When the Pixel 2 was announced, Google trumpeted how great its camera was, but they conveniently forgot to mention that a dormant Image Processing Unit called the Pixel Visual Core was inside the phone. It wasn’t active after the Pixel launched but was reportedly made available to other apps in Android 8.1.
The biggest difference with this Visual Core turned on will be the option for third-party apps to do things like take advantage of the Pixel’s HDR+ processing. We’re starting to see that with some popular apps now, but interestingly, it doesn’t look like Google uses the Visual Core for its own camera application at all.
So if you take photos in Snapchat, Instagram, or WhatsApp, you’re going to start to see a big improvement with the Pixel 2. The phone will handle the post-processing for those photos with its co-processor, which theoretically should keep them on par with the Pixel 2’s native camera processing.
Maybe this means that there’s nothing the Visual Core can add to the Pixel’s image quality, at least when using the Google Camera application. It’s strange, but there’s no denying Google knocked it out of the park with the camera this time around. Perhaps the plan all along was to include the co-processor to have an efficient way for third-party apps to keep up.