The Pixel 8 is here, and Google doesn't seem to care about picture or sound quality

Pixel 8 Blue with sunset photography on screen and in the background
(Image credit: Google)

Google just unveiled its new Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro smartphones, and I have to admit as a tech enthusiast I did find a lot to get excited about.

There are plenty of new AI-powered camera features, which will make it even easier to remove photo bombers from your shots and generally make them look nicer. There's more powerful hardware and of course a wealth of features designed to make the phones more like Iron Man’s Jarvis.

But, while the hardware nut side of me was nodding in approval, the hi-fi enthusiast in me was getting gradually more frustrated.

This wasn’t because Google did anything wrong. In fact, quite the opposite, the reason for my annoyance was that it did nothing. Zilch, nada, le rien...

Throughout the entire event, Google didn’t make any significant announcements about how it planned to improve its phones' audio or screen quality for music and movie fans.

The only vaguely relevant update in this area was that its existing Pixel Bud Pro wireless earbuds will be getting a smattering of AI upgrades and two new colour options. But even these didn’t really focus on audio quality. 

Basically, Google’s AirPods Pro 2 rivals should offer better call quality in the near future. Will that make them a shoo-in for our best headphones with a mic guide? Maybe. Is it enough to get me excited? No.

It’s also a crying shame as it's yet another sign that Google seems to have no real interest in taking on Apple when it comes to music or home entertainment.

Though we’re still testing Apple’s new iPhone 15 line of handsets, if you jump over to our best smartphone guide, you’ll see it has a strong track record working to make sure its phones offer reliable audio – to the point they can take on some of the more affordable options in our best portable music player guide in some areas.

Outside of Sony, no other company seems to have cottoned on to the fact most people use their phones as their primary music player, and that’s a golden opportunity to win buyers over.

I can forgive the fact Google didn’t go all guns blazing and unveil a much-needed rival to Apple’s five-star over-ear AirPods Max. I can even understand why it didn’t talk more about its fabled Dolby Atmos and Apple Spatial Audio rival, Project Caviar – which I prayed it would in a previous opinion piece.

But no word whatsoever on either sound or picture quality feels like a wasted opportunity. 


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Alastair Stevenson
Editor in Chief

Alastair is What Hi-Fi?’s editor in chief. He has well over a decade’s experience as a journalist working in both B2C and B2B press. During this time he’s covered everything from the launch of the first Amazon Echo to government cyber security policy. Prior to joining What Hi-Fi? he served as Trusted Reviews’ editor-in-chief. Outside of tech, he has a Masters from King’s College London in Ethics and the Philosophy of Religion, is an enthusiastic, but untalented, guitar player and runs a webcomic in his spare time. 

  • cakemaster
    What Hi-Fi? said:
    The Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro look impressive, but a lack of updates to audio quality is seriously frustrating.

    The Pixel 8 is here, and I'm convinced Google doesn't care about sound quality : Read more
    Not too sure if you've followed any of the release stuff... at all? Or just use apple junk?

    Massive screen boost in brightness, with the pixel 8 pro now having one of the brightest screens... ever.
    Non pro Pixel 8 finally got 120hz.
    Ultra HDR addedAudio
    No headphone jack, sucks, but the amount that have this is minimal these days.
    AI improvements to phone calls and new pixel buds. Can pretty much eliminate background noise in calls. Pretty good IMO, better than some random 3db of SNR or something on a DAC which is beyond human hearing.
    Editing audio clips to eliminate background noise.
    These are all pretty revolutionary improvements, non which seem to be mentioned in the article. Is the phone perfect? Far from it, but it commands respect where deserved.