Google’s Pixel phones aren’t sporting gimmicks like folding screens, yet the company has managed to create its own line of Android-based phones with some notable perks. That’s true of this year’s model, the Pixel 7 Pro. It’s not any kind of massive overhaul compared to last year’s Pixel but offers enough enhancement to make it well worth a look.
Buying into the Pixel line gets users not the unadulterated stock Android OS it used to, but a more curated version with a heavy focus on upgraded AI features for the Google Assistant and, more importantly, its camera. You’ll get Android updates and features first, along with custom phone features like Direct My Call for navigating robotic phone menus and spam protection.
There’s a learning adaptive brightness feature to let the phone learn your preferences in different lighting, and various screen options to customize further. Little things have been added to Google Assistant, like quick phrases for easier voice commands, that make the overall system feel more personalized. None of these additions are particularly swoon-worthy and many users probably won’t even touch them, but so far they are specific to the Pixel 7 phones.
The Pixel even uses its own custom processor, the Tensor CPU, which is heavily focused on AI functionality. The Pixel 7 has has a 6.3-inch screen while the Pro, which we tested, sports a 6.7-inch display with a maximum refresh rate of 120 Hz (the non-Pro maxes out at 90 Hz) and 1440p resolution. The bezel surrounding the screen is nicely minimal as well, although the overall look of the 7 is largely identical to last year’s Pixel 6.
The Pixel 7 marks the return of face unlocking, which hasn’t been seen in a couple generations, giving users the ability to unlock the phone with their fingerprint, face or lock code. The fingerprint scanner is on the screen as well and seemed to function more reliably than it did on the Pixel 6 Pro. Facial recognition worked well generally. Just glancing at the phone usually was enough for it to identify my face, provided there was a reasonable amount of light. In dimmer and dark spaces, the face unlock just didn’t work at all.
Having lived with the phone for several weeks, some definite improvements became apparent over the Pixel 6. For one thing, the phone’s ability to find and keep a signal without having to refresh it or drop it into airplane mode for a few seconds is much better. I live in an area where cell signals tend to be unreliable and had far fewer issues this time around. It was more reliable for catching 5G as well.
Battery life has caused some contention, with some users finding it much less than the “over 24-hours” claim by Google. In the first few days, I saw this issue as well, where the battery was tanking halfway through. I can’t say for sure, but the phone seems to need a break-in period to adapt to your usage, because the problem just disappeared later on that first week. After that, the phone stayed charged at least a full day without any problems.
The biggest selling point for the Pixel is the camera. The 7 Pro features a 12MP ultrawide camera, 50MP sensor, and another 48MP sensor for its very specific Super Res Zoom. This feature lets the Pixel 7 Pro have 30x digital zoom capabilities (the regular Pixel 7 has an 8x zoom). The front-facing camera is a 10.9MP fixed-lens.
Daytime shots are excellent and (thanks to the Pro’s telephoto lens) using zoom is a feasible thing without the picture quality going all to hell. The zoom stabilization feature helps sharpen things further by trying to compensate for shaky hands. It worked well on the whole, though it does seem like a “your mileage may vary” sort of thing. Either way, the camera was simple to use and reliably took excellent pictures.
Google’s night mode photography has been improving steadily and while I wouldn’t use the phone for serious astronomy pics, it’s one of my favorite features. Between the physical hardware and AI wizardry, the Pixel 7 Pro is capable of some truly stunning night shots. The software manages to brighten up the pictures enough to give them a beautiful, eerie atmosphere and I was able to get some surprisingly good shots of the night sky.
Overall, the Pixel 7 Pro is a step up from previous generations, which were excellent phones in their own right. If you’re an Android user who wants the latest features and updates, the new Pixel is absolutely the way to go. None of the Pixel-specific features (which may or may not trickle down to other phones) make the 7 Pro a must-buy on their own, but the phone works very well. More importantly, the camera is superb, easily among the best available on a mobile, and the biggest selling point.