The most refined Pixel yet
The Google Pixel 6 series was a full reboot of Google’s smartphone ambitions. The company introduced a brand-new hardware design with the now-iconic visor camera bump, a revamped interface that changes colors based on your wallpaper, and a new Google Pixel 6 Pro model that looks and feels distinct from the regular version. With such a big shift behind us, it’s great to see that Google is sticking to its guns with the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro. And this is exactly what the Pixel 7 is. It’s a continuation and refinement of the trend that the Pixel 6 first introduced, making it one of the best Android phones out there.
Much like what Android 13 was to Android 12, so is the Pixel 7 to the Pixel 6. It’s a refined, more beautiful piece of hardware that does away with some of the biggest annoyances of its predecessor while staying true to Google’s features-over-specs vision behind the Pixel lineup. And while we patiently wait for the Pixel 8 to arrive later this year, it’s clear Google has positioned the Pixel lineup as its vision for Android. Based on our time with the phone, we’re confident that Google has delivered, even if the May 2023’s Google Pixel 7a has us scratching our heads why the company needs two such similar devices in its lineup.
Google Pixel 7
Google did not reinvent the wheel with the Pixel 7, but there was no need to. With improved cameras, the next-gen Tensor G2 chipset, and Google’s wonderfully feature-filled software, the Pixel 7 earns its price tag again this year.
- Google Tensor G2
- 6.3-inch FHD+ OLED, 90Hz
- 128GB, 256GB
- Operating System
- Android 13
- Front camera
- 10.8MP, f/2.2, 92.8° FoV
- Rear cameras
- 50MP wide (f/1.85), 12MP ultrawide (f/2.2, 114° FoV)
- 5G (sub6 / mmWave) Wi-Fi 6e, NFC, Bluetooth 5.2
- 155.6 x 73.2 x 8.7mm
- 20W wired, up to 20W wireless
- IP Rating
- From $599 USD
- Refined design and hardware across the board
- Face unlock is back, and the in-display fingerprint scanner is much better
- Iterative software improvements for last year?s cameras
- Considering inflation, $600 is an even better deal than last year?s Pixel 6
- Still no telephoto camera
- Phone gets rather hot in heavy use and while charging
- The fingerprint sensor and face unlock still aren?t as reliable as they should be
- Battery life is okay, but not the best
- Barely anything sets the Pixel 7 apart from the Pixel 7a
Google Pixel 7: Availability & network connectivity
The Google Pixel 7 is available in a total of 17 markets, including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, and select European countries. Google is expanding availability again with this phone to Norway, Denmark, Sweden, and the Netherlands. It’s also the first time since the Pixel 4 that flagship Pixel phones are available in India again.
In the US, you can get the Pixel 7 at the Google Store, your retailer of choice, and your carrier. It works across all networks in the US. Unlocked versions as well as those locked to Verizon and AT&T support mmWave 5G. T-Mobile’s mmWave network isn’t compatible with the Pixel 7, though. Here, only the Pixel 7 Pro will give you the super-fast speeds promised by mmWave 5G.
Ever since Google switched to its custom Tensor SoC (and the Samsung-made modem inside it), networking issues have plagued many Pixel 6 and 6 Pro units. Personally, I haven’t had any major issues with connectivity on my Pixel 6 in the year I’ve used it, and I’m happy to report the same for the Pixel 7. The handset comes with an updated Samsung modem that should hopefully make matters better for those who experienced more severe problems with their units. So far, reports from new owners seem to confirm this, with many people noting that their connection is now much better.
The Android Police team, spread across different continents with different networking environments, had much of the same experience. Our own Will Sattelberg on T-Mobile in the US, who wrote our Pixel 7 Pro review, had consistent speed and decent connectivity during his time with the Pixel 7. The same is true for our news editor Stephen Schenck. In the UK, editor-in-chief James Peckham also didn’t experience any of the dreaded and often-discussed issues with Tensor connectivity.
Google Pixel 7: Design
The Pixel 7 takes the design that Google introduced with the Pixel 6 and iterates on it. When you see them side-by-side, the kinship is instantly apparent, but the Pixel 7 appears like a more refined version of its predecessor—much like a second-gen design should be. The new Pixel phone retains the visor-style camera array with its bar across the back, only this time around it consists of aluminum instead of glass. It’s the same material as the phone’s frame, so it looks like the visor smoothly curves into its edge.
The theme of refinement continues throughout the device. In contrast to the Pixel 6 that came with a black frame regardless of color, the Pixel 7 varies its looks depending on the colorway. The Lemongrass variant comes with a golden rim, making for an instantly recognizable and beautiful combination. The black and white versions come with more traditional silver and anodized black frames, respectively, and versions are made from recycled aluminum. The brushed aluminum makes for an excellent look, and it also doesn’t scratch up as easily as the polished aluminum on the Pixel 7 Pro.
Looking at the colors, you’ll also notice that the two-tone look is gone. The Pixel 6’s color was more muted below the visor than on the small strip at the top; the Pixel 7 offers the same look all around the back glass, no matter which color you choose.
I’m happy that Google made the Pixel 7 ever-so-slightly smaller than its predecessor with its new 6.3-inch screen, shaving off a few millimeters in every dimension. The Pixel 7 is just a tad easier to handle that way. For me, it fits more easily in one hand, and it’s just all-round nicer to grasp, all without losing too much screen size.
Unfortunately, the Pixel 7’s back remains a fingerprint magnet due to Google’s decision to use glossy glass, over the frosted look the company offered on older phones like the Pixel 4 (or, you know, what Apple does with recent iPhone Pro models). While it hasn’t been a big issue with the review unit I have as I tend to baby my phones, all the units Google provided in the hands-on area during the launch event were smudged and unappealing to look at after a few minutes. Like any other phone, the Pixel 7 comes with oleophobic anti-fingerprint coating out of the box, but this will wear down over time, and that’s when a matte finish wins.
To keep your phone clean (and safe), you might want to get a case for your Google Pixel 7. This time around, the original Google case also seems much improved. It’s no longer transparent, alleviating the yellowing issues that plagued the Pixel 6 case. The material also seems more robust, with a new button design looking like it will hold up longer than the older one. After about half a year of consistent use of this $30 case, I can confidently say that it holds up well and continues to look fine, even when there are likely a lot of cheaper options that are at least as good.
The new visor design also still loves to pick up pocket lint when you don’t have a case on your phone. Given that on the Lemongrass and White model the visor is no longer black, the accumulation of dust and debris is very noticeable and difficult to clean, with some dirt lodging firmly in the crease. This is also the area that is likely to collect scratches as you’re excessively rubbing your sleeve or T-Shirt over it to get rid of the lint—it sure happened to my unit.
Still, all these points are minor gripes. Overall, the Pixel 7 is a step up compared to its predecessor. It’s great to see that Google has finally found a design that sets it apart from the rest of the industry and that is instantly recognizable in a pool of other phones. This is already the third model to come with this design after the Pixel 6 and 6a, and it with the Pixel 7a and the Pixel Fold using a similar design, it’s clear that it’s here to stay.
The Pixel 7 is probably one of the most recognizable Android phones out there, coming right up after the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra with its unique camera setup on the back, with each individual lens protruding.
Google Pixel 7: Display
The Pixel 7 offers much of the same display experience as the Pixel 6. As explored earlier, it’s a tad smaller at 6.3 inches diagonally rather than 6.4. Unless you hold the two phones side-by-side, you might not notice that difference at all. What irks me is that while the bezels got smaller on the sides and at the top, the bottom bezels haven’t changed, making it appear even bigger as a result. This happens at a time when other Android manufacturers are finally figuring out how to add evenly sized bezels surrounding all sides of the screen.
The Pixel 7 screen offers the same 1080×2400 FHD+ resolution as its predecessor and a refresh rate of up to 90Hz. That’s right, Google still doesn’t offer 120Hz on its mid-tier offering, reserving the high refresh rate for its Pro model. It’s a bummer, as many manufacturers are moving to offer 120Hz across their flagship lineups, like Samsung does for the Galaxy S22 (as early as the S20 series, actually). A lot of international brands even include the technology with their best value budget phones. While you may be hard-pressed to notice the difference between 90Hz and 120Hz, it’s still a technological advancement that shouldn’t be reserved to the highest of the high end these days.
There are some more noticeable improvements over the Pixel 6, though. The Pixel 7 screen can reach a peak brightness of 1,400 nits to give you an extra visibility boost when you’re out in the sun. When viewing HDR content, the Pixel 7 is rated to reach up to 1,000 nits of sustained brightness. That’s about the same as what the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro reached at peak brightness (1,100 nits), so you’ll be able to enjoy content on your screen for longer periods of time when you’re outdoors. Google promises an improvement of up to 25%, and holding both phones side by side, the upgrade becomes apparent. It’s not like the Pixel 6 ever felt too dim in everyday usage, though.
Google Pixel 7: Hardware, performance & what’s in the box
The subtle screen brightness boost sets the theme for the rest of the Pixel 7 hardware. It’s much of the same as what we saw in the Pixel 6. The Pixel 7 offers 8GB of RAM coupled with either 128 or 256GB of storage, depending on which price you’re willing to pay. The processor, called Google Tensor G2, is a small upgrade over the first SoC the company introduced with the Pixel 6 lineup. It consists of mostly the same cores and the same super-big, big, and small structure as the chip to come before it, though the cores are clocked slightly higher. We’re looking at 2x super-big ARM Cortex-X1, 2x big A78, 4x small Cortex-A55. This refined architecture leads to ever-so-slightly faster speeds, though you will be hard-pressed to notice too many real life performance increases. The package is more efficient, though, which is good news given the slightly smaller battery.
Google focused much more on what it’s truly good at—improving auxiliary cores and machine-learning hardware. The Pixel 7 is much better at night photography with its new chipset, which we’ll explore later. The new Tensor chip is also joined by the upgraded Mali-G710 GPU. It offers a more significant upgrade than the Tensor CPU, but even here, Google is not making any claims about better performance or battery life. The company would like you to focus on the experience the Pixel offers rather than numbers. The new GPU is also joined by a second-gen Titan M2 security chip, a new imaging DSP, and an improved machine learning-focused TPU, the so-called Tensor Processing Unit. All of this enables some more neat exclusive feature.
The Pixel 7 does get warm when you use it extensively, even when you do nothing but browsing the web. Thankfully, this doesn’t lead to a slowdown. The phone remains snappy and responsive throughout. It really does seem like Google spending time on optimizations does the trick for this product.
As for haptics, Google stepped up the game considerably with this generation. It’s not iPhone-level, but it gets closer than the Pixel 6 before it. Whether you’re typing or swiping through recently opened apps, the vibrations come with a satisfying punch and don’t feel mushy. You can even make out the differences between different interactions, including vibrations for notifications. The same is true when you carry your phone in your pocket. It offers some of the most noticeable vibrations for calls and notifications, so it’s very hard to miss anything even when you have your phone set to silent.
During phone calls, I was also surprised how well I was able to hear the other side when holding the earpiece to my ear, even before Clear Calling became available, a new software-based feature you have to turn on explicitly that is supposed to help you hear and sound better. Generally, the speakers get decently loud when watching your favorite videos or listening to your playlists on Spotify, all without distorting much even at high volumes. The quality level is about the same as the Pixel 6, which is a bit of a shame—I still fondly remember my Pixel 3, which gave me better results than these new products. As with any phone that uses the earpiece as one of two stereo speakers, the sound feels a bit uneven, with bass and mid-range better represented on the bottom speaker than the top.
The Pixel 7’s box contents are as minimalistic as you could want them to be. The small box only packs the phone itself, a charging cable, a USB-A to C adapter, the usual SIM ejector tool, and a small manual; like last year’s phone, there’s no charger. I’m happy to see that Google stuck with paper and cardboard only, with no plastics to be seen—just like in the Pixel 6’s box. Even the screen protector applied for transport is paper-based, with only a thin film on it that touches the screen not made of paper. This may seem like it isn’t really consequential for the environment, but considering the amount of smartphones sold every year, a move like this can end up saving tons of plastics. Of course, longer software support would be another factor that helps produce less waste in form of the hardware itself, but more on that in just a bit.
Google Pixel 7: Software
The Google Pixel software is the flavor of Android we cover the most, and naturally, the Pixel 7 makes use of all the features that make Pixel phones so great. On the Pixel 7, you get Material You and (some) themed icons for your home screen, fast system and security updates, dictation and Assistant features, Call Screen and phone spam protection—features we know and love the Pixel series for. The Pixel 7 goes on to add a few more to this collection, but not as many as you would expect from a big new launch like this.
Many of the things “new” with the Pixel 7 are actually part of the Android 13 upgrade that all recent Pixel phones have received, and you can read all about it in our Android 13 review. However, Google went out of its way to include at least a few distinct features, setting the Pixel 7 apart from other Pixel phones running Android 13. Its new dual biometric authentication wants to fix some of the flaws of Google’s first under-display fingerprint scanner, and there are new health features like cough and snore detection to help you monitor your sleep.
New, improved biometrics
The Pixel 7 and 7 Pro finally bring back face unlock support, an option Google last supported on the Pixel 4 with its built-in infrared scanner. This time around, Google opted for a much less fancy option, though. The Pixel 7 doesn’t have any IR or dot matrix scanning unit but only relies on its new 10.8MP front-facing camera. Historically, this has been one of the least secure options for unlocking, but Google tells us that the company introduced measures to prevent anyone from just holding up a picture of you in front of the camera to get in, without getting into specifics. It’s clear that the company did something, though: the phone only unlocks when you look right at it—when you look past the screen or close your eyes, it will not work. I also tried holding up printed photos of me in front of it, and it wouldn’t let me in.
The company still doesn’t trust this method enough to make it a fully-featured alternative to the fingerprint scanner. Face unlock only works to get into your phone, but not to enter secure apps like your online banking, password manager, or when you want to use your phone for contactless payments. You can only use your fingerprint biometrics to do that. It already becomes clear during setup that face scanning is only meant as a convenience feature. When you set up your phone, there are only options to add both your fingerprint and your face—going face-only is not a possibility.
Speaking of the fingerprint scanner—while Google initially wouldn’t confirm this to us, it feels like the company has added some new hardware to the phone that makes fingerprint recognition much more reliable. Compared to my Pixel 6, which I’ve trained my fingerprints on for the whole past year, the Pixel 7 already feels considerably faster and much more accurate, and it’s something that held up in the long term. I still run into the occasional mis-scan, but it’s a rare occurrence that doesn’t really get much into the way of using the phone. All in all, the Pixel 7’s scanner doesn’t feel any worse than other in-display fingerprint scanners.
Face unlock then completes the fingerprint scanner for unlocking your phone. In many cases, you won’t even need to scan your fingerprint, with the phone instead telling you that you just need to press and hold the location of the fingerprint scanner to enter your phone after it recognizes your face. This doesn’t happen as often as you would think it does. Since the face unlock system is camera-based, you can’t use it in the dark. It also often enough just straight up didn’t recognize me, but then the faster fingerprint sensor does the trick without getting in the way, too.
You really have to think of face unlock as a convenience feature that sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t, and Google’s interface works around the problems very well, with me not even noticing when it doesn’t work as I can just put my finger on the fingerprint scanner to unlock, regardless of face scanning kicking in or not.
There is one big issue with this two-tier approach, though. Since face unlock isn’t considered a high-end security option, it doesn’t unlock your phone for contactless NFC payments. Sadly, Google still hasn’t properly made that clear in the interface at all. When you unlock your Pixel with your face and try to make a payment, you simply get an error message that it didn’t work, but no explicit request to try again with your fingerprint. Here, Google needs to work on improving the communication—it should be an easy fix in software. Note that the issue isn’t as egregious in many other parts of the world as it is in the US, as Google allows you to make payments up to a certain amount without unlocking your phone at all in many regions.
Cough and snore detection
Another feature enabled by Google’s new co-processors is cough and snore detection, which is part of Digital Wellbeing’s bedtime mode. You can access it via system settings. Google will also prompt you to turn this feature on when you plug in your phone to charge it overnight. Bedtime mode can automatically be activated based on a time schedule like on older Pixels, but the Pixel 7 adds a new dimension. You can activate it automatically when you plug in your phone within a certain time frame, say between 11 pm and 7 am. You can then opt to track your sleep interruptions and have your Pixel 7 detect when you cough and snore at night, all processed fully offline on the device itself.
The Pixel 7 definitely can’t rival a sleep tracker, fitness band, or the 2nd-gen Nest Hub when it comes to sleep tracking, but it gives you a neat rundown of your most important stats overnight. You will see when and what you’ve used your phone for during the scheduled sleep time, with another graph giving you information about when and how long you’ve coughed or snored. While Google doesn’t do much to help explain and analyze this data, it can be a valuable tool to find hints if you have any issues like sleep apnea, a condition where you can’t properly breathe at night. It’s a great addition, as it minds your privacy, is part of your phone which you’ve probably got next to you in bed anyway, and could potentially make you aware of things that might encourage you to visit a doctor.
Software updates and further features
Google used to be the pioneer when it comes to software updates, but even though the company now controls all important aspects of the software and hardware (thanks to its Tensor chips), it still hasn’t made a commitment to support the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro for more than 5 years with security patches. The company was tight-lipped about Android update support during the presentation, but it’s now clear that Google will only give the Pixel 7 three major Android updates.
Compared to the industry standard set by Samsung, that’s a bummer. High-end Samsung devices can expect up to four Android version updates these days and five years of security updates. Google already should have moved beyond this with the Pixel 6, which upgraded the security update promise to five years compared to previous models, but the company has again decided to stick with this poor strategy. Let’s not even get started with iPhones, which get full software updates for more than five to seven years. Given that Google has full control over hardware and software on its Pixel phones with its Tensor chips, there is no reason why the company couldn’t offer something like this, too.
Google Pixel phones are basically the showroom of what Google envisions for Android, and if the company behind the operating system doesn’t commit to more than five years of support, why would anyone else? At least you can expect the latest and greatest Android features for the next three years, which will come as part of full version upgrades and quarterly Pixel Feature Drops or QPRs, mentioned above.
Google Pixel 7: Battery life & charging
The Pixel 7 has a smaller battery than its predecessor at 4,355mAh, compared to 4614mAh on the Pixel 6. That makes sense, given that the new phone is smaller in all dimensions, and the battery is just the part that makes up most of the volume. I’m still coming away impressed with the battery life. It looks like Google managed to make the Tensor G2 more efficient than the first generation chip, and the slightly smaller display could also play a role.
Most of the time, I haven’t been able to run down the battery in a single day, even on days when I was out and about. In a mixed-use environment that involved taking a lot of sample photos in various lighting conditions, some light public transit navigation, some review writing on Google Docs, and a lot of scrolling through Twitter, Reddit, and Chrome, I am routinely able to eke out five hours of screen-on time, with 5% left at the end of the most extreme day during the initial test period—I have to say, if I didn’t have a battery pack with me then, I would have been slightly concerned at that point. Still, when you take the time to top off the phone before you head out for the night, you might never run into any issues at all.
During testing, I took the phone off the charger at about 8 or 9 am and used it without a single top-up until about 10 to 11 pm. I didn’t change any settings for these experiments, and only turned on battery saver at 20% and then extreme battery saver at 10%—just as recommended by notifications from the software.
With the Pixel 7’s adaptive battery feature kicking in after the initial review period, I can only say that I haven’t had any big surprises or big complaints. The Pixel 7 is certainly not the most enduring phone out there, but it’s in the upper middle field and is good enough for most situations.
One noticeable thing that was already an issue on the Pixel 6 is standby battery drain. We tested this by leaving both the Pixel 6 and 7 with identical setup out overnight, with the always-on display enabled, and they both lost about 10% of charge in that time frame. In another test, we left the AOD off, and that left us with 6% battery drain overnight. This is more than on many comparable phones, and even the Pixel 4a 5G we’ve used for testing has never been this bad with standby drain on identical settings. It’s possible that the issue is specific to the Tensor chipsets that are still largely the same across the Pixel 6 and 7.
The charging situation is unchanged from previous Pixel generations, and that’s a bummer if you’re someone who prefers not to charge their phone overnight. The Pixel 7 supports 21W fast charging (with Google saying it reaches these speeds with the first-party 30W adapter sold separately), which is considerably slower than the competition at this point. We can confirm Google’s claims that the Pixel 7 charges from 0 to 50% in 30 minutes, which is good for a quick top-off before heading out at night. It still pales in comparison to what, for example, the OnePlus 10T offers with its 150W charger (capped to still fast 125W in the US). A full charge takes more than one and a half hours on the Pixel 7, with us charging from 1 to 100% within 1:40h using a third-party 30W charger.
Google Pixel 7: Camera
Google’s Pixel lineup has always been the pinnacle of mobile photography, and this isn’t changing with the Pixel 7. In fact, the Pixel 7 steps up the camera game significantly, particularly when it comes to night photography, all while mostly retaining the camera setup Google introduced with the Pixel 6. On the new phone, you get a 50MP primary camera joined by a 12MP ultrawide.
When I first tested the Pixel 7’s camera, it was noticeably faster than the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro when taking night mode photos. Google claims it’s a 50% speed improvement at no quality loss, and that much has turned out to be true in my side-by-side comparison. The Pixel 6 and 7 provide virtually the same quality and brightness, with the 7 getting the images fully captured and processed much more quickly than the 6.
The Pixel 7 takes things further, though. When it notices a dark environment, it displays a small timer in the bottom right of the viewfinder that shows you how long it will need to capture a shot to provide a clear image. When you hit the shutter button, you will then even see a countdown showing you how long it will take until the image is fully captured and you can start moving again. This is still joined by the level in the middle of the screen that helps you keep your hands stable during the shot.
The new camera software also gives you more manual control over night mode. When you tap the timer, you get to choose between three different modes: standard night mode, max night mode, and no night mode.
No night mode, standard night mode, max night mode
The first option is great to have for quickly moving objects or subjects you’re happy to capture at all, even at the expense of a darker and grainier image. The standard night mode emulates that of the Pixel 6, only that it’s much faster. The third mode is new, and it allows you to capture a much brighter and more detailed image at night than what you were previously able to. The best part about it is that even this mode is slightly faster at capturing the scene than the Pixel 6, all while providing you a much clearer and brighter image.
About half a year after the Pixel 7 was released, Google brought that same faster Night Sight processing and the new interface to the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, too, which shows that it’s mostly a software-based improvement that isn’t tied to the new processor. The Pixel 6 series’ Night Sight is virtually identical now.
1st and 2nd: Pixel 6 vs Pixel 7 at 2x zoom — 3rd and 4th: Pixel 6 vs. Pixel 7 at 2x zoom, cropped in to show difference in details
In daylight, you can also see some enhancement. Google has introduced an upgrade to Super Res Zoom (a term first used on the Pixel 3) for the Pixel 7, and it works just like the iPhone 14’s new crop mechanism. The Pixel 7’s main 50MP sensor usually scales images down to 12MP by default by combining four pixels into one for the final image. For 2x cropped images, Google changes this formula and uses all the individual pixels in the sensor that are responsible for this cropped-in area. This gives you ever-so-slightly better image quality. You’ll be hard-pressed to notice a difference when you don’t have anything to compare against, but when you view pictures from the Pixel 7 side by side with some from the Pixel 6 (which has the same hardware but not the same cropping mechanism for 2x), you’ll see that there are fine but noticable improvement in details.
Pixel 7 at 1x (moved closer to the subjects) vs 2x (moved further away from the subjects)
Overall, this is the right direction to move to, though I would have preferred a 3x telephoto camera as a good optical compromise. The 2x zoom the Pixel 7 offers comes closest to what you will naturally strive for in portrait photography, and the computational improvements do their part to make for a better quality of exactly these shots.
A collection of sample shots from the Pixel 7, scroll to the side to see everything
Video: 4K60FPS everywhere and Cinematic Blur
Google is also offering choice improvements in the video department. For one, all cameras on the Pixel 7 (and the 7 Pro) now support recording in 4K60FPS. This allows you to get the highest resolution and fastest frame rate currently possible on Pixel phones, no matter if you shoot selfies or scenes in front of you. Like Apple before it, Google also added a new Cinematic Blur option to the Pixel 7 camera. This allows you to use the fake bokeh effect you know from photography in videos. In our testing, this worked surprisingly well, with just some minor issues around the corners of the subject.
Last but not least, Google has also added a new 10-bit HDR video mode, which is great for high contrast videos like when you film in the sunset.
Overall, the experience across the Pixel 6 and 7 isn’t terribly different when it comes to video. The company did combat the overheating issues that plagued the Pixel 6, with the phone not getting too hot to record anymore unless you shoot in the highest possible quality setting. In that case, you will still experience issues with heat.
Unblur, True Tone, and Guided Frame
Google has also taken the Tensor G2 chip and added a feature that helps you restore old, blurry memories. The Pixel 7 series adds an exclusive unblur tool to Google Photos, and it works surprisingly well on when motion blur is present. The tool isn’t fully magic, though. Images that are exorbitantly grainy or so blurry you can’t make out what you’re looking at with your own eyes, the tool will not work. Still, as I went through my library of older photos, I was surprised just how well it works for a majority of soft photos. Yes, the technology works on both old photos you’ve got saved to your Google Photos library ages ago and for those you’ve taken on the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro. I wouldn’t be surprised if it comes to other phones as part of Google One at some point, too, just like what Google did with the Magic Eraser feature that debuted on the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro.
Both pairs of images: Blurred vs. unblurred
The one annoying thing about unblur is that just like Magic Eraser, it’s not possible to save the new result as a revision of the original photo. Instead, you’ll get a brand-new photo that’s stripped off metadata like the location of the photo. I really wish it was possible to just override the original photo instead—after all, there are little to no reasons to keep an objectively worse, blurry version of the image around, quite in contrast to Magic Eraser, which more drastically alters the original.
Google is working hard on making those with no or low vision less dependent on others to take selfies, too. The new Guided Frame accessibility option helps you get the perfect selfie without being able to see the screen, with instructions that tell you how to position your phone and when to smile. It seems to work pretty well, though you have to use some common sense when you want to take advantage of it. A selfie shot at an arm’s length away, with your hand held as high as your phone, is naturally going to get you a better result than a shot from the bottom. TalkBack doesn’t make any difference between these two.
True Tone has also seen some improvements, according to Google. True Tone is part of Google’s photography and videography algorithm that controls the camera and is supposed to get great, natural-looking results, regardless of which skin color your subjects have. The Pixel 7 and 7 Pro come with further refinements in that area.
Despite all these improvements, including Super Res Zoom, I would have still loved for Google to include a telephoto zoom camera with the regular Pixel 7. It doesn’t have to be a 5x zoom camera as on the Pixel 7 Pro, but optical zoom will always beat digital crop. For example, Google could have added the 4x zoom camera from the Pixel 6 Pro, giving Pixel 7 owners something more than only improved digital zoom (which has been and is still impressive on the Pixel lineup, I’m not denying that!).
A second look at the Pixel 7
By Will Sattelberg | Published Dec 24, 2022
After spending nearly a month with the Pixel 7 Pro for our review, I switched over to the smaller Pixel 7 as my daily driver. Going from a top-tier flagship back to a “lesser” device can be difficult, even when models are as similar as these two Google phones are. But, truthfully, I was excited to finally return to a smaller device. After all, my initial gut reaction suggested I might prefer the entry-level Pixel 7 over its big brother.
The Pixel 6 was my phone of choice for much of this past year, and its successor’s refined design shocked me at Google’s launch event in October. In my limited hands-on time, I found it more comfortable to use than the larger Pixel 7 Pro, but with a looming due date for my review, I had no time to verify whether this was true. At last, at the start of November, I swapped to the Pixel 7.
In general, the experience provided by these two phones is remarkably similar, so I want to focus on what’s different. As I’ve previously written about, Google opted to treat the Pixel 7 less like a premium device, removing the brushed metallic finish on the camera bar and frame, the rounded edges of the display, and opting for a smaller, lower resolution display. All of these changes are, in my opinion, for the best.
With a 6.3″ screen and reduced bezels, the Pixel 7 feels noticeably smaller than its predecessor, which, in turn, also makes it feel dramatically smaller than the Pro. Any time I’ve picked up Google’s phablet-sized flagship over the past few weeks, I’ve found myself disliking its size more and more. I’m not here to say I’ve soured on the idea of large screens, nor am I trying to call the Pixel 7 a “petite” phone. Rather, I think it’s time manufacturers pull back a bit on display sizes as a whole, and the Pixel 7 is a great first step. It’s plenty big for movies or gaming without feeling overwhelming.
The lack of a curved screen makes a huge difference here. Though I don’t love the metal frame around the display (a raised lip means it feels weird against your thumb while swiping back), it’s leagues beyond the rounded edges on the Pixel 7 Pro. Google made an effort to dial back its curves this year, but nothing beats a flat screen. It’s time to abandon the idea of curved edges, I think — they simply don’t minimize enough width to make enduring the poor ergonomics and warped screen details worth it.
One more note on the display. Although it’s limited to just 90Hz and 1080p, I noticed no difference between it and the 1440p 120Hz panel on its big brother. Google even ships the Pro running at FHD mode, much like Samsung’s recent flagships. If you’re worried about settling for a “lesser” screen, I wouldn’t stress about it. The Pixel 7’s display is good — no qualifiers necessary.
I’m also thrilled that the brushed metal around the frame and camera bar was eliminated here. It took less than a week for my Pixel 7 Pro to show signs of wear around its lenses, but the matte aluminum here still looks pristine two months after I took it out of the box. It’s also less prone to oil and finger smudges, something I can’t say about the glossy glass back. One more plea: please, Google, utilize matte glass on the Pixel 8 next year.
Okay, so you should get the smaller, cheaper one, right? Case closed? Not quite. It’s worth addressing the elephant in the room: that missing 5x telephoto lens. I had a ton of fun shooting with the Pixel 7 Pro throughout the month of October, and images taken with the Pixel 7’s primary lens are just as good. Unfortunately, relying on this phone for ultra-wide or telephoto shots can be limiting. Neither is bad, but compared to what you’ll find on the Pixel 7 Pro — or, truthfully, the Galaxy S22 Ultra — you’re far more restricted.
The older ultra-wide sensor here means your field-of-view is relatively limited and, perhaps more importantly, you won’t be able to access macro mode. The lack of any kind of telephoto lens completely caps your zoom options. While the primary sensor can still crop in at 2x, any farther is reliant on Google’s machine learning algorithms. Super Res Zoom is impressive, but without matching hardware, it can only do so much.
Ultimately, that’s the Pixel 7 experience. It’s a friendlier, more compact chassis with some design decisions Google should bring to all of its phones, alongside some frustrating restrictions to get the price to $600. Personally, I’ll be sticking with the Pixel 7 for now. I simply prefer using it as my daily driver, and although I miss the telephoto lens, I’m not a frequent-enough photographer to sacrifice comfort. I maintain that the Pixel 7 is the device to beat this year, a phone that strikes the balance between design, performance, and price better than anything else. But more than anything, I’m excited to see the evolution Google brings to the table with the Pixel 8 in 2023.
Google Pixel 7: Should you buy it?
In the initial review back when the Pixel 7 just launched, I would be the first person to say that it is the upper midrange Android phone to buy. The equation changes with the Pixel 7a, though, which was introduced during Google I/O in May 2023. The Pixel 7a has all the features that the Pixel 7 has, including the same processor, the same amount of storage and RAM, a display that is only a tad smaller, and an ever-so-slightly downgraded camera setup. However, I much prefer its excellent plastic back that doesn’t shatter as easily, and battery life has treated me very well on 7a, too. The Pixel 7 is only a little more expensive than the Pixel 7a at $600 vs. $500, but even if they were available at the same price, I would pick the Pixel 7a for its more durable build and its now slightly longer update window.
That said, the Pixel 7 is still more premium with its glass back, its bigger camera array, and its slightly smaller bezels. If these factors are more important to you, then yes, you should go for the Pixel 7, especially if you can get it for $500 or less while it’s on sale.
Google Pixel 7
Google did not reinvent the wheel with the Pixel 7, but there was no need to. With improved cameras, the next-gen Tensor G2 chipset, and Google’s wonderfully feature-filled software, the Pixel 7 earns its price tag again this year.