Google debuted its new Pixel 8 series of phones, and Pixel Watch 2, at its Made by Google event in New York (US) on 4 October 2023.

The company also debuted its Assistant with Bard for smartphones, which uses generative AI (GenAI) to provide personalized assistance to customers. Pixel 8 users get first dibs on Assistant with Bard before it’s rolled out to Android and iOS in a few months.

GenAI comes to mainstream phones

Google is bringing its GenAI mainstream, right into the hands of customers with Assistant with Bard, catapulting over rivals Microsoft, Amazon, and Meta. Android is used in 3.6 billion personal devices across 190 countries unlike Amazon’s products, which are largely limited to in-home use, and Meta’s headsets and smart glasses, which cater to a niche hardware audience.

Google’s large language models (LLMs), which are algorithms behind the company’s AI tech, give it a decided edge over hardware rivals Samsung and Apple, which have been left behind in the GenAI race. GenAI, however, is notoriously unreliable, and the possibility of substantial privacy violations with AI-generated content and images is just coming to light, with investigations ongoing in European countries.

Google build on Pixel strength

Google is now a classic hardware manufacturer with annual device announcements. Its Pixel 8 Pro can turn into a thermometer, of all things. Rival phones have temperature sensors built in, but they’re largely used to monitor the battery and processor’s heat. The built-in temperature sensor on the Pixel 8 Pro can measure the temperature of objects and surfaces currently – and body temperature once the FDA approval comes in – a first for any smartphone in the world.

Google’s computational photography has always been a Pixel strength, and the AI updates behind the Pixel 8 Pro camera will make the phone stand out from rivals.

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The camera band on the back of Pixel phones is a design win, instantly setting a Pixel apart from a Galaxy or iPhone, both of which have no external differentiation. The Pixel 8 Pro enhances its power and efficiency with one of the largest battery capacities for a flagship phone at 5,050 mAh.

The Pixel 8 also includes some of the same improvements as the Pixel 8 Pro model. But a $100 price increase on a base model (and the Pixel 8 Pro model) as customers grapple with financial challenges and restarting loan payments will prove a serious gaffe for Google.

Pixel 8 repairability and updates

Google has not only caught up to Android and iOS updates but has surpassed them with the Pixel 8 series. The company will offer seven years of OS, security, and feature drop updates. This is longer than what both Apple and Android rival Samsung offer, allowing for a longer shelf life in times of financial belt tightening.

Google has partnered with iFixit for original parts and tools and claims that the Pixel 8 series is more repairable than its predecessors, but that remains to be seen. Repairability would be a step in the right direction, but there is continued difficulty in finding authentic parts at third-party retailers, not to mention their high prices.