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Historic 7 Years Of Pixel Updates Live Behind Paywall

Google have recently released the Pixel 8 series smartphones, the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro, both with an unheard of seven years of OS and feature updates.  

However, sources noticed a hole in the company’s promise of seven years of updates, and now the company have refused to discuss it. 

Google is locking software features behind the Pixel 8 Pro’s paywall, even though the Pixel 8 has the same Google Tensor G3 processor, the same seven-year guarantee, and the same camera. 

So, what does this mean over the next seven years? 

“Zoom and enhance” photos is a Pro feature, so is Night Sight, and adjusting the camera’s shutter speed or ISO manually. 

The Pixel 8 Pro only runs Google’s “foundation” generative AI machine learning models, powering the real-time transcription summaries for Google Recorder, enhanced Magic Eraser, and smart replies in Google’s keyboard. 

A spokesperson for Google said both the Recorder summaries and upgraded Magic Eraser are exclusive to the Pixel 8 Pro. 

The question is: why are these features exclusive when the phones have the same processor and camera sensor? 

The spokesperson for Google said, “These devices offer the latest hardware and software, including faster performance than ever before, upgraded camera sensors and the latest AI powered features – all powered by the new Google Tensor G3.” 

He added “not every update is available for every phone due to various limitations,” however didn’t describe said limitations.  

The Pro does have 12GB RAM whereas the non-Pro has 8GB, but this is hard to believe as the reason for  something as simple as camera controls, or features that run on the cloud rather than the device. 

Google did reveal why one feature was exclusive, “the cost of the cloud infrastructure required to run Video Boost processing.” Video Boost is in the cloud and has nothing to do with the capabilities of the phone, but more to do with economics. 

Google is promising Recorder Summarise, Zoom Enhance, and Smart Reply in Gboard for future Pixel Feature Drops. The Pixel 8 comes with seven years of guaranteed Pixel Feature Drops, however the Pixel 8 won’t receive those features as they’re exclusive to the Pro. 

This doesn’t make sense, but lets keep digging. Google has decided Pixel 8 buyers don’t deserve the same features as the 8 Pro, so how can buyers expect to get the same features as the Pixel 9 Pro next year, when there are new phones to sell? They can’t. 

A year ago, a similar incident happened when Google said the Pixel 7’s Clear Calling and Guided Frame features would come to the Pixel 6. However, this still hasn’t happened, and it was revealed in January that the Pixel 6 wouldn’t be getting the features at all. 

Just last March, the company admitted it could have brought the best 5G cellular to Pixel 5, 5a, and 4A 5G, however didn’t. 

Previously, year-old phones would miss out on new features and security features for months or years, as OEMs and cellular carriers had to certify new operating systems to roll them out. This has now changed. 

Security features have now broken out into their own update channel. Google Play Services, Google Mobile Services, and individual Google apps are silently updated in the background. 

Android 14 was barely mentioned during the Google I/O developer conference or the Made By Google keynote. It wasn’t made out to be a big deal due to the changes being subtle. Android 14’s “top 14 features” include AI wallpaper and a monochrome theme, which are minor. 

It appears that Google would rather save the best ideas for its own phones, and it’s also easy to imagine a world that sees Google dropping an annual OS update. 

Google promised the new smartphones would gain “seven years of OS upgrades, security updates, feature drops, and AI innovations.” But this could mean no OS upgrades or major new features if the company decides it’s not profitable to backport them. 

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