Google unveils $499 Pixel 8a as it pushes generative AI to more consumers

Google (GOOG, GOOGL) is bringing its generative AI to a wider audience with the debut of its new Pixel 8a smartphone on Tuesday. The phone, which starts at $499, includes many of the generative AI features found in its more expensive Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 devices, including photo and video editing capabilities.

Google says the 6.1-inch Pixel 8a will have access to the company’s Gemini AI generative chatbot, as well as AI-powered generative features like Best Take and Circle to Search. The company also says that users will eventually get access to Gemini Nano, a smaller version of the Gemini large-language model that runs directly on the Pixel 8a, in a future update.

The standard version of Gemini requires an Internet connection so that it can process your requests through Google’s cloud servers. Gemini Nano runs directly on your device, allowing it to perform certain generative AI tasks without accessing the web.

Google has unveiled its new Pixel 8a smartphone, bringing its generative AI features to a wider audience.  (Image: Google)

Google has unveiled its new Pixel 8a smartphone, bringing its generative AI features to a wider audience. (Image: Google) (Google)

The Pixel 8a features Google’s latest Tensor G3 chip, 128GB of storage with an option to upgrade to 256GB, and a new 120hertz display for smoother gaming and scrolling. There’s also a 64-megapixel wide-angle camera with Super Res Zoom that simulates a telephoto lens and a 13-megapixel ultra-wide-angle camera.

Google previously released a number of Pixel 8’s generative AI features alongside the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro in October. The standout AI offering is Magic Editor, which lets you remove unwanted people and objects from images or move them around your photo simply by circling them. I could, for example, change a photo of myself to look like I was dribbling a basketball, something I could never do, or edit a passerby who walked into my shot to look like he was never there.

Circle to Search is an equally cool feature that lets you circle an object in an image and instantly search for it online using Google Search. The idea is to make it easier to find products you’ve seen in a photo and buy them online. You can also highlight text in an image to quickly search it through Google.

Then there’s Best Take, which is meant for use with group shots. When you take a photo, Best Take will take a series of images of everyone’s face. If someone blinked in the shot, you can use Best Take to change the person’s face to one of the photos where they didn’t blink. Best Take only changes people’s faces, not their bodies.

There’s also Magic Audio Eraser, which helps you remove background noise from your videos and better isolate the sound from the main track.

It’s all part of Google’s effort to turn its generative AI offerings into consumer-attractive features that will drive device sales in its Android smartphone lineup. The company has also partnered with Samsung to bring some of the same capabilities to the company’s Galaxy S24 line of phones.

Generative AI is seen as the next catalyst to boost smartphone sales, but there’s still no specific application that will drive consumers to go out and buy new AI-powered phones. That said, Google is gearing up to host its annual Google I/O developer conference on May 14, where it could unveil some really must-have new generative AI features for its Android devices.

Google rival Apple ( AAPL ) is also preparing to reveal a number of generative AI capabilities for its various products during its WWDC event in June.

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