Pixel 8 to get massive display update, but it might not be what you hoped

This isn't the better, brighter display you might be hoping for – but it could have huge implications for Android

Google Pixel 7a
(Image credit: Google)

I’ve got good news and bad news about the Google Pixel 8. According to a new report, it’s getting a huge display upgrade. That’s the good news. The bad news is that it’s probably not the kind of upgrade you’re hoping for, so if you’re looking for a bigger screen, more densely packed pixels or improved brightness this isn’t the news story for you.

That’s not to say that the Pixel 8 won’t get a better screen too; a different display is rumoured to be coming to the Pixel 8 Pro. But at the moment the news coming out of Google is about displays you can connect it to rather than the display that’s built into it. According to a new report from Android Authority, the Google Pixel 8 and Google Pixel 8 Pro will both support DisplayPort over USB-C.

If you’re thinking “doesn’t USB-C support DisplayPort anyway?” you’re right, but it’s not a compulsory part of the standard; it’s up to manufacturers to decide whether they want to support it, and so far most firms – Google included – generally haven’t. But with the Pixel 8 range Google’s phone could get some important new powers.

What does DisplayPort over USB-C do?

DisplayPort over USB-C enables you to connect your phone to an external display, and it’s of particular usefulness in phones because they don’t have space for the much bulkier HDMI video connector. With DisplayPort they can deliver hi-res video to a monitor or TV. 

The most likely explanation for Google including it is to enable a Samsung DeX-style desktop mode, which would enable you to turn your phone into a home or work office hub with a single connection. This isn’t a new idea by any means – in addition to Samsung we’ve seen Motorola do it with its ATRIX system, and Microsoft had a go at it with Continuum in Windows Phone way back in 2015. But phone tech, display tech and USB has come a long way since then. And so has Android, which contains code for USB-C DisplayPort Alt Mode in the betas of Android 14.

Pixel phones aren’t just phones; they’re brand ambassadors for Android. That means a DeX-style docking system would get a lot of attention, and if Google does a good job of it it could also mean many other manufacturers getting on board. I’m not quite ready to swap out my M2-powered music production Mac for a smartphone, but for the vast majority of everyday computing tasks smartphones are just as capable as PCs – sometimes more so. 

Carrie Marshall

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written more than a dozen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote seven more books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (havrmusic.com).