There were some mixed feelings when Google went down the path of being its own smartphone maker. On the one hand, Android fans welcome the long-awaited arrival of a phone that embodied Google’s vision for Android. On the other hand, Google also got caught up in the industry practice of making features exclusive to its phones or even to specific models. From time to time, Google does make some of those available at least to older Pixel phones. Unfortunately, such won’t be the case for the new Dual Exposure controls and Live HDR+ features.
Google is particularly proud of how it has employed algorithms, AI, and machine learning to accomplish in software things that other manufacturers use more hardware for. That’s especially true in the case of photography where, for three years, the Pixel phones have delivered excellent photos and videos with only one camera. It also allowed Google to eventually share those features with older Pixel models but, at least for these two, that won’t be the case.
Dual Exposure Controls and Live HDR+ both have to do with seeing on the viewfinder pretty much the final result of any post-processing the image would get after you tap on the shutter button. For Dual Exposure, that means having sliders that let you adjust highlights and shadows from the viewfinder. For Live HDR+, it’s simply seeing the final result.
Both, according to a Google representative on Twitter, require low-level capabilities that are not found in any Pixel phone other than the Pixel 4. That’s a pretty generic and broad statement to make and leaves many, including long-time Pixel fans, wondering what hardware that is. It could be the new Pixel Neural Core that replaced the old Pixel Visual Core, but, without any word from Google, it’s simply a matter of guessing.
Google has promised that other Pixel 4 features like Live Caption and on-device New Google Assistant will, in contrast, land on at least the Pixel 3 and 3a, the latter of which has significantly less power. This episode, however, has some questioning whether that will indeed be the case or if Google will make an about-turn because of such hardware limitations.