The Pixel 7 could be Google’s very first flagship smartphone sequel.
It might seem like a strange thing to say about “version 7” of a smartphone, but so far every flagship Pixel has changed manufacturers or used a new design from year to year. This strategy is the exact opposite of that used by larger, more serious hardware companies like Apple or Samsung, from which you can expect stable, iterative smartphone designs, with big redesigns coming every few years. When you strive to create a smartphone from scratch every year, it’s hard to do much in terms of fixing bugs, improvements, or adjusting to customer feedback.
The Pixel 6 Pro was already the best Android phone you could buy, so Google didn’t have to do too much to come up with a good smartphone this year. All the important bits of the Pixel 6 are here, like the best-in-class price, a great camera, and fast, clean software. But even with that solid foundation, Google has done a good job of resolving some of our minor Pixel 6 complaints. There’s no reason to upgrade if you have a Pixel 6, just a real “version 2” of Google’s flagship smartphone could attract more people to try the brand.
Refine an already excellent design
|SPECIFICATIONS AT A GLANCE|
|Pixel 7||Pixel 7 Pro|
|FILTER||6.3-inch, 90Hz, 2400×1080 OLED||6.7 inches, 120Hz3120×1440 LTPO OLED|
|CPU||Google Tensor G2
Two 2.85 GHz Cortex-X1 cores
|GPUs||ARM Mali G710 MC10|
|RAM||8 GB||12 GB|
|STORAGE||128GB/256GB UFS 3.1||128GB/256GB/512 GB
|NETWORKING||Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2, GPS, NFC, 5G mmWave (optional) & Sub-6 GHz||Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2, GPS, NFC, 5G mmWave & Sub-6GHz, ULB|
|PORTS||USB Type-C 3.1 Gen 1 with 30W USB-PD 3.0 charging|
|REAR CAMERA||50 MP main
12 megapixel wide angle
|50 MP main
12 MP wide angle
4x 48MP telephoto lens
|FRONT CAMERA||10.8 megapixels||10.8 megapixels|
|CUT||155.6×73.2×8.7mm||162.9 x 76.6 x 8.9mm|
|OTHER ADVANTAGES||IP68 dust and water resistance, eSIM, wireless charging, in-screen fingerprint reader|
The best part of the Pixel 6 design, the camera bar, returns in the Pixel 7. Google’s camera bar remains the best rear camera design in the industry, as it reaches the lens to make room for a camera lens while still being functional. The bar is a raised horizontal strip on the back of the phone, allowing the device to sit on a table without rocking back and forth (an unfortunate side effect of corner-mounted camera bumps ). It’s a big improvement over the usual wonky smartphone. The camera bar also helps with grip if you place an index finger under the ridge it forms on the back of a phone. It’s hard to support a device by a corner camera bump, but the large tactile ridge gives you an extra point of contact.
The Pixel 6’s camera bar was a mess of parts, though. The top and bottom edges were aluminum, and a single strip of glass covered each lens. Google couldn’t bend the glass around the left and right sides, so the glass abruptly stopped and awkwardly transitioned to black plastic. The large sheet of glass was also a magnet for glare in certain lighting conditions. Light could enter the glass strip from many angles and bounce off to wash out your photos.
The Pixel 7 Camera Bar keeps things simple. A single piece of aluminum now makes up the phone’s frame, sides, and exterior camera bar, with only one or two glass cutouts for the camera lenses. Glare problems are reduced. The camera hasn’t changed much, but a 5x telephoto lens (and 30x software zoom) has been added.
Google made all the wrong choices when it came to differentiating the design of the Pixel 7 Pro and its smaller sibling, the Pixel 7, which gives the cheaper phone a better overall design. The Pixel 7 Pro uses a mirror finish on the aluminum sides and camera bar. The finish picks up fingerprints and highlights scratches, and the camera bar on my week-old review unit is already scuffed. The base Pixel 7 model has a brushed and matte aluminum finish, which hides scratches better. The brushed aluminum looks better, as it doesn’t get covered in fingerprints, and it feels better, with the matte aluminum sides offering a bit more grip than the Pro’s smooth finish.
The base Pixel 7 model also has a completely flat display, while the Pixel 7 Pro has a curved display. Curved screens distort content at the edges of the screen, catch glare and make accidental touches easier. This is a marketing-focused anti-feature that manufacturers should remove. The Pixel 7 Pro’s display is significantly less curved than the Pixel 6 Pro’s, but why not just completely relieve the user of that nasty design?
With a better aluminum finish and a flat screen, the $600 Pixel 7 looks like a major upgrade over the $900 Pixel 7 Pro, and it’s what I’d choose if I could get the base model. with a premium 120Hz display. Google should toss the 7 Pro design and make two versions of the Pixel 7 because none of the “premium” design changes it made are worth it. Every day I pick up the Pixel 7 and am tempted to upgrade from the Pro because the exterior design is so much nicer.
Speaking of bad trends, let’s talk about mmWave. The worst part of the Pixel 6 Pro’s design was a giant mmWave plastic window on the top edge of the phone. On my white version, it’s a huge white stripe across the top of the phone, and it doesn’t match the cream-colored back or the silver-colored aluminum strip. The Pixel 7 Pro looks much better, reducing the cutout to a rounded color-matched window that only takes up about 40% of the top’s length. It’s a big improvement.