The Google Pixel 8 Pro just got a big AI update – the AI Core app explained

Google Pixel 8 launch hands on area Pixel 8 Pro soap
The Pixel 8 Pro, with the Pixel Watch 2... and a bar of soap (Image credit: Future | Philip Berne)

If you know anything about the Google Pixel 8 and the Google Pixel 8 Pro, you know they have AI features front and center, and the Pro model has now received its first update for the integrated AI Core app on board the phone.

The update was spotted by 9to5Google, and it's exclusive to the Pixel 8 Pro for the time being – though other Pixel devices have a placeholder for the AI Core app. This makes us think that the Pixel 8 and other handsets might get it eventually. If you have a Pixel 8 Pro, the update should be downloaded automatically for you.

This isn't an app in the traditional sense, and you won't see an icon for it in your app drawer. It's more of a background service, working behind the scenes and helping out any app that needs to draw on the power of artificial intelligence.

Mysteriously, the Google Play Store listing that 9to5Google links to has now disappeared, but it previously stated that AI Core "powers features across Android and provides apps with the latest AI models".

What does AI Core actually do?

A phone on a grey background showing a screen from AI Core screen

(Image credit: Google)

When it comes to what AI Core actually does, with no official Google line on the matter, we can't be fully sure. However, we have a few clues: at the launch event Google did talk about the Pixel 8 Pro having its own generative AI model on board, helping features such as Magic Eraser in Google Photos work more quickly.

Presumably AI Core helps to maintain and improve that model, possibly powering features Google has advertised as coming soon, like Zoom Enhance. Earlier this month, Android Police noticed the arrival of AI Core on the Google Play Store, potentially to lay the foundations for future AI features.

AI features are now standard on the best smartphones, but depending on the phone, a certain percentage of this AI work will be offloaded to the cloud. AI Core probably manages the local AI processing that the Pixel 8 Pro and other phones can do, meaning more up-to-date models and faster response times. This could be an approach we see soon on the Samsung Galaxy S24, which could be branded as its first 'AI phone'

So really, it's a case of waiting and seeing for AI Core – although Reddit users are already discussing which features seem to be faster. Considering the Play Store listing has now vanished, it's possible that Google wants to make a proper announcement about AI Core, and exactly what it does, in due course.

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David Nield
Freelance Contributor

Dave is a freelance tech journalist who has been writing about gadgets, apps and the web for more than two decades. Based out of Stockport, England, on TechRadar you'll find him covering news, features and reviews, particularly for phones, tablets and wearables. Working to ensure our breaking news coverage is the best in the business over weekends, David also has bylines at Gizmodo, T3, PopSci and a few other places besides, as well as being many years editing the likes of PC Explorer and The Hardware Handbook.