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Where the Pixel 9 series should improve over the Pixel 8 [Video]

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We’re getting the Pixel earlier than ever. Could the Pixel 9 improve with less time in the oven compared to the Pixel 8? Here are some things we think could be better in the next version of Google’s flagship smartphone line.

Suffering from success: Pixels and problems

Almost every Google Pixel has had a problem, a cause for concern, or a compromise. Over the years, these have varied in severity or complexity. From screen tinting to screen gaps, battery life to overheating, slow modems to unreliable unlocks, we’ve seen a whole range of issues facing the Pixel since the series was unveiled in 2016.

We all know the Pixel was soft relaunched with the Pixel 6, and for anyone with a recent handset (circa 2021 onwards), many common complaints stem from the move to the in-house developed and manufactured Tensor processor from Samsung. For better or worse, Google has publicly stated that their work on the Tensor processor was “never about speed” or even “traditional performance metrics.”

Our work with Tensor has never been about speeds and feeds, or traditional performance metrics. It’s about pushing the mobile computing experience forward.

All three versions of the Tensor processor have been low on the mainstream totem pole and based on the same core Exynos design. The Tensor G3 is actually less powerful than last year’s best Qualcomm processor or MediaTek’s best from 2023. AI capabilities have always been a major selling point of the Tensor, but those aforementioned chips are more than powerful enough to do a lot of their AI tricks. It’s easy to see why some hardcore hardware fans might be disappointed so far after three reviews of the chip.

Many people have called the Tensor series of processors pointless as a result, and it’s not just in terms of performance capabilities. Creating a new SoC is difficult, and the first generation had a number of complaints, from overheating to the modem simply not working properly. Recording 4K video for more than a few minutes was enough to cause the Pixel 6 to overheat and shut down in some cases.

The first in-display fingerprint scanner was nothing short of a disaster. For many people – myself included – it was absolutely fine. Slow but good. That said, it was one of the biggest complaints, and Google even addressed the terrible scanning with a new in-screen reader on the Pixel 6a. Potential CPU concerns may have been the reason why the Pixel 6 Pro never got Face Unlock to mitigate key biometric unlocking issues – another negative for the first-gen Tensor chip.

Battery drain was something I personally encountered a lot with the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro. Not sure if this has ever been improved with software updates and new versions of Android. Reason? Longevity is often subjective, but it was something many owners noticed early on. One point of contention is that as of the Pixel 6 Pro, the internal cell at the “Pro” level sits at around 5,000 mAh.

This is not a small inner cell. Many Snapdragon-powered phones come with similar capabilities, but don’t have the same longevity issues. The Pixel 7 helped improve efficiency, and the Pixel 8 series has added even more improvements. The battery is now “reliable” but, in my experience, there is still a “off” day every time. One day it will die sooner, but the next day it will return to longevity. However, I know this is not the case for everyone.

Cellular connectivity and stable connections are still a problem, despite multiple updates to the 2021 flagship. 5G speeds are often slow when you can get a connection, which is one of the biggest problems. It’s more confusing, since Samsung Exynos modems are used. They are usually among the best. The move to the Exynos 5300 from the Pixel 7 onwards has helped a lot, but it’s still not the fastest.

Where can the Pixel 9 improve over the Pixel 8?

If you were to read that list of complaints and issues, you might think that Google hasn’t made a good device in the last few years. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The Pixel 8 and 8 Pro are solid handsets that have improved in every single area where the issues were highlighted. We want this to continue this year as well.

One of the saving graces is that the Pixel 8 series has many iterative changes that have addressed glaring issues. Is it perfect? No, but it’s the best starting point for the Pixel 9 ahead of launch.

Battery life and charging speed

If the new Tensor G4 chip is another revision with small efficiency gains, then hopefully the Pixel 9 will improve day-to-day longevity. Without getting into an even bigger battery, it’s unlikely we’ll see any big life gains this year. That’s not to say the Pixel 8 has “bad” battery life, far from it, but it’s not in the “great” category like the OnePlus 12 or Galaxy S24 Ultra.

We’re also hoping to finally see another boost to charging speeds. By modern standards, 30W wired charging and 21-23W wireless charging are slow. Even a bump to around 45W with a wired charger would be a nice boost when you want to charge your phone quickly. Charging habits are different from person to person, so this may whittle down the list of improvements you want from the Pixel 9 series.

Improved zoom

Pixel-8-Pro-Zoom-Enhance Poster

Despite promises that it would come to the Pixel 8 Pro, we’ve waited nearly a year for Google to reveal more details about Zoom. The radio silence and lack of further information could be a sign that Google is holding back the improved zoom option for the Pixel 9 launch.

Camera zoom hasn’t changed much since the Pixel 6 Pro, and knowing Google’s penchant for software enhancements, Zoom Enhance could be a great addition to the Pixel 9’s photography arsenal.

Improved camera performance

The camera on the Pixel 8 (and older) is generally solid. It’s easy to navigate, takes great shots and is reliable. However, there is one persistent problem: the camera UI can lag when you repeatedly press the shutter button.

While taking pictures at a sporting event recently, I noticed when taking such pictures, the camera can freeze and practically freeze. There is also some lag when switching lenses or zooming. If the Pixel 9 can improve on this, the experience will be infinitely better than it is today. Autofocus can also be a little difficult, it would be nice to see Google address this with the Pixel 9.

Best fingerprint scanner

the pixel 9 improves the fingerprint scanner

While the Pixel 8 series has excellent scanners, a faster and more accurate in-display fingerprint scanner will improve the unlocking experience of the Pixel 9 series. The Pixel 9 Pro Fold should have a capacitive fingerprint scanner. side mounted which is likely to have less problems and more durability…

Improved device thermals

The Pixel 8 has struggled with heat dissipation and management. Gaming and video editing exacerbate this which can lead to stuttering and performance degradation. With improved heat management, Pixel 9 can maintain peak performance for longer, providing a smoother and more stable user experience, especially for users who push their phones to the limit.

Stable mobile data connections

A few things are coming that will hopefully solve some of the connectivity issues people have had with previous Pixels. The Pixel 9 is expected to get an upgraded modem. The Samsung Exynos 5400 is claimed to be integrated into the Tensor G4 chip and satellite connectivity is also coming for emergency connectivity in remote areas. Even with a rollback, we need a better connection because your phone is still, after all, a phone.

Improvements to the software stack

We know that Android 15 won’t offer a huge change over Android 14. It’s a case of tweaks and improvements to the existing OS, but we want the Pixel 9 to catalyze even more improvements.

I’d like to see better coverage of themed icons because this has been in beta for almost three years. Google has been teasing Magic a ton in early marketing, which is hopefully a hint at more AI-powered functions and features. Maybe we’ll finally see Gemini better integrated into the Pixel 9 and improve the experience of using the improved voice assistant to control aspects of your phone.

What improvements do you want from the Pixel 9?

With the Pixel 9 on the horizon, many Pixel 8 users are eager to see Google address some pain points. Which improvements are most important to you? Tell us in the comments section.

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