A Couple of Days With the Pixel 7 Pro

John Scalzi

So far I like it! But what I’ve really noticed about it is how little I’ve had get used to it. With every other iteration of the Pixel I’ve had there was always some significant bit of software, hardware or user experience that called attention to itself and I had to build into my use of the phone, for better or worse. This time around, I swapped the data from my Pixel 6 Pro, signed into my most-used apps and proceeded as nothing had changed. Everything worked right out of the box, in a way I was used to, and didn’t require additional fiddling.

This was both gratifying — Hey! Everything just works! — and also a little sad for the nerd in me. I don’t mind a little fiddling with a new bit of kit and figuring out all the new stuff. Falling into rhythm with my new phone this quickly makes me wonder what I’m missing. But maybe that’s the wrong way to think about it. The Pixel 6 Pro, because it had a new design and processor (the first-gen Tensor chip) experienced some hiccups right out of the box and real growing pains as it went along. The Pixel 7 Pro, so far at least, has none of these. It’s hit the ground running.

To be clear, there are newish things about the Pixel 7 Pro, many of them having to do with the camera: The telephoto lens now goes to 5x, and the way the camera juggles between its optical and digital zooms (through a combination of cropping and using the three back lenses in conjunction) means the zoomed-in pictures tend to be sharper than they were before. The wide-angle lens is notably wider-angled, and the main lens now also features a “macro” mode which lets you get closer to smaller objects (see below photo of a fly on a gourd). There are also new camera tricks, including a new “unblur” mode that works pretty well, at least for the one photo I’ve used it on so far, of one of my cats.

My experience with the camera so far is that it actually does take better photos than the Pixel 6 Pro, which is largely down to new tricks with computational photography and the updated chipset, since the actual camera sensors are, to my understanding, largely the same as last year’s. But that’s Google for you: fiddle with the software until you get something new. That’s why I upgrade every damn year, so this not me faulting them for it. The cameras on the Pixel are best of class, and photography is important to me. My only minor complaint about the camera this year is that the “macro” mode is a bit finicky (and turned on when I was trying to take a night photo in fog, which was weird). I figure that will get tweaked as we go along.

Aside from the cameras, all the newish stuff on the P7P is cosmetic (the weather bug on the landing screen has slightly more detail, which is nice) or involves things I haven’t had the opportunity to use yet, like always on captioning, or most of the stuff relating to making phone calls; like so many people these days my actual phone call volume has dropped to something close to zero. That said, the Pixel phone call management experience really is the best out of any cell phone; it screens, it blocks, it sits on hold for you, it offers transcriptions, so on and so forth. For as little as I use my phone for phone calls, I always appreciate the Pixel when I do.

Other notes: Face Unlock has returned to the Pixel line, but I don’t have it turned on, because I find it not especially secure, and because the fingerprint unlock, not great on the P6P, is greatly improved here. Early observation about the battery life suggests it’s marginally better than I got on my P6P, but then it’s a new phone, it should have at least slightly better battery life than a phone with a one-year-old battery. The design of the P7P is sleeker and prettier than last year (I have a Hazel colored one, and the metal camera bar and rail is really nice looking), but the whole thing is still made of slippery-ass glass; I slapped a case on the thing immediately because otherwise I probably would have already dropped it several times. The P7P is still a honkin’ big phone — it’s about the dimensions of the P6P, which was also honkin’ big. I’m not a huge fan of phone this size; size-wise my favorite Pixel phone was the 5, which fit my hand perfectly. But after a year with this form factor, I’m more used to it.

I had been on the fence about upgrading this year because the Pixel 7 Pro was likely to be an incremental upgrade rather than a substantial one, and I didn’t know whether those increments would add up for me. I don’t think that people who have, and are perfectly happy with, a Pixel 6 Pro or any other recent phone, should upgrade, unless like me they have slightly more money than sense, and like new shiny objects. Largely speaking, last year’s Pixel is more than fine, especially now when they have most of the software bugs sorted out.

For all that, I am certainly happy with the upgrade so far, and if you are in the market for a new Android phone, it’s difficult to see how you might do better than the Pixel 7 Pro. Other people have noted this in other reviews and I’ll repeat it: This year’s iteration feels like Google hitting its stride with the Pixel line. And for me, so far, it’s a new phone that doesn’t feel like a new phone, just a better phone. And that’s actually pretty good.

— JS

17 Comments on “A Couple of Days With the Pixel 7 Pro”

  1. Well crap. You were the major influence in why I bought the P6P and I absolutely love it and, like you, am all about the camera. The fact that I don’t need to carry my DSLR with me everywhere now was a huge plus. I have done some side by side comparisons with my D850 and in some cases the P6P actually took a better photo. With Snapseed on my phone for very simple and quick processing of photos it means that I can crank out a semi professional looking shot really quick without carrying lots of gear on me.

    I didn’t find the transition from my OnePlus 8 to the P6P that jarring as I am using a custom home screen and all the apps, once signed in, just worked. I will agree that the software around phone calls, especially with transcribing those pesky service calls where you are on hold or have to press 3 eight times to get to where you want to go are way easier on the pixel.

    As good as the P7P sounds, I may just keep with the 6 until the 8 or 9 comes out. It sounds like they are making great strides in the camera department and I can only imagine what the next one will be like.

    Anyone reading that is not on the P6P that is looking to upgrade, I would agree with the man here and say, Make The Jump. The Pixel line has been amazing and I would have trouble going back to a Samsung or OnePlus now.

  2. I upgraded from a Galaxy S21 (not the Ultra); a trade-in deal that gave me nearly all the money I had spent on the Galaxy sweetened the deal. My heart never warmed to that phone because of all of the Samsung modifications to Android (I was coming to it from an Essential PH-1), especially the thing about having two apps for a lot of important things and trying to remember which one to use. I opted for the Pro (in Snow) to get the telephoto lens.

    So far I’m happy. The pure Android experience sits better with me. The telephoto lens and the Google camera software make for a better picture taking experience, especially in low light. My impression is that its RF performance is also a bit better, unlike the Pixel 6 line where that was commonly reported as a shortcoming. Real time translation is another nice feature that I haven’t had much occasion to use so far.

  3. I picked up the Pixel 7 Regular (Plain? Classic?) a few weeks ago to replace my Pixel 5. It’s slightly bigger, but not so much as to be obtrusive. (I specifically avoided the Pro because of its size, though I envy its camera.) I use Nova rather than the built-in launcher, so the interface just copied right over. The battery life is far better than I was getting with my 2+-year-old Pixel 5, which isn’t surprising, but it otherwise feels like a faster, smoother version of the 5 that also takes noticeably better pictures.

  4. I MUST get a new phone. I got a moto thinking I’d love it. I love everything but the calls. In order to get a phone call I have to tell the caller to call me back so that I can hear them. I get nothing when they call. The phone has been thru everything. Hard resets, you make it. It’s a lemon.

  5. Like @Steve, above, I just traded in my OnePlus for a P6P for many of the same reasons. (I also shoot a D850 as my regular use camera, fwiw.)

    I thought about cancelling my P6P order that hadn’t shipped when the P7 was released, but decided that I didn’t really need the upgrade or to spend more money. I’ll likely hang on to my P6P for a few years and then upgrade to whatever is the newest version (P8, P9?).

    I sometimes have more money than sense, but I’m also someone who tends to buy the most expensive, newest, up-to-date technology and then work it into the ground before repeating the cycle.

  6. Thanks for the review. I have a Pixel 3, so like cats, I keep mine for a long time, but I also like great photos, so maybe it’s time. There are a few things I would treasure in a phone:

    Long-pressing to take a screen shot.

    I don’t always want the assistant on, so to take a screen shot, I must either find the settings to turn on personal assistant, ask my camera to take the screen shot, and then go back to the settings to turn it off again or fumble with buttons on the side of the phone (on and volume). My case makes that really hard.

    An easy way to toggle assistant on an off.

    I’m sure there are more, but these are my top frustrations.

    How does the Pixel 7 Pro handle these?

    Thanks in advance!

  7. @Karen,

    Your P3 will already do screenshots more easily for you. Swipe up from the bottom to get to recently used apps, and you get a screenshot option.
    Source: I had a P3 until I upgraded to the P7 last week and I definitely had that option.

    There’s also an option on the P7 to set the power button to launch assistant. I assume the P7P has the same.

    The only thing I miss from the P3 is being able to do the notification shade with the rear fingerprint scanner, but there’s a handy option to activate a short swipe on the bottom to bring it down that’s a pretty good replacement.

  8. Glad you really like your new phone! As for me, I’ll stick with my iPhone: always seamless, intuitive, and hassle-free … even for non-nerds. ♥️🍏

  9. Thanks. I’m still on the fence of whether to get it and info is appreciated.
    I still buy music and use an SD card which are becoming very rare. Being dangerously close to 256GB total, I would need a 512GB phone. The Pixel Pro is one of the best with that. It’s far to big though.
    Excellent but way too big or kind of OK and only somewhat too big (Samsung A53)…

  10. I was very happy with the Pixel 7 Pro until I discovered that when I am on a call and not connected to wifi that my apps have no data . Iphones can, even older Pixel phones like the 4XL can.

  11. I got the P7P to upgrade from a Pixel 5.

    The face unlock is more supplemental to the fingerprint than it is an authentication method in itself. Using your credit card or signing into your banking app will always require your fingerprint.

    I would recommend turning it on for faster unlocks, because I’ve found the fingerprint scanner is not as good as the Pixel 5. If this phone had a smaller screen with the Pixel 5 fingerprint scanner, it’d be basically perfect.

  12. I’m on my second pixel. I have the 7pro. Love everything about it. Even the telephoto lense. This phone is slamming, better connectivity, Best camera I’ve ever used. Love all the new positive changes. Maybe the tensor 2

  13. Verizon’s crazy $700 trade-in deal on basically any flagship phone from the past 5-6 years convinced me to switch from my Pixel 3XL to the Pixel 7 Pro. I could not believe how seamless the experience of upgrading was. There were only a few apps I had to manually install (and a few of those were just to downgrade to older less terrible versions). Manually copied over a folder of documents/pdfs and that was it. Super simple. Camera is vastly improved over my old phone. As expected though, still not a fan of fingerprint under the screen vs fingerprint on the back. Takes a little longer to unlock for me because I prefer to keep the screen off until I hit the power button.

  14. I, too, upgraded from a 6Pro because of the camera, and I’ve been happy with the improvement. The 5x and processing is definitely an improvement over the 6Pro, and the macro is something I sorely missed. The trade-in and opening discount made it a no-brainer, and when I got the Google rebate(?) for my purchase my wife wanted the macro upgrade, too!

  15. @M.A.
    Oops. That was supposed to be “cars,” but I do have cat pics!

    It’s a Pixel miracle! Maybe I can get some more time out of my Pixel 3, if Google would stop telling me I’m out of space. I’m putting your screenshot info on my “thankful for” Thanksgiving list!

  16. I thought face unlock on my version 1 Microsoft Surface Book was cool. Then it recognized my pants.

    I don’t use face unlocks anymore.

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