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Google’s obsession with AI-powered computational photography could push the boundaries of what’s acceptable on the soon-to-be-announced Pixel 9 Pixabay

Google will launch the next generation of Pixel smartphones next month, and multiple leaks suggest a long-overdue upgrade to a critical feature. Sources from Android Authority, a tech newsletter, report that the three Pixel 9 devices (the Pixel 9, Pixel 9 Pro, and Pixel 9 Pro XL) will all feature an ultrasonic fingerprint reader.

This upgrade addresses a problem which has been plaguing Pixel users for years as previous smartphone models used an optical fingerprint sensor, prone to being unresponsive and inaccurate.

In Reddit threads going back several years, people consistently complained about the feature's poor performance. One person described it as "useless," while another wondered if something was wrong with their fingers.

Google's support pages are littered with complaints about the sensors, expressing bemusement at the technology's inaccuracy.

Ultrasonic Fingerprint Reader

An ultrasonic fingerprint reader is going to be a game-changer for Pixel smartphones. The technology would allow for greater fidelity in reading the fingerprint, greater security in unlocking the device, and greater accuracy when dealing with a wet display or finger.

True to its name, the tech operates by "sending pulses of ultrasonic sound waves from the transducer to your finger." This allows the hardware to capture the echoes as they bounce off, making the sensor faster and more reliable than the old tech.

Qualcomm's 3D Sonic Gen 2 adds its own twist by creating a "deeply accurate image" of a person's fingerprints.

It highlights all the unique characteristics of a user's prints, making the technology more secure than optical scanners. 3D Sonic even offers "high performance across a wide range of operating conditions," such as rain or dirt.

Display And Design

The new sensor is not the only upgrade to the core hardware of the Pixel 9 series that Google is expected to make. There are strong rumours that there will be a new and improved display.

Google could be preparing to use dual-stack technology, offering the Pixel 9 a brighter display with a longer life and reduced power consumption. Leaked videos of the new range also show a reworked camera bar.

Rather than stretching across the entire length of the smartphone's rear case - as on the Pixel 6, 7, and 8 models - the camera bar stops short of the edges with wide round corners.

This camera bar echoes a design cue from last year's Pixel Fold. It also features dual lenses and an LED flash. The larger Pixel 9 Pro is expected to ship with three lenses, including an x5 telephoto lens with periscope zoom.

Rumours also abound of a new 'pink' colourway for those who like their phones to stand out from the crowd.

AI Features

Finally, it is widely expected that Google will launch a slew of AI features for their new Pixel range, potentially under the name "Google Eye" or "Google AI". Google Pixel devices have always been known for their AI features.

Since the very beginning, Google has worked to integrate AI technology into its smartphones, and with generative AI popping up in just about every new device at the moment, it's no surprise that they've put their own twist on the trend.

According to Android Authority, Google plans to introduce a mix of new and existing features, including a tool resembling Microsoft's controversial Recall. The new devices will include Circle to Search, already available on Pixels, and even select third-party devices, as well as three completely new features.

The first is Add Me, which claims to ensure everyone's in a group photo. This photo technology will be an upgraded version of Best Take, which can change people's facial expressions and merge takes with different people in them. Best Take was first introduced with the Pixel 8 series, and while controversial, it proved popular with users.

Another new feature is Studio, a photo editing tool that will integrate into the Pixels screenshot editor app, allowing users to create ("remix") stickers. Lastly, and perhaps the most exciting feature, is Pixel Screenshots.

Pixel Screenshots is a feature closely resembling Microsoft's controversial Recall feature. Recall is a controversial Windows 11 feature which automatically captures everything you're doing and uses on-device AI to let you quickly find information from whatever you are looking for.

Since being announced, the feature has been criticized for its privacy implications, especially after it was revealed that any attacker with access to your machine could read everything stored by the feature. These concerns caused Microsoft to pause the rollout of the tool.

Google's take on the feature is different and more privacy-focused: instead of automatically capturing everything you're doing, it will only work on screenshots you take yourself. When you do that, the app will add some extra metadata, such as app names, web links, and related pages.

After that, it will be processed by a local AI, presumably the new multimodal version of Gemini Nano, which will let you search for specific screenshots just by their contents and ask a bot questions about them.

Google is scheduled to hold an event on August 13, during which we expect to see a range of new Pixel devices, from smartphones to smartwatches, and potentially a new series of Pixel Buds.