Google Pixel 7 Pro First Impressions

Posted on November 22, 2022 by Paul Thurrott in Android with 14 Comments

They say that first impressions matter, and I have to say, the Pixel 7 Pro has made a great first impression. Which is interesting given how similar it is to its predecessor. And how unlikely I am to switch platforms right now regardless.

And yet, the Pixel 7 Pro impresses in early use. It arrived very late yesterday and so I had to configure it in stages on either side of dinner. And because of a weird and temporary T-Mobile issue I’d seen a headline about earlier but didn’t think would impact me, I had to call T-Mobile support to swap my eSIM out of the iPhone 13 Pro. This is a process that is normally much easier, so I won’t ding Google for that. Plus, honestly, it happened quickly enough and the woman I spoke with at T-Mobile was quite nice.

Anyhoo.

It’s a gorgeous handset, especially in the Hazel color I chose. The color of the handset contrasts really nicely with the gold/champagne color used by the aluminum camera bump and wraparound frame.

And while I understand that the Pixel design language that debuted last year is for some reason controversial, I think it achieves something special. It’s iconic, for starters, and doesn’t look like the competition. It’s functional, as the full-width camera bar means the phone won’t wobble on the table like iPhones and Samsung flagships too. And—yes, subjectively—it’s both beautiful and professional looking.

Between the Pixel 6a and now the Pixel 7 series, Google has also refined its design and has arrived at what I think is the best version yet. And it’s not just the use of a more premium material in the camera bump and frame, though that does help. I also like how the camera lenses are called out more obviously in the rounded surrounds that highlight, rather than hide, a Pixel’s biggest strength.

So I love the design … and then I hid it immediately behind a case. Because I have to, to retain its value for some future trade-in, and because the Pixel, like all other modern smartphones, is like a greased-up bar of soap in the hand and something I’d definitely drop otherwise. Google’s Hazel Pixel 7 Pro case was out of stock, which might be for the best since those cases are terrible. So I went with another slim case from X-level. (I own at least four of these for various smartphones.)

What’s odd is that, while the Pixel 7 Pro is almost identical in size compared to the Pixel 6 Pro, it for some reason appears to be less wide, from left to right. But it’s not. In fact, it’s a bit less tall (6.4 inches vs. 6.5 inches) and is otherwise the same dimensions. The result? The bottom bezel is slightly smaller, not something that most would ever notice.

Google moved the side button positions … for some reason. And the bottom (volume) buttons are further separated from the top (power) button. I never had a problem with the previous positioning, and this seems fine as well.

Another weird difference is that the Always On display on the Pixel 7 Pro is different than that of its predecessor, despite displaying the same information: the time display, which is huge on the Pixel 6 Pro, is just large on this handset and there is more wasted space on-screen. Perhaps this is a configuration change I had made, I’m not sure.

And then there’s that fingerprint reader. In enrolling my fingerprint, I was told that I needed to press down harder several times, which is an unnatural act on an expensive device. But in using it, I’ve already seen that it is faster/more reliable than that of its predecessor. Meaning, I’ve never once had to try repeatedly to sign in this way, something that has happened on the Pixel 6 Pro just in the time since I got the newer phone. So that’s an interesting and positive change.

And then I realized something: the Pixel 7 Pro’s support of Face Unlock has to be at least part of the reason. I’ve enabled this feature, and when you hold up the device to sign in and are paying attention, you’ll see a message at the bottom of the lock screen that says, “Unlocked by face. Press the unlock icon…” And so the fingerprint reader seems to just work as it should. I’ll disable Face Unlock to see how well it really works. (Plus, Face Unlock isn’t supposed to be all that secure.)

I have barely used the camera, mostly because of the lateness of its arrival yesterday. More on that in a moment, since I spent much of last night configuring the phone. The initial setup process was straightforward enough, though I had to skip the eSIM-based carrier enrollment bit because of that T-Mobile issue. And the resulting home screen is as minimalist as can be, and a far cry from the multi-screen affair you get on iPhone with almost 50 app icons.

   

I almost always do a clean install on smartphones, as opposed to restoring a backup, which I realize is not what most will do. But I do this on purpose: my smartphones, like my PCs, get bogged down with apps I experimented with and then never used again. And I prefer installing only the apps I need, positioning the subset I want on the home screen where I want them, and then configuring them all one-by-one. I realize many will find doing so tedious.

One side note here. By default, Android uses the same password manager that’s built into Chrome, and that usually works fine since I’ve synced that stuff between the various browsers I use. (That said, I will change it later.) And in signing into Android apps for the first, I experience three different outcomes. Sometimes, rarely, Google Smart Lock will pop up a panel and just sign me in. Most times, the Android password manager will suggest the right email address and password from the top of the virtual keyboard. And sometimes, inexplicably, I have to manually type in that information even though it’s in the password manager. I have no idea why the experience differs between apps. But it always has. And it did in this case.

Performance has been top-notch throughout this process, but it would be. There was no real heat to speak of, and that can be a concern when you install about 50 apps all in a row.

When I got up this morning, I grabbed the Pixel and took it into the sunroom. And there, I took the first three photos with this device, all with the main lens, which, yes, is unchanged from the Pixel 6 Pro. But I was immediately reminded of why I love Pixel photos: in the last shot, I was able to tap on the sky outside and avoid the grayed out-mess than the iPhone would have delivered.

I’m using the Pixel 6 Pro going forward day-to-day, so I’ll have more to report soon.

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