Will Google's Pixel 8 camera upgrades be enough to beat iPhone 15?

Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro
(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

While the Tensor chip was a big lift for the Pixel lineup, the Pixel cameras have been the calling card for Google's smartphones for years now. While upgrades to the iPhone 15 and Galaxy S24 cameras may threaten Google's dominance, leaks show that the Pixel 8 and 8 Pro are likely ready for the fight.

The newest reveal comes courtesy of Android Authority, with the site claiming an "anonymous source inside Google" gave them an early look at the new camera interface and features that will be found in both the Pixel 8 and 8 Pro (via TechRadar).

New look Camera app

While Google has continued to deliver new features in the Camera app over recent years, not much has changed with its basic functionality. While the new look won't be completely unfamiliar to longtime Pixel fans, it does take some steps to streamline the user interface.

Video gets a much more prominent role in the new Camera app with a separate toggle for photo and video at the bottom, as opposed to simply being one of the options in the carousel at the bottom. Now you get distinct carousels for photo or video, so you don't feel like you need to swipe endlessly for the mode you want.

Speaking of modes, Google will try to clear some things up with new names for some modes. The "Motion" mode will now be "Long Exposure" and "Action Pan," while the "Cinematic Pan" becomes simply "Pan." The latter felt like a pretty clear knockoff of Apple's Cinematic mode, so I'm happy to see it simplified. The stabilization modes are now going into the pop-up menu in video with standard, active, and locked options.

Alleged images of Google Pixel 8 Camera app from Android Authority

(Image credit: Android Authority)

More under the hood upgrades

The above updates are nice quality-of-life improvements to the app itself, but for results what you really care about are the features helping to supercharge your snapshots. One of the biggest rumored updates is the adoption of something called "Staggered HDR." If you aren't familiar HDR has been all the rage for years now, particularly in phones, as it stitches together multiple shots to deliver a better photo than any phone sensor would be capable of in a single shot. Staggered HDR reduces the time between those shots ensuring better low-light shots without blurring or artifacts.

Another low-light upgrade will come in the form of "Adaptive torch," which according to Android Authority's source will govern the intensity of the flash to avoid that blown-out look that makes people opt for Night mode over even risking the flash. Particularly for group shots Night mode is a potential nightmare as anyone moving can ruin it, so a truly useful flash photo mode could be a game-changer.

Finally, a new feature called "Segmentation AWB" is also apparently slated to arrive for the Pixel 8 and 8 Pro to more judiciously handle processing across different parts of your photo. Particularly if you are capturing a photo in mixed lighting, this should give you a more realistic overall image rather than just optimizing for a single focal point.

While Apple's iPhone 15 should debut first at Apple's September event, if you are on the fence about iPhone vs. Android you may want to hold off until Google's presumed October event before you make your decision. Whether Google's camera hardware can match Apple's is a legitimate question, but it wouldn't be the first time a Pixel's camera beat an iPhone with a lesser camera.

Sean Riley

Sean Riley has been covering tech professionally for over a decade now. Most of that time was as a freelancer covering varied topics including phones, wearables, tablets, smart home devices, laptops, AR, VR, mobile payments, fintech, and more.  Sean is the resident mobile expert at Laptop Mag, specializing in phones and wearables, you'll find plenty of news, reviews, how-to, and opinion pieces on these subjects from him here. But Laptop Mag has also proven a perfect fit for that broad range of interests with reviews and news on the latest laptops, VR games, and computer accessories along with coverage on everything from NFTs to cybersecurity and more.