Welcome to Google Pixel 7. Although these new Android phones aren’t a huge leap from the Pixel 6 last year, they do include some smart updates.
If last year’s Pixel 6 was a leap of faith, Google’s Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro smartphones make it a short hop. Today, Google unboxed two of its new flagship phones at the Made by Google event in New York City. The devices include Face Unlock, which allows you to verify your identity, as well as a Cinematic Blur feature, which adds a portrait-like appearance to your video.
These Pixels aren’t the only hardware products that were unveiled at the event. Google also provided more information about the Pixel Watch (the company’s first smartwatch), which you can read about here.
The Pixel 7 Pro and Pixel 7 Pro cost $599 each, which is roughly the same as last year’s Pixel 6 Pro and Pixel 6 Pro but are still significantly cheaper than many of the competitors. This is all that’s new.
Two P’s in one Pod
The new Pixels retain the same design Google introduced last year with its Pixel 6 except that the rear camera bar is now mostly aluminum. This is great news considering that my Pixel 6’s camera bars are currently cracked. The colors available for the Pixel 7 are Obsidian Snow, Snow, Lemongrass, and Hazel. Although the colors and finishes are less bold than last year’s Pixel 7, they look much more luxurious. The Pro model uses polished aluminum while the standard Pixel uses a matte finish.
Two changes I like? The Pixel 7 is slightly smaller and lighter than its predecessor, with a 6.3-inch screen instead of 6.4 inches. The Pixel 7 Pro retains the same size screen at 6.7 inches, with a slightly smaller display glass. However, the edge curves are less prominent on the Pixel 7 Pro. This change was made by Brian Rakowski (VP of product management at Google), who says it was in response to customer feedback. However, the screen is not flat as on the Pixel 7. The only thing that has changed in the screen’s brightness is last year. These screens are up to 25% brighter outdoors (peak brightness of 1,400 nits).
These phones do not have any significant changes in Google’s battery-life claims. The Pixel 7’s 4,355-mAh battery is smaller than the Pixel 6 Pro, which is a good thing considering its small size. The Pixel 7 Pro’s 5,000-mAh battery lasts “beyond 24 hours” like the Pixel 6 series. Last year’s devices lasted for a good portion of a day without heavy usage. I was able to confirm this with my own testing. The phones can charge up to 50% after just 30 minutes, which is slower than their counterparts. The new Pixels can be recharged wirelessly.
The in-display fingerprint scanner is still available, but it is not the only method to unlock your phone. Say hello to Face Unlock! This feature was first introduced by Google on the Pixel 4. However, this version is even worse. Although it can unlock your phone, and your photo can’t be spoofed, Google’s solution may not be as secure because Google doesn’t use an array of 3D sensors, like Apple’s Face ID. Face Unlock allows you to get to your home screen faster, but you cannot use it to authenticate payments or sign into banking apps. You’ll need to use your fingerprint to do that. This feels a bit sloppy, especially considering that Face Unlock on the Pixel 4 was much more secure. Rakowski states that “We are not trying to claim it is the most secure thing ever.”
Pixel phones are well-known for their high-quality cameras. However, it is difficult to tell how much better the Pixel 7 series cameras are than their predecessors without actually trying them.
The new phones both feature the same 50-megapixel primary camera. While the Pixel 7 keeps the same ultrawide lens as the Pixel 7, the Pixel 7 Pro retains it, the Pixel 7 Pro has some tweaks to its two other cameras. 48-megapixel telephoto can now hit 5X optical zoom, which is up from 4X. The ultrawide has a wider view field and autofocus, which helps to power a Macro Focus mode, which allows for better close-up photos. The front camera is now 10.8 megapixels. It’s more sensitive to low light and can take better selfies. However, it’s still fixed-focus and has no autofocus.
Apple’s new 2X zoom allows you to take high-quality 12-megapixel photos using the center portion of your large 48-megapixel camera sensor. This effectively gives you an optical zoom level without the need for an additional camera. Google uses a similar approach. The 2X zoom button on the new Pixels will give you a clearer 12.5-megapixel image by using the middle section of the 50-megapixel camera.
Google also has improvements to Super Res Zoom for Pixel 7 Pro. You can zoom in digitally by pinching in on a photo. This is a way to zoom in without the use of the telephoto camera. Super Res Zoom is a machine intelligence-based tool that sharpens and improves images. It was first introduced on the Pixel 3. Google claims that the process merges images from the primary and telephoto cameras to create clearer photos between optical zoom modes (1-5X zoom). The process continues once you move past the telephoto camera, using the full 48-megapixel resolution for sharper images.
These Pixels have the new Tensor G2 chipset, which allows for more Night Sight photos (more later). This means that you will see fewer blurry images in low light. Google claims that the Pixel’s Real Tone camera function, which adjusts image processing for those with darker skin to produce more accurate results, will be better this year due to the addition of a wider dataset, especially when it is paired with Night Sight for low light.
Guided Frame is a new feature that will allow visually impaired people to take selfies using audio cues from the camera app. Google Photos also offers a Pixel 7 exclusive feature called Photo Unblur. This will allow you to “unblur” older photos, especially faces, regardless of what camera you used.
Google claims that the Pixels have improved image stabilization. However, these phones can also shoot in 10-bit HDR and at 24 frames per sec, which should allow for a wider range of colors. The Cinematic Blur mode can be used for video and is basically the same as the Portrait mode for photos. The blur effect is nice around the subject. We’ll need to compare it with Apple’s Cinematic Video.
Google did not spend much time today describing how the new Tensor G2 chips has been improved over its predecessor. Although the chipset includes a few new cores and a graphics processing unit that has been upgraded, we will have to test it to find out how well it handles graphically-intensive games. The G2’s next-generation Tensor Processing Unit is helping to improve tasks that use machine intelligence, such as the 2X speed increase to Night Sight images.
The second-generation TPU now supports voice message transcription. The Android Messages app automatically transcribes voice messages sent to you by others. You don’t have to listen to the original message to see the contents. It won’t work with third-party apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.
This new Pixel phone wouldn’t be called a Pixel phone if it didn’t have a new way to manage voice calls. Google’s Direct My Call function will now appear immediately when you call a top-toll-free number like your airline or insurer. Instead of listening to a robot voice go through a menu, you can simply tap the option you wish to see on the screen. Google claims it is able to do this because its Duplex phone service, which is concierge-like, has been programmed to periodically dial these 1-800 numbers and to cache the current menu options.
Google’s Recorder app also has a minor update. It can now distinguish between multiple speakers in a recorded recording and add labels for each speaker. Once the recording has been processed, you can manually add each speaker’s name to the transcript. This will allow the app to identify each speaker within the text. The Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro will only come with a Google One VPN, so no Google One subscription is required. Google claims that the VPN service will be available on the internet in the near future, although it has been stating this for over a year.
The Pixels will receive five years’ worth of security updates, and unfortunately only three OS upgrades. This is a very low standard for the Android world. The phones will go on sale on October 13th, after which preorders can be placed. Google claims it will continue to sell the Pixel 6 phones until it runs out of stock. Notably, the Pixel 6’s first batch had major bugs. People who purchased a Pixel 6 phone at launch had to wait for months for Google software updates to fix the problems. Rakowski claims that Google’s test suite is now more robust.
He says, “We have more things that are being checked.” “I believe we are a lot more aware of what people face in different situations and in different geographic locations. Everything we learned last year is something I am proud of, and it shows in this product. This year, quality has been a major focus.