Google's latest Pixel 4 smartphones feature dual cameras, telephoto and improved Night Sight, among other changes.

Another day, another smartphone — or so some tech fans have sighed for years, with new mobile devices seemingly bringing only incremental changes. But recently, some bigger leaps have hit the market, including Google’s Pixel 4 smartphones. And the advancements could have implications for the digital retail sector.

At an event in New York City on Tuesday, Google unveiled its latest phones alongside a range of new gadgets, from the new Pixel Buds 2 to a Chromebook called Pixelbook Go, as well as a re-branded smart speaker called Nest Mini, with home intercom and free Wi-Fi calls and router-and-smart-speaker mash-up Nest Wi-Fi.

But the fashion and beauty crowd may want to take note of the duo of Pixel phones, in particular. The Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL — priced at $799 and $899, respectively. In off-white, orange or black, they feature a rather beastly camera array with a new telephoto that can take images of a star-filled sky, as well as an upgraded Night Sight feature that illuminates dark settings.

A Google-provided photo of the starry sky.  Courtesy image

Camera advancements can have deep ripple effects on retail, particularly e-commerce. Think augmented reality makeup try-ons, or bespoke products using depth-sensing cameras to scan people’s faces, feet and figures. Computer vision allows people to shop looks that have been snapped on the fly, a feature that helps fuel everything from social commerce to product searches.

Advanced mobile camera technology is the lynchpin to these and other shopping-related features, so every step forward matters.

For instance, with Google’s new dual camera system, not to mention Apple’s iPhone 11 and 11 Pro dual- and triple-camera technologies, nighttime photos are literally moving out of the darkness and into the light. And considering people tend to dress their best for evening events, the banishment of blurry or underexposed phone pics could be meaningful for formalwear or other luxury brands.

Image-forward influencers will also probably love the inclusion of more granular exposure controls.

The cameras offer upgraded Night Sight capabilities and granular exposure controls.  Courtesy image

Apple and Google both offer telephoto settings in their new devices. With that, users can presumably snap images of enviably attired people from further away, expanding the range of their shoppable looks. That premise, however, seems poised to set off privacy concerns.

In terms of reaction, major concerns swirl around the Pixel 4’s battery capacity — 2,800 mAh, which is less than that of flagship competitors from Apple and Samsung — and limited storage. Such specifications could undercut adoption to some degree.

But Google packed in other tech wizardry: The company claims that its “Motion Sense” tech and LIDAR radar enables the fastest face unlock of any phone, with the system sensing the user coming before he or she is even in front of the device.

The sorcery continues: Thanks to its sensors, infrared and radar, the Android device offers gesture control. For users, it can feel like they’re casting spells. Just wave the hand to fast forward a Spotify track, decline a call or stop an alarm. Google Assistant will also get faster and spread to more apps, while a new transcription feature wlil type-out conversations in real time.

It’s clear that Google’s emphasis on artificial intelligence is still steering its devices. The goal, Google said, is to enable “ambient computing,” so hardware and AI-driven software can listen and step in automatically to help people when they need it.

Whether that’s enough to appeal to consumers won’t be certain until the preorders come in starting Oct. 24, or perhaps even until the peak holiday period. But what’s clear is that the Pixel 4 phones are arriving during a year of change for the mobile industry, as new folding phones, 5G technology and deep camera innovations enter the scene.

Meanwhile, the competition looms from all sides — whether from chief rival Apple to geek darling OnePlus. The latter has been doubling down on its own AI-driven camera tech. The China-based tech firm is also keen on making more in-roads in the U.S., having just launched its first pop-up in New York City.

It all speaks to an intensifying smartphone race. And no matter who the winners or losers are, the competition will shape mobile shopping for years to come.

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