Google talked up a big game with its Pixel Visual Core shortly after announcing the Pixel 2 and 2 XL, but didn't even enable it for developers until late-November 2017. Now, every Pixel 2 or 2 XL owner will see their Pixel Visual Core activated in the next few days, bringing its powers to every third-party app that takes pictures.
The Pixel Visual Core is a dedicated image processing unit in the Pixel 2 and 2 XL that takes care of image processing, and up until this point was dedicated to doing neat things for HDR+ in the Pixel 2's stock camera app. With the upcoming early-February software update, the Pixel Visual Core will work for every app that calls up the camera — provided it targets API level 26 (targeting Oreo).
So what does that mean? Better photos, across the board. Rather than relying on a basic camera API with high-level one-size-fits-all capabilities, each time you take a photo inside of an app — like Instagram or Snapchat, for example — it will be processed with the same great qualities you see through the stock camera app on a Pixel 2. You're essentially getting low-level access to the camera hardware.
Get that great Pixel camera quality in all of your favorite apps.
No more grainy shots with bad colors and poor low-light performance, and no more compromises between the speed of using an in-app camera and the quality of taking a photo and sharing it to the app later. Google's also noting that moving processing to the Pixel Visual Core gives benefits like zero shutter lag and enhanced edge smoothing when digitally zooming, which were both huge pain points of using the old camera API in chat apps in particular. Here are some before and after shots Google shared to show what the Pixel Visual Core is capable of in third-party apps:
It's one of those little things that makes the Pixels just that much more appealing than other Android phones, and shows Google's ability to do some special things with its own hardware. Of course, true photographers will still want to use the stock camera app for more camera tweaks and saving for later use, but for spur-of-the-moment shares, in-app shots will be dramatically better than before.
Google's calling out Instagram, Snapchat and WhatsApp as great examples of apps that will benefit from this, but it's available to any third-party app that takes photos. Just take the next software update on your Pixel 2 or 2 XL and you'll immediately notice the difference in every app that targets the latest API — there's nothing to enable or change on your end.