I often move between different smartphones, just as I even more often move between different PCs. But this one is personal: after too many bad experiences with the Pixel 6 Pro, I finally gave up and switched to the then-latest iPhone, the iPhone 13 Pro. And when Google announced the Pixel 7 Pro in late 2022, I held off at first before finally giving in and buying one, and then found it solved most of the issues I had had with its predecessor. As I noted in my review, had Google released this handset a year ago, I never would have switched to the iPhone in the first place.
To test that theory, I switched back to the iPhone after reviewing the Pixel: this is an ideal way to make sure that I don’t just go with the latest thing. And I very quickly realized that I probably wanted to just go back to the Pixel. But there were complications: I had been using an Apple Watch since the previous September, which requires an iPhone. We had a lot of things going on with the house sale and moving. And T-Mobile, frustratingly, has made it impossible to just switch eSIMs between phones on your own. Instead, each switch requires a lengthy customer service call.
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I really wanted to make the switch in the days leading up to our three-week trip to Mexico, but ran out of time. And I definitely didn’t want to try switching while in Mexico. So I waited. And when we got home again, I found the time, between all the moving activities and endless trips to and from storage facilities, our old house, and our new apartment, to finally make the switch.
Here’s how it went.
I still love the Pixel 7 Pro design overall. This unique and differentiating look and feel debuted with the Pixel 6 Pro, but it was nicely refined with the Pixel 7 Pro. I’m also a huge fan of the hazel color of my own Pixel, and I wish this device didn’t so desperately need a case so I could enjoy its look and feel. But it’s also too big and heavy, making it impossible to use one-handed, even for someone with my giant mitts. And so what I’m really looking for is a Pixel 7 Pro that’s sized like the Pixel 7. You know, like the early Pixel generations, which featured otherwise identical devices with two display sizes.
The Pixel 7 Pro display is good overall but it’s not as crisp as the display on my iPhone 13 Pro. In the good news department, adaptive brightness is not an issue, as it was on Pixel 6 Pro, and it’s easily viewable in any lighting condition, including full-on sunshine. The issue here, of course, is the curved display sides, which cause reflections, collect dust, and trigger mis-taps near the edges. Google is allegedly going to improve if not fix this problem with the Pixel 8 Pro, which is good. But a Pixel 7-sized Pro would be even better. There’s always something, I guess.
From a hardware perspective, the Pixel 7 Pro is mostly fine. Day-to-day performance is usually good, but there are a few places where Google’s fixation on machine learning (ML) over general performance with the Tensor G2 chipset gets in the way. Here are two examples. When I post to Instagram, it’s so slow getting to the final screen where you enter the caption, tag people, and add the location that I often tap past it and then have to edit the post after the fact. And where the Facebook newsfeed scrolls up to the top from the bottom on the iPhone so fast you would miss it if you blinked, you can just watch it happen in real-time on the Pixel, as it takes 3 or 4 seconds. (That both of these apps are made by the same company hasn’t escaped me, but smartphones should be optimized for such popular services.) The 12 GB of RAM is future-proof if a bit unnecessary, and I continue to need no more than 128 GB of storage on my devices, so I can save money that way. (I’m using 37 percent of the storage on my Pixel 7 Pro and less than 50 percent of the storage on my iPhone, both of which have 128 GB of storage.)
The Pixel 7 Pro provides mmWave and Sub 6 5G cellular connectivity via both nano SIM and eSIM, Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2, NFC, and ultra-wideband (UWB) chipsets. I’ve never had any connectivity issues, and I very much prefer the nano SIM/eSIM mix to having only one or the other. Switching back to the Pixel, I immediately noticed better reliability connecting to our car via Bluetooth; this is vehicle specific, I know, but I ended up just switching to a wired Lightning cable with my iPhone because it was so problematic.
Since I reviewed the Pixel 7 Pro, Google added a few interesting audio features, including spatial audio support, which I tested with the Pixel Buds Pro, and clear calling, which reduces background noise during phone calls. I enabled clear calling, but I don’t make too many phone calls and haven’t yet noticed anything there. As for the overall AV experience, I noted some issues with streaming video apps all using the display differently in my review, and that remains an issue. But I never really watch videos on my phone without headphones, so the quality of the built-in speakers is sort of beside the point. Which is good because there is a noticeable bias to the bottom (right) speaker.
Camera quality remains the Pixel’s biggest strength, and while the iPhone has absolutely caught up in computational photography in some ways, Google’s experience here is obvious every time I use the camera. And then there are the zoom capabilities, which don’t approach what’s possible with the most recent Samsung Galaxy Ultra handsets but do blow the iPhone out of the water. Here, Google uses an interesting combination of optics and AI to create “super res zoom” images that are usable up to about 20X. (It goes to 30X.) It’s a nice upgrade overall, and I do prefer it to the iPhone, though the non-zoom differences are relatively minor.
If I’ve experienced one major frustration with the Pixel 7 Pro since returning to this phone, and I have, it’s the sign-in/security functionality. As you may recall, the Pixel 6 Pro had a terrible in-display fingerprint reader that was so bad it contributed to my switching to the iPhone. And you may also recall that the version in the Pixel 7 Pro is improved, and aided by the inclusion of Face Unlock facial recognition. Which is not particularly secure, unlike Apple’s Face ID. This combination lets me sign into the Pixel 7 Pro much more quickly and easily than was the case with the Pixel 6 Pro.
And that’s still true. But every morning, when I reach for the Pixel that was charging overnight, it tells me that I must use a PIN for improved security. And I’m sorry, but that is nonsense. A PIN is the least secure form of signing in (aside from not using authentication) and, were I out in the public, could in fact be dangerous. Biometrics are always more secure, and they’re faster, too. And while I understand that Face Unlock has issues, the fingerprint reader does not. And surely the combination of the two has some bearing. But no. Every. Freaking. Day. I should be able to disable that requirement. It’s bizarre to me.
I also noticed a major drop in battery life moving from the iPhone to the Pixel: where my iPhone 7 Pro would often end a day with around 60 percent battery life, the Pixel gets much lower much more quickly, and I find myself charging it during the day just in case. Without an additional charge, I’m often at around 20 percent battery life when I go to bed. (And looking at my Pixel right now, at 10:30 am, the battery is only 56 percent for some reason. Looks like I’ll be charging it.)
Related to this is the ongoing issue with slow charging: for reasons no one has ever explained, the Pixel 7 Pro can only charge to a maximum of 22 watts, but that’s only for the first hour. After that, it trickle-charges slowly, and you need two full hours to charge this thing up. That’s about half as fast as the iPhone, which only charges at about 20 watts but is more consistent (it hits 50 percent in 30 minutes). This, too, should be configurable, though I wonder if the Tensor chipset is part of the problem, as the Pixel can get hot when charging.
Returning to Android has been a positive experience. Yes, Apple has addressed many of the customization limitations of iOS in recent releases, but the Pixel’s clean and helpful Android image is on a different level functionally and aesthetically. And there are so many helpful features on the Pixel that always make me smile, like the call screening feature that kicks in when an unknown number calls. I prefer Android to iOS overall.
And that’s where I’m at for now. I will stick with the Pixel 7 Pro, though I need to figure out what to do with my Apple Watch. The most likely scenario is selling it, though I do want to write up my 6+ months of experience with it first. The coming Pixel phone announcements—Pixel 7a and Pixel Fold—don’t impact me as I won’t be switching to either. But I’m curious about the Pixel Tablet, and I will upgrade to the Pixel 8 Pro as soon as I can.
Anyway. I’m back.
Paul Thurrott is an award-winning technology journalist and blogger with over 20 years of industry experience and the author of over 25 books. He is the News Director for the Petri IT Knowledgebase, the major domo at Thurrott.com, and the co-host of three tech podcasts: Windows Weekly with Leo Laporte and Mary Jo Foley, What the Tech with Andrew Zarian, and First Ring Daily with Brad Sams. He was formerly the senior technology analyst at Windows IT Pro and the creator of the SuperSite for Windows.
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