The first Pixel phone launched back in 2016, and at the time, Google introduced it in India along with the US. It was a clear sign that India mattered to Google. But the enthusiasm soon fizzled out. Pixel 4, 5 and 6 were a no-show in India. Google hasn’t been very forthcoming about this brief hiatus it took from the world’s second-largest smartphone market. But clearly, 2022 is about some sort of change. First, the Pixel 6a was introduced in India in August, and now the Pixel 7 series is officially here. Starting at Rs 59,999, the Pixel 7 hopes to become an alternative to the Apple iPhone 14 or the OnePlus and Samsung flagships some of which are priced lower than the Google phone. So does the Pixel 7 have what it takes to stand out in this tough market? Here’s our review.
Google Pixel 7 specifications: 6.3-inches full HD+ display 90 Hz refresh rate | Tensor G2 chipset | 8GB RAM+ 128GB storage | 50MP+ 12MP camera | 10MP front camera | 4355 mAh battery with 20W charging | Android 13 |
Google Pixel 7 price in India: Rs 59,999
Google Pixel 7 review: Let’s talk design, display
I’m not a fan of the Pixel design. First that camera band. It just looks ugly and does not work for me. The second is that the phone is chunky, and the sharp edges mean it does not make for the most ergonomic grip. Plus, at 197 grams, the Pixel 7 is a heavy device, heavier than the iPhone 13 and iPhone 14, and just a tad lighter than the iPhone 14 Plus. But that doesn’t mean it’s all bad for the Pixel 7. I liked the Lemongrass colour Google has introduced. The frame’s all-gold colour is muted and looks elegant. Yes, the back gets glossy, but that’s a problem for most phones these days.
The Pixel 7 gets a 6.3-inch full HD+ display with a 90 Hz refresh rate. The ‘Smooth Display’ feature was turned on by default, which automatically increases the refresh rate to 90Hz depending on the content. Given this is a premium phone, expectations with the display are high, and the Pixel 7 delivers on that front. Be it gaming or watching shows on Netflix, the screen packs punchy and accurate colours. It is also legible in bright sunlight.
Google Pixel 7 review: Camera
But with any Pixel phone, it is all about the camera. With the Pixel 7, you get a 50MP main camera plus a 12MP ultra-wide camera at the back. The front camera is 10 MP. However, the Pixel camera is more than just its hardware. There’s a lot of software magic going on in the background. Yes, like most premium phones, the Pixel 7 will deliver excellent photos and colours if you are shooting out on a bright day or even if you take a casual shot out at night.
The Pixel 7’s camera is one of the best in this price segment. When it comes to Portrait photos, the Pixel 7 remains my favourite, even out at night. I love how the Pixel 7 will easily take Portrait shots of most people and objects, without asking me to move closer like most other phones. It’s something I find the most annoying about the iPhone in particular. As you can see in the Portrait shots below, the Pixel is able to create that shallow depth of field while maintaining the edges, be it for a balloon or a dog. And because software is such a strong part of the Pixel experience, it will also let you blur the background for other photos as well. You can decide just how much ‘blur’ to apply to the photo as well in the Photos app.
However, Portrait has its limitations. I tried to apply Portrait mode to some selfies, where clearly there is not enough background space for Google to create that depth of field effect, and the results do look odd. The selfie is still great, but the edges around my hair feel ‘fake’.
The Pixel 7 also continues to do a good job in challenging lighting situations. But Night Sight perhaps doesn’t have that lead that it did once upon a time. Yes, if you have a solid light source in the room or even in the distance, the Pixel 7 will deliver detailed shots. It does a good job of preserving shadows while ensuring details in some instances. But in poor lighting, the results can be uneven. The details are soft around the edges, as have noticed in some photos. In one picture of my husband, I can see that his face hasn’t come out as sharp. And the low-light selfies are sometimes outright disappointing. I also realised that Night Sight requires you to stay really still. Sometimes this duration can be a few seconds long. This can be a bit hard to achieve, as I experienced.
The Pixel 7’s camera also introduced ‘Cinematic’ video mode, which is supposed to ensure a shallow depth of field while recording video. I was not expecting much here. The only ‘cinematic’ video I’ve liked on a smartphone has been by the Vivo X80 Pro so far. But the Pixel 7 surprised me. I took a video of my son at night in this mode, while he jumped around. The Pixel 7 gave an excellent result and managed to create that ‘portrait’ effect with a difficult subject at hand.
The other feature I have extensively tested on the Pixel 7’s camera is the Photo Unblur. I used it on several old pictures of my son with varied results. In some — especially where a part of the eyes has been captured — it is magical how the camera restores his face. In others, it is clear that software can never fix the picture. These were mostly where my son had his eyes closed.
Google Pixel 7 review: Performance, Software
The Pixel 7 runs Google’s own Tensor G2 chipset with Android 13. While it can handle heavy-duty games and most daily multi-tasking, it’s not all perfect on the Pixel 7. For one, the phone can get very warm at times. I noticed this especially when I used the Photos app for a long time, as I scrolled through to edit photos using the Unblur feature. The back of the device and the camera get very warm in particular.
The Pixel 7 also comes with a lot of software tweaks and features designed to make life easier. You also realise how useful Google Assistant is when using the phone. For instance, while listening to music with my headphones on, it would alert me of WhatsApp messages and ask if it should read them out. This, at least, saved me from the bother of looking at my screen each time. The phone will also auto-translate WhatsApp messages (Hindi to English), which is a nifty and useful feature. If you are a fan of stock Android, the Pixel 7 will obviously appeal to you. The Pixel’s 7 recorder app is also useful, especially for someone in my line of work. I can record conversations — not directly from the call app — and it will auto-transcribe the text for me. It’s not 100 per cent accurate, especially with Indian accents, but the transcription is still very useful.
But it’s not all perfect with the Pixel 7’s performance. As I noticed, there were a few moments when it would freeze or there would be a noticeable lag. For instance, when recording a voice message on WhatsApp, I got an audio call, and obviously, the recording stopped. But when I went back to WhatsApp, the app was still stuck on the audio, and not responding to any kind of touch commands. Eventually, I had to kill the app. It’s not the experience one wants in a flagship, at least in the first few days. Another aspect was the software update. I saw a 75MB update for Pixel 7, but installing it took fairly long, close to an hour. I’m not sure why this appears to be an issue, but I faced something similar with a small update on the Pixel 6a earlier.
Google Pixel 7 review: The battery
I was sceptical about the Pixel 7’s battery life. But with my daily usage–which included WhatsApp messages, calls, listening to music via Spotify, taking pictures, etc, I got by with a day’s worth of battery with plenty to spare. I have not used the battery-saver mode yet, because every time the phone was done to 20 per cent, I had access to a charging port. But with the Adaptive Charging on, be prepared for the phone to take a long time to charge. Google only supports 20W fast charging, and the charger is not sold in the box. I used this mostly with a 22.5W charger, and it always took at least 3 hours to get this to 100 per cent. This slow charging might be a deal breaker for many users.
Google Pixel 7 review: Should you consider it?
I’ll admit the return of the Pixel 7 series is tempting. These devices are supposed to showcase the best of Google’s Android and come with many promises. The Pixel 7 delivers on several key areas. It is one of the best cameras you can get in this price segment. The performance is good enough, though it might not be as powerful as some other flagships in a similar segment. What annoys me is the charging speed and the few software issues which need to be ironed out. Google also needs to get a bit more vocal and clear about after-sales support, which has been a concern in the past. I would say get the Pixel 7 if you have been waiting for an alternative flagship. Away from the usual Apple or OnePlus or Samsung options.