A Couple of Days With the Pixel 7 Pro
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.