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Google thinks a second lens is ‘unnecessary’ for the Pixel 3’s main camera

Google earlier this week unveiled the Pixel 3 phones, confirming practically all the leaks we’ve seen over the past few months. Those leaks also revealed that the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL would feature a single camera on the back and two on the front, and exposed Google’s new artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) camera tricks before Google’s announcement.

We wondered why Google wouldn’t add a second lens to the main camera well before the event, especially considering that the main Pixel rivals feature dual- and triple-lens cameras — in fact, Samsung just unveiled a phone with four cameras. It turns out that Google thinks a second lens is “unnecessary” at this time.

Talking to Wired about the camera, Google’s vice president of product management Mario Queiroz said that Google doesn’t need a second lens. “We found it was unnecessary,” he said, arguing that the company’s ML technology is enough to make up for a secondary camera.

Why is there a dual camera on the front? As Google explained during the event, its sole purpose is to let people capture wide-angle selfies without the help of a selfie stick.

Manufacturing cost may also be related to decisions regarding the Pixel 3’s camera tech, although that’s probably not something Google would admit. The 12.2-megapixel rear camera has a newer generation sensor, but it does have a lot of the same features as the previous generation, according to Google product manager Isaac Reynolds.

Other new camera tricks include a flicker sensor to prevent flickers effects under certain indoor lightning and a new Visual Core chip; Google’s proprietary AI photo processor it introduced last year. But Google probably had a single-cam experience in mind for the Pixel 3 years ago, when it started designing the Pixel 3 camera.

“If the phone starts somewhere between 12 to 24 months in advance [of shipping], the camera starts six to eight months before that,” Reynolds said. “We’ve been thinking about the Pixel 3 camera for a long time, certainly more than a year.”

What’s also interesting to note, and isn’t featured in the Wired story, is that Google never mentioned a DxOMark rating for the Pixel 3 camera, while it insisted on sharing those scores during previous Pixel launches. Both the Pixel and Pixel 2 obtained the top DxOMark scores when they were launched, with each phone briefly occupying the top position in DxOMark’s mobile rankings. And yet, not a peep regarding the Pixel 3.

It’s doubtful for the Pixel 3 to repeat that kind of performance, especially given that Google didn’t say anything about DxOMark. Currently, the Huawei P20 Pro is at the top (image above), followed by the iPhone XS Max. You know what these phones have in common? They each have more than one camera on the back. In fact, the Pixel 2 is the only phone in the top 10 above to feature a single-lens main camera.

This doesn’t mean the Pixel 3 won’t deliver an impressive camera experience, or that DxOMark scores actually matter. But it’s an interesting detail nonetheless. If Google used DxOMark reviews to tell us that the Pixel and Pixel 2 were the best mobile cameras in the world, applying the same standards to the Pixel 3 and its single-lens shooter seems only fitting.

You can read more about the Pixel 3’s new camera modes over at Wired.

Google can remotely change the settings of your Pixel or Pie phone, and it just did it by mistake

Count on Google to continually raise the creepiness bar, because the giant tech corporation just made a mistake that it’ll have to soon explain to Android users. Plenty of Android phone owners who have upgraded their devices to Android 9.0 Pie woke up to phones that had the battery saving mode activated, even though they were fully charged. Google caused the whole thing, and it’s not just Pixel phones that are affected.

Google is testing something internally on Android 9.0 phones, something that has to do with battery life — and with remotely controlling devices that already run Pie without people’s knowledge.

First detailed on Reddit, the issue seemed strange. After all, Pie has been out for a few weeks now and we would have heard about this battery saving mode bug sooner. But as Android Police reports, it only happened on Thursday night, with plenty of Android 9.0 users reporting the issue. It’s not just Pixel and Pixel 2 owners who’ve experienced it, but also people who own OnePlus, Essential, Nokia, and any other Android phone that already received some sort of Pie update, beta releases included.

Google explained what happened on Reddit, suggesting that everything is fine:

Hi all, some of you may have noticed that battery saver turned on automatically today. This was an internal experiment to test battery saving features that was mistakenly rolled out to more users than intended. We have now rolled battery saver settings back to default. Please configure to your liking. Sorry for the confusion.

This answer only raised more questions about Google’s ability to control devices remotely without informing users or obtaining their express consent. Google may be controlling battery settings via Google Play Services, which appears to have a permission enabled by default to allow the app to modify system settings. But, as one Reddit user puts it, this is still a problem:

We are talking about settings. Google is able to change MY settings, MY settings profile, write new MY settings. That’s unbelievable. That’s too much. I know Google is able to check/read and know my settings but why they can change my settings. Next time Google will turn off my Pixel. I’m very upset about that.

Google will probably follow up with more explanations to put your mind at ease now that it unlocked this new level of creepiness.

This is easily the best thing about the Pixel 3 XL

If it feels like the Pixel 3 series is already here, that’s because someone allegedly stole a bunch of XL devices that should have been shipped to Googlers or one of the company’s partners for testing, and sold them on the black market. Then, bloggers from Ukraine and Russia revealed everything about the phone, from unboxing to in-depth reviews.

This phone has no remaining secrets, which sucks for Google. On the other hand, we obviously already knew almost everything there was to know about the new Pixels. And thanks to all these early reviews, we now know what the best thing about the Pixel 3 series is.

Yes, the Pixel 3 XL is an iPhone clone, one that’s uglier than most iPhone X lookalikes out there. And yes, you could easily wait for a different Android Pie phone if you’re not married to the idea of having a pure Android experience.

Google’s phone is still the Android phone to own if you want to always be on the latest Android version available. Also, it’s going to have a great camera, even if it’ll have just one single lens, compared to dual- and triple-lens offerings from competitors.

But the best thing about it is that it’s going to be a lot cheaper than many of this year’s flagships.

According to Mobile-Review, the Russian blog that has delivered an extensive Pixel 3 XL review well before the phone launched, the Pixel 3 will cost $649, while the Pixel 3 XL will be just $100 more expensive. In other words, they’re not going to be more expensive than their predecessors.

And here comes an added bonus: wired Google Pixel Buds are included in the package. The wireless versions are regularly sold for $159, although you can get them for $109 for a limited time right now. While we have no idea how much the wired pair costs, it’s still a great deal. Mobile-Review says they’re also priced at $159, but I find that hard to believe. Last year’s Pixel 2 models came without headphones.

Comparatively, 2018 iPhones are expected to start at $699 (6.1-inch LCD model), $899 (iPhone X successor), and $999 (“iPhone X Plus”). The Galaxy Note 9 starts at $999 and the Mate 20 Pro will also cost a pretty penny when it launches later this year.

If your Pixel 2 has been lagging lately, you’re not alone

Google this fall will launch the Pixel 3 series, which includes Google’s own iPhone X clone, and it’s likely the phone will soon become one of the hottest Android handsets of the year.

But while we wait for the Pixel 3 to arrive, we have to share with you this weird Pixel 2 performance issue. Some users are experiencing performance issues that are very surprising for a phone that’s not only supposed to be a pretty expensive flagship device, but also a device that runs Google’s unaltered Android vision.

The Pixel and Pixel 2 phones were both great devices for Android fans, but Google still has to prove itself in the phone manufacturing business. The original Pixel could have sold much better than it did, had Google made enough stock to meet demand, and the second-generation handset was plagued by various issues when it launched, especially screen-related problems.

Now, almost a year after the Pixel 2 launched, a couple of enthusiast Pixel 2 users who know a thing or two about Android devices have voiced their concerns about their Pixel 2 seemingly slowing down.

It all started in late July with this tweet from Artem Russakovskii, the man behind Android Police:

He then followed up with these updates a few days ago:

Now that doesn’t sound good. Russakovskii did mention Marquees Brownlee in one of his tweets because the famous tech YouTuber posted a video that detailed his own experience with slow Pixel 2 phones on August 1st.

In the video, Brownlee explains that the Pixel 2 became a lot slower than he’d have expected and that he had to replace it with the OnePlus 6:

If you’re a Pixel 2 owner you shouldn’t panic. Just because two high-profile Pixel users experienced these issues doesn’t mean they’ll happen to you too. But it sure is strange to see this type of behavior on one of the best Android phones of 2017.

Google ‘working on a fix’ for fatal camera error affecting Pixel 2 phones

Ever since Google’s Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones arrived last fall, they have been affected by a fatal error that causes the camera app to crash when opening it up or trying to snap photos. Not everyone has been affected by this issue, but Google hasn’t even really addressed it until an official Google Twitter account responded to one frustrated consumer earlier this week. The team is apparently “working on a fix” for the error now.

On Sunday, a Pixel 2 XL user expressed her frustration with the fatal camera error on Twitter, to which Google swiftly responded. The Made by Google Twitter suggested she clear the Camera app’s cache, at which point she explained that she had already cleared the cache and performed a full factory reset to no avail.

Minutes later, the Made by Google Twitter account responded once again, now suggesting that she put the phone in airplane mode and try to take a picture. Putting aside the absurdity of this solution, it didn’t work either. She received one final note when she explained that nothing she had tried was helping, revealing that the Pixel team is aware of the “fatal camera error” and is currently working on a solution:

Reports of users experiencing this error started popping up within weeks of the Pixel 2’s launch, which makes it all the more baffling that it took Google this long to issue a response. And keep in mind that this is just a tweet spotted by a Redditor, not an official statement. Now the question is whether or not Google will issue a fix before the Pixel 3 is unveiled this fall. Will Google release a new phone before it even fixes its current flagship?