Watch at the same time as the phones.

Watch this: Google Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro First Look

Rick Osterloh, Google's SVP for devices and services, breezed through some updates before he even got to the main products. The Pixel Buds Pro get upgraded with AI enhancements to sound quality, and use of Bluetooth Super Wide Band for more flexible, high-bandwidth sound. They have reduced latency, which is important for gaming. They'll come in new colors to match the phones, bay blue and porcelain.

The Pixel Fold will be updated with Dual Screen translation, and its discussion of Google Home AI and Assistant updates, which will first launch as experiments -- notably the future Google Assistant with Bard preview -- sounded an awful lot like Amazon's Alexa boosts.

Pixel support has been expanded to seven years of support and updates, as well.

Google Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro phones

A lot remains the same for these phones relative to their predecessors, but there are a handful of hardware and software upgrades to increase their appeal. For instance, the screen sizes remain the same but they have improved the adaptive refresh rates' range, which can let it drop very low when you don't need the speed and make your battery happier. Google's gone rounder with all the edges, which turns out to be calming. And new Actua and Super Actua displays on the Pixel and the Pro, respectively, deliver much brighter HDR peaks -- 2,400 nits, for the Pro, which is high.

The Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro next to one another in someone's hands.

The Pixel 8 (left) and Pixel 8 Pro.

Richard Peterson/CNET

Both phones have main cameras with new dual-conversion gain sensors, a technology like that used by the Galaxy S23's Isocell HP2 sensor, which lets it apply two different gain curves to the image -- boosting and reducing noise in shadows and pulling back on areas with bright highlights -- to generate a high dynamic range image in a single shot rather than merging a burst at different exposures.

They also have marginally higher resolution front cameras, but the Pro can autofocus.

Every AI demo we've seen in the past couple of years has shown itself off by summarizing web pages, and Google Assistant's enhancement is no different. But its call spam filter, Call Screen, sounds more natural when it answers for you. It's also designed to analyze voice-message context and widgetize it into actionable items -- think getting various choices of an autoresponse to the food delivery person who's dropping off dinner. 

See the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro Up Close and Personal

See all photos

A new Video Boost feature automatically retouches videos' shadows and noise and applies digital image stabilization, but in the cloud rather than on your phone. Because a data center has a lot more processing power to efficiently work with the full-resolution file, which happens when the video syncs from your phone to the heavens. You see a lower-resolution (1080p) proxy on your phone until the video's been completely processed and synced back. Additionally, Google's bringing its low-light Night Sight image processing to video.

Google's own camera app gets manual controls for shutter speed, exposure time (for timed shooting in extreme low light), white balance, ISO sensitivity and focus. There are also enhancements to some photo file formats in the form of more metadata for color management (like Adobe DNG) and to properly display photos on other devices (Ultra HDR).

Additionally, there are a handful of new or improved "magic" and AI-boosted features, such as Best Take. It lets you merge selected faces in a group show to create a single version in which everyone's got their best face on -- or worst, if that's the way you roll. Audio Magic Eraser can theoretically distinguish and filter out particular sounds. 

The Pixel 8 Pro distinguishes itself from the plain ol' Pixel 8 in a few ways. It's still larger (6.7 inches to the Pixel's 6.2) and has a marginally higher capacity battery with a concomitant marginal increase in weight of 1 gram.

The Google Pixel 8 Pro has a thick section, the "camera bar," to house its cameras

The Google Pixel 8 Pro has a thick section, the "camera bar," to house its cameras.

Stephen Shankland/CNET

It's also the first Google device to be able to run some lighter weight generative AI operations, such as a more fine tuned Magic Eraser, thanks to in-phone AI foundation models (the code that's essential to run them locally).

One big add to the Pro's hardware is a temperature sensor to measure the heat coming off items, for instance to tell you if they're exceptionally hot or cold -- that could be a boon to people with temperature-sensitive teeth... I guess? Well, it's not the most crowd-pleasing sensor, at least until Food and Drug Administration approval comes through to let Google use it for measuring body temperature. I would actually find this useful to measure how hot a laptop gets -- if only to confirm I'm not imagining things.

It also has a 48-megapixel ultrawide camera with a new sensor that's more sensitive than the older 12-megapixel version; it's got a wider aperture lens to let in more light. Plus, it can now autofocus and shortens the macro focus distance by about 1cm.

The Pixel 8 Pro starts at $999 (£999, AU$1,699) and the Pixel 8 at $699 (£699, AU$1,199). Both start shipping on Oct. 12 and are available to preorder now.

Google/Screenshot by CNET

Google Pixel Watch 2

The second generation of Google's wrist wearable integrates some Fitbit Sense 2 capabilities, like automatically starting and stopping workouts, which the Apple Watch has had for a while, plus adds sensors for detecting temperature and stress indicators.

Other new features include a better heart rate sensor that collects data from multiple contact points (it claims up to 40% more accurate tracking at high altitude), and improved training tools that incorporate the new data. Plus there's a processor upgrade for improved performance (the watch, not you) -- faster processor, faster charge, "all day" battery -- and new safety features. One example of the latter is Safety Check, the equivalent of "if you don't hear from me in an hour, call the police." There's also real-time emergency location sharing.

Watch this: Pixel Watch 2 First Look: Google's Smartwatch Gets An Upgrade

It's more durable, with better cover glass and tweaks to some of the band design aspects.

It ships on Oct. 12 for $350 (£349, AU$549); preorders start today.