Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro hands-on: The start of Google's walled garden

Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro hands-on: The start of Google’s walled garden

Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

Google just wrapped up its hour-long Made By Google event where it announced the Pixel 7, Pixel 7 Pro, and Pixel Watch which relies heavily on Fitbit for health and fitness features.

After the keynote speech was over, those present had a chance to get acquainted with the new phones and laptops – and that’s what I did.

In a demo area like this, it’s hard to get a lot of quality time with any New products. Everyone is trying to do the same thing; get a quick idea of ​​the device in front of them without feeling like they have to rush and move on to the next thing.

But, during my short time with the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro, I noticed a few things. the first of which was…

Pixel 6 and Pixel 7 have similar, but different designs

At first glance, it might be easy to confuse last year’s Pixel 6 with the Pixel 7 and in the other direction. The designs are similar, but there are some telling differences. For example, the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro’s camera bar is now metal, not glass, and wraps around the side of the phones instead of stopping abruptly at the edges.


The Google Pixel 7 Pro (left) next to the Pixel 6 Pro (right).

Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

The Pixel 7 Pro’s camera bar also features an additional circular cutout for the third camera, making it easier to spot the 7 Pro on the 7 across the room.

But the most noticeable design change I found when handling either model is how light the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro feel compared to last year’s crop. It’s funny: on the flight to New York, I was using the Pixel 6 Pro and thought how heavy it was compared to the iPhone 14 Plus.

Here’s the kicker: the Pixel 7 Pro (212g) actually weighs a bit more than the Pixel 6 Pro (210g). I know I was not alone in this observation as I heard a few other reporters make the same point about the weight change.

More: Google Pixel 7 Pro vs. Pixel 6 Pro: Should you upgrade?

The Pixel 7 Pro camera setup is going to be fun, if…

…Google nailed the camera features.

The demo area wasn’t the best environment to test out Google’s latest smartphone cameras, so take my anecdotal experience as just that – anecdotal.

The Pixel 7 Pro’s new Super Res Zoom feature, which can reach 30x, seems to be actually usable, unlike Samsung’s Galaxy phones and their Space Zoom feature.

With dedicated zoom options of up to 5x optical zoom (not to be confused with digital zoom), it’s easier to get closer to a panel, menu or person on the other side of the room. Of course, I’ll need some time with both phones to test out the new camera chops, but the camera experience is something Google is very proud of – the time it’s spent at talking about it during the speech was quite eye-opening — and I’m sure it will be a fantastic experience. Or at least I hope it will.


The Google Pixel 7 in hand.

Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

There’s also a new cinematic blur video mode on the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro. I took a few seconds to test it out, and it looked great. You can switch between foreground and background object – adding or removing blur from either in the process – with a simple touch, or by moving the camera and panning it. allowing the adjustment to be carried out automatically. Google is clearly tackling the iPhone’s cinematic mode with this one.

The return of Face Unlock in the Pixel range

The Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro have under-display fingerprint sensors, but the biometric headliner is Face Unlock, which returns after two Pixel generations. However, the two features are not treated equally. Google says the fingerprint sensor is a more secure method of verification, so it’s reliable enough to use to log into, say, banking apps. Face Unlock, on the other hand, exists as a quick and seamless way to unlock your phone. When triggered, there’s a small ring of light that radiates around the front camera, which is a nice touch.

The quick demo I saw of someone unlocking Pixels was exactly that – quick. The light would come on, the phone would unlock and that was it.

pixel range

Google’s Rick Osterloh introduces the latest Pixel family.

Jason Cipriani/ZDNET

Google is betting on a complete experience

You can order the Pixel 7 at $599 and $899 Pixel 7 Pro right now, with deliveries starting next week October 13th. What I learned the most from the event was that Google really wants you to join its ecosystem this year. The search giant-turned-hardware company finally has all the pieces for a complete Google ecosystem thanks to Pixel Watch and the Pixel tablet. The first arrives next week, while the second won’t ship until next year (I’d bet on a May release, around Google I/O).

Google has often been ahead of Apple when it comes to software and services. But over the past few years, Apple has leveled that playing field, leaving Google to catch up on its own hardware and not rely on partners to tout and push its various platforms forward.

I’m intrigued by the idea of ​​living in Google’s walled garden of software, services, and hardware, just to see how it compares to Apple’s experience.

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