Smartphones have, over the years, brought smaller and smaller changes from generation to generation. While the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro aren’t as minor as some others, many of the differences and new features are still quite minor. Here’s every noteworthy change this time around.
The Pixel 8 is smaller and has thinner bezels
On the hardware front, one of the first differences can be found on the Pixel 8, which has a new, smaller size compared to Pixel 7. The display measures in at just shy of 6.2 inches and, thanks to its thinner bezels, is a much smaller phone compared to the previous two entries in Google’s affordable flagship sector.
In person, the smaller size feels awesome and just makes me wish that Google would throw a telephoto lens and a matte finish on its $699 device.
The camera bump is bigger, and it has another new look
Another noteworthy difference that you can see almost at first glance is with the camera bar.
Both Pixel 8 devices have bigger “pill” shaped camera cutouts on the camera bar, with the Pro’s cutout being especially large in order to house the extra telephoto lens. Compared to the Pixel 7 series, I think this new look might actually be better as it really emphasizes the camera.
You’ll also notice that, in addition to the bigger cutouts, the camera bar itself also juts out of the back of the device a bit more. In hand, this doesn’t really feel as though it makes an impact, so I’m not very concerned about it.
Google is also reviving a design trait from days of Pixels passed. The Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro both have symmetrical bezels, like the Pixel 5 did back in 2020. Many Android phones have a “chin” on the bottom, but Pixel 8 series is aiming to effectively match the iPhone in this regard.
The bezels are reasonably thin, though not quite at iPhone 15 Pro levels, and are almost perfectly symmetrical along all sides. Pixel 8 Pro appears to be fully symmetrical, but Pixel 8 does seem to have just a very, very slightly thicker bottom bezel, but we’re talking an incredibly tiny amount here.
Google is also introducing its own display branding on the Pixel 8 series, with “Actua” and “Super Actua” displays on the regular and Pro, respectively. This is really just fancy branding for the AMOLED panels (LPTO on the Pro), but the displays themselves look awesome. The gap between glass and display panel feels smaller, which brings a look that, for lack of a better comparison, feels like an iPhone to me. Pixels have long fallen behind Apple, and even more so Samsung Galaxy devices, in their displays, but this time around, it feels like a much more even race.
And, while we’re still on displays…
PIXEL 8 PRO HAS A FLAT DISPLAY
Sorry for the all caps – I’m a bit excited about this one.
After two generations of Google’s Pro phones adopting the truly awful industry trend of curving the sides of the display, that evil has been vanquished on the Pixel 8 Pro. The display is now flat, though with ever so slight curves to the very edges of the glass. This should fix issues with light glare on the sides and make screen protectors infinitely easier to find and apply.
New camera UI
Google Camera is getting a new look, and it’s debuting (in part) on the Pixel 8 series. The new look has photo and video-specific modes at the bottom of the screen and moves settings into that bottom bar as well.
This UI is, notably, also found on other Pixels following the update to Android 14, but it is slightly different on Pixel 8 series devices. Most notably, on the Pixel 8 Pro, it includes an option to switch to “Pro Controls” while in virtually any camera mode and allows users to adjust shutter speed, ISO, and focus. The manual controls also change depending on the camera mode you’re in.
Pixel 8 Pro has autofocus on the selfie camera
Another thing Google is reviving from past Pixels is autofocus for the selfie camera. This is something that was available on the Pixel 3 series but removed in subsequent generations. Pixel 8 Pro revives it, but only for the Pro.
The addition of autofocus also means that the selfie camera can power Face Unlock that’s powerful enough for secure environments, like financial apps.
The buttons are a little different
Here’s a super minor change.
The buttons on Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro feel different.
It’s a bit hard to pin this one down, but the description we landed on was that the buttons feel a bit bigger and chunkier. We’d certainly hope this has something to do with fixing the truly bizarre issue where Pixel 7 owners noticed their buttons randomly falling out, but in any case, the new buttons feel nice.
Matte glass, but only on the Pro
Another Pro-exclusive change this year is in the fit and finish of the rear glass. Finally, we’re back to matte.
All three Pixel 8 Pro colors use matte glass, and the result is just delightful. The texture is soft and nice to the touch. It doesn’t quite reach the wonderful feel of the Pixel 4 series, but it’s very close. I just wish this was also on the smaller device.
Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro are available for pre-order starting today. The Pro comes with a free Pixel Watch 2 during pre-orders, while Pixel 8 buyers get a free pair of Pixel Buds Pro. Trade-in offers can take up to $800 off of the cost of the device as well via Best Buy and other retailers.
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