Taking Your Temperature in a Goofy Way with the Pixel 8 Pro

Earlier this week, Google upgraded the Pixel 8 Pro to allow its odd new temperature sensor finally take recordings of human bodies. It is with great regret that I must inform you that, having used it, it does not make this feature any less confusing.

To gauge body temperature, you must sweep the phone’s infrared temperature sensor over the side of your forehead, right above the temporal artery. Thus far, nothing extremely unusual here. Just this month, I had the opportunity to examine the Withings BeamO, a 4-in-1 multiscope that also requires you to scan the same type of sensor over the same artery to calculate your temperature. However, the BeamO was quite simple to use, whereas the Pixel 8 Pro was exceedingly finicky.

a:hover]:text-gray-63 [&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-black dark:[&>a:hover]:text-gray-bd dark:[&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-gray [&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-63 dark:[&>a]:text-gray-bd dark:[&>a]:shadow-underline-gray”>Screenshot: Richard Lawler / The Verge

This is because the phone’s temperature sensor is located in the rear camera array. That makes complete sense if you’re using it to scan objects (though again, why?). However, if you’re attempting to take your own temperature, it’s challenging to determine if you’re doing anything correctly because you can’t actually see the screen. Google includes an instructional video, which shows you just how close you’re supposed to hold it to your forehead (very close) and how it needs to be tilted at a slight angle. The phone will attempt to guide you through all of this. Once you’re close enough, the phone will vibrate when it’s time to swipe the phone over your forehead (without touching) toward your temple. You can enable voice cues, but you still have to know where to tap and how fast to move. It’s not what I’d call intuitive, and you’ll likely need to try it a few times to get the hang of it.

There’s a reason people use the front-facing camera to take selfies, even if the rear camera takes higher-quality photos. From a user experience perspective, this is best suited for taking someone else’s temperature or, rather, taking someone else’s temperature while using their phone because it’s strange to keep other people’s health data on your phone. You have the option of syncing your data with the Fitbit app, and it saves any readings from the past week by default in the native app.

a:hover]:text-gray-63 [&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-black dark:[&>a:hover]:text-gray-bd dark:[&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-gray [&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-63 dark:[&>a]:text-gray-bd dark:[&>a]:shadow-underline-gray”>Screenshot by Parker Ortolani / The Verge

Apart from the fussy user experience, accuracy is another area of concern. In this screenshot, my colleague Parker Ortolani’s Pixel 8 Pro informed him his body temperature was 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Of course, Parker mentioned he’d just been outside for this particular reading, but that’s teetering on hypothermia. It’s also highly improbable. I also observed Parker taking readings from his forearm and palm. Neither of those areas should have worked, but the phone didn’t prevent him. (The feature is only calibrated for the forehead, so you shouldn’t trust results from other body parts.)

To be fair, this is one of the issues with temporal artery temperature readings in general. While they’re quick and generally accurate, they can easily be thrown off by things like direct sunlight, cold environments, or even sweaty foreheads. User error can also impact readings, and as I mentioned, this is one finicky way to measure your body temperature.

For this feature to make it to the public, Google says it received De Novo FDA clearance. That’s the same type Apple received for the Apple Watch Series 4’s EKG feature, but it primarily means that it’s a low to moderate risk device (aka generally safe) that doesn’t have a similar equivalent yet. Nevertheless, the phone includes several disclaimers within the temperature app. You can see from these screenshots that Google notes that “temperature readings may vary and are most accurate when done properly.” There are also disclaimers that readings are “general guides only,” and on other screens, the app notes it can’t detect any illness or replace advice from a healthcare provider.

All things considered, I can’t envision the average person using this feature. Supposedly, this is something that Google began constructing in 2020 and 2021 — a time when restaurants and other public spaces were scanning people’s temperatures to screen for covid-19. If it had been available then, perhaps we’d be thinking of this feature in a different way. For better or worse, I can’t remember the last time a restaurant or event space took my temperature.

One could argue that having this on your phone is a matter of convenience. If I’m on a plane and feeling a bit feverish, I probably wouldn’t have a thermometer on hand. Theoretically, I could then whip out a Pixel 8 Pro and proceed to have an awkward time using the rear camera and sensor to measure my temperature. That’s perhaps the one instance where this would make sense — and even then, a precautionary Advil and the good ol’ back of the hand to the forehead would probably suffice.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *