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How the Google Pixel 8a gives you a sneak peek into future of AI-led smartphones | Technology News

As I was waiting for my flight to take off from San Francisco to Los Angeles last week, a lady sitting next to me in the airport lounge asked me what phone I was using. I said it was a new Pixel 8a, and for the next five minutes, she had all sorts of questions about the device. I could see she seemed awed by the aloe green colour of the phone (the thing that made her curious), but the tech nerd in me wanted to tell her that what the phone could do from a software point of view was more impressive.

I got the sense that she was not tech-savvy, but when I showed her some software tricks the phone could pull off, she seemed impressed. I realised that people get a first impression of any phone from its looks, but if you explain what you can do with the device, they look beyond it as a piece of hardware and appreciate the software side of it. The Pixel 8a makes a strong case for being a device that’s well beyond the things phone companies often highlight; its secret sauce is what’s inside—the software—which makes it so different. Google just needs to highlight that, and I hope this could be beginning of a new wave of smartphones with the software driving the narrative above everything. I have had the Pixel 8a for a few days, and here’s how I felt about the phone.

Google Pixel 8a price in India (as reviewed): Rs 52,999

The Pixel AI

Google Pixel 8a review Before and after Magic Eraser. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)

Arguably, the biggest feature on the Pixel 8a is how Google weaves in features that take advantage of artificial intelligence. I know AI is the most buzzed-about term in tech these days, and the hype often exceeds the actual use cases that the technology is capable of. But I have to admit that AI features that Google brought to the Pixel 8a are damn cool. There are plenty of them, for me some stood out the most. One of them is Magic Editor. Previous Pixel devices have Photoshop-like AI image editing tools but Magic Eraser is one step ahead.

The Magic Eraser uses generative AI to make complex photo edits easy without any professional help or dedicated tools. For example, it removed one of the birds from this photo I took over the Pacific Ocean. Not only can I remove unwanted objects from the frame, but it also fixes and fills in the background seamlessly. Nevertheless, Magic Eraser works best for removing smaller elements from photos. However, results may vary depending on the complexity of the imagery. At times, I found that Google’s AI doesn’t work well, and it becomes easier to detect the AI fakery in pictures. I won’t say Magic Eraser is perfect because it’s not. That being said, AI does come in handy to touch up a picture on a phone when there’s no one to help you out.

The other impressive AI feature — another exclusive to the Pixel 8 series is — Audio Magic Eraser which basically identifies different sounds in your video and reduces unwanted noise in the background. I tested Audio Magic Eraser on a video I took on a beach and it was able to separate my voice playing in the background. Impressive!

Festive offer

There are more AI features as well. AI wallpaper, Video Boost, Circle to Search, and Best Take—an AI feature that can swap faces of people between multiple group pictures—are all notable examples. My favourite, however, continues to be Google’s voice recorder app, which automatically transcribes spoken words into text. For a tech journalist like me, who is always on the ground attending product launches and briefings, having a real-time voice translator is incredibly helpful.

The question of whether artificial intelligence will destroy or elevate the world is open for debate, but generative AI-based tools such as the ones on the Pixel 8a can be useful if you know how to make them work to your advantage. They are easy to use, work most of the time, and save time.

The aloe green colour that hooks you instantly

Pixel 8a By introducing the mid-range Pixel 8a to the market, Google aims to position itself as a leader in consumer AI. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)

I couldn’t tell you how many messages I have received about the Pixel 8a since I posted my first impressions. This took me by surprise, especially considering many of the messages came from dedicated iPhone users. The minimalist layout, pill-shaped bar for camera lenses, and easy-access buttons are all elements that make up Google’s signature design. I like the physical design language Google has adopted for Pixel smartphones. It’s very fresh, practical, and original. The device’s rear, although still plastic and not glass, has a matte feel that makes it smooth and better at hiding fingerprints. The Pixel 8a feels like a premium phone. On top of that, the phone’s IP67 water and dust resistance and wireless charging sweeten the experience. It’s well-constructed and feels solid for the price.

Sporting a 6.1-inch screen, it is a slightly smaller phone with an all-screen design, rounded edges, tiny bezels, and an anodised aluminum side frame that gives it a premium look. I love it. It’s effectively a size that’s between a large phone and a small phone. I actually prefer the size of the Pixel 8a. I think when you hold it in your hand, the difference can be felt. The most obvious characteristic of the Pixel 8a is the colour, with aloe green being my favourite and probably the most eye-catching. It’s a mint green shade and looks absolutely gorgeous.

A flagship-grade OLED display

This brings me to the display on the Pixel 8a, which is terrific. The 6.1-inch OLED (2400 x 1080, 430 ppi) display is bright and sharp, and the 120Hz refresh rate makes for smoother visuals and scrolling through web pages feel buttery smooth. Everything, from streaming shows on Netflix to looking at photos, looked vibrant and bursting with detail. The bigger screen size is good for me, as I recently switched to a larger display size and text so that it is easier to check the time or read texts without putting on glasses.

Impressive performance, but not a gaming powerhouse

Google Pixel 8a review Google’s Tensor G3 chipset still lags behind processors from Apple and Qualcomm. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)

The Pixel 8a (8GB RAM, 128GB of storage) isn’t one of the most powerful smartphones I’ve ever gotten my hands on, and Google isn’t claiming that it made the fastest phone ever. This was very clear from the beginning, and it just eased the pressure of not getting into the numbers game. The Tensor G3, Google’s in-house mobile processor, offers blissfully speedy performance in everyday use. I’ve been using the new Pixel 8a for a couple of days now, and it’s yet to show any slowdown no matter what I throw at it. Being a heavy user, I run dozens of apps, keep countless Chrome tabs open at once, write and edit documents on Google Docs, watch a lot of YouTube videos, and frequently test the camera and edit pictures. The phone handled it all without a hiccup.

But I repeat: it’s not a spec phone, but it nails the basics—things that matter to average users, including light gaming. However, I must add that I found slow processing times when using the AI image-editing tools on the Pixel 8a. This means editing a photo has a long wait time (anywhere between 14 and 18 seconds). While these edits happen in the cloud, not on the device, this isn’t a problem with the processor, but the waiting time to see AI results can be longer.

The battery is a superb performer, finally. My experience with past Pixel phones has been mixed in terms of battery life, but I see Google is improving on that front. The Pixel 8a’s 4492mAh capacity ensures it can comfortably last beyond one day of normal usage. That’s not a leap forward from last year’s Pixel 7a, but it is an improvement.

The promise of uncluttered UI

Google Pixel 8a review The Pixel 8a largely succeeds when it comes to software and AI features. ( Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/ Indian Express).

Where the Pixel 8a truly shines and where the differentiation comes between a Pixel phone and a non-Pixel smartphone is how Google embeds the software experience at the core level. I have already talked about how AI has been implemented throughout the system to improve experiences, but what’s also equally impressive is that the Pixel 8a doesn’t come with bloatware and the UI doesn’t feel intrusive. Even though the Pixel 8a launches with Android 14, I am running a beta version of Android 15 which rolls out later this year. Both versions of Android operating system looks identical but the newest Android 15 comes with many new features, especially aimed at security and fight scammers and snoops. And finally, Google will support the Pixel 8A with seven years of Android operating system upgrades and security updates. It’s great to see Google is extending this policy to its mid-range smartphone too.

Impressive cameras

The Pixel 8a’s camera is really something. On paper, the Pixel 8a has the same camera as the Pixel 7a: a 64-megapixel main camera with a 13-megapixel ultrawide camera. Not much has changed in terms of tech, though the phone’s Tensor G3 processor does elevate the camera processing capabilities.

It’s been a while since I have had access to the Pixel 8a, and what better way to go on a photo tour with the phone than heading to San Clemente, a beach city that offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean.

I can’t stop raving about the Pixel 8a’s camera. The shots are bright and sharp, even in low light and tricky shooting conditions. I think they are best described as natural. I love the drama that the Pixel camera introduces to the photos, but in a subtle way.

In daytime scenes, the Pixel 8a captures shots with minimal distortion. They are not as vibrant as Samsung’s photos, but I never liked overly vibrant shots. From a distant shot of the ocean to a close-up of the birds, the Pixel 8a excels at both distant and intimate shots of outdoor scenery. The ultra-wide camera is also satisfying on the Pixel 8a. The phone also excels as a great video shooter, though the Pixel 8a is yet to beat the iPhone 15’s video camera.

Google Pixel 8a camera sample Google Pixel 8a camera sample (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/The Indian Express)
Google Pixel 8a camera sample Google Pixel 8a camera sample (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/The Indian Express)
Google Pixel 8a camera sample Google Pixel 8a camera sample (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/The Indian Express)
Google Pixel 8a camera sample Google Pixel 8a camera sample (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/The Indian Express)
Google Pixel 8a camera sample Google Pixel 8a camera sample (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/The Indian Express)
Google Pixel 8a camera sample Google Pixel 8a camera sample (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/The Indian Express)
Google Pixel 8a camera sample Google Pixel 8a camera sample (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/The Indian Express)
Google Pixel 8a camera sample Google Pixel 8a camera sample (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/The Indian Express)
Google Pixel 8a camera sample Google Pixel 8a camera sample (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/The Indian Express)
Google Pixel 8a camera sample Google Pixel 8a camera sample (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/The Indian Express)
Google Pixel 8a camera sample Google Pixel 8a camera sample (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/The Indian Express)


Google’s Pixel 8a feels good, and it works well. In fact, it offers far better value than the premium Pixel 8, which is shocking to me, but it’s true. For me, the Pixel 8a falls into the same territory as how Apple pitches the iPhone: the narrative is the same, of a premium smartphone experience. That’s the real story here. But, as I said earlier, the Pixel 8a also trumps other smartphones in the way Google brings AI to the core Android experience. This might be the foundation for future-generation smartphones, and I bet you will hear “AI” and “Gen AI” a lot in the months to come. So, brace for AI wave in smartphones.

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