The finalized version of Google's Android 8.1 operating system is expected to be released in December, but today the company has announced the availability of the last Developer Preview which, among other things, activates the formerly dormant Visual Core chipset in the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones.

The custom-built system-on-a-chip (SOC) is designed to power and accelerate the Pixel 2 phones' HDR+ function that achieves better dynamic range and reduced noise levels through computational imaging. The feature is already incredibly powerful, so we can't wait to see how it gets even better with this additional hardware boost applied.

HDR+ photo captured with the Pixel 2 for our Sample Gallery. Credit: Allison Johnson

The latest Pixel smartphone generation comes with the chip built in, but it appears Google ran out of time before the Pixel 2 launch to fully optimize Visual Core implementation in the device, and therefore decided to not activate it. With the new software version, Visual Core can can now be turned on through an option in the Developer menu.

In addition to souping up the Pixel 2's native camera app, this update also allows third-party apps using Android Camera API to capture HDR+ shots. Previously, this function has been exclusive to the Google Camera app.

There is a wide selection of third-party apps for all types of mobile photographers available in the Google Play Store. It's no doubt a positive move by Google to make the capability of using HDR+ available to all of them. To install the Android Developer Preview, your Pixel 2 device needs to be registered in the Android Beta Program. Or you could just wait for the official Android 8.1 launch in December.