The way a phone feels in your hand is one of the most important factors in buying a phone, and it’s one of the last things we don’t know about the Google Pixel 7. We’ve read through leaked specs, watched leaked promotional videos, and pondered the implications of new features. We just haven’t gotten our hands on one.
If you pick up a Galaxy S22 Ultra and flip it over and over again in your hand, it feels smooth all the way around. It won’t catch on your fingers or scratch your skin. The rounded edges are easy to hold, and the phone feels stiff and solid in a way that conveys strength. The phone’s weight and density make it feel premium.
If you pick up a Motorola Edge (2022), it feels remarkably light. That’s appealing at first, but then you notice the plastic feel of the case. The finish is very attractive and catches the light in an interesting way, as much as a dark grey can be appealing. The feel of this phone inexorably conveys a sense that it belongs in the mid-range. It isn’t impressive to hold, but it does have some appeal.
We can quote spec numbers and speculate on software forever, but until we hold the Google Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro in hand, we won’t know how exciting these phones will be for potential buyers.
Pixel phones are more exciting now than ever
Right now the phones don’t seem very exciting, mostly because they don’t offer a significant upgrade over the Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. As technology enthusiasts, we’re always rooting for companies to push the envelope. That said, if you’re considering a Pixel 7, you probably have a phone that’s older than a Pixel 6, and the Pixel 6 was already a big step forward for Google, especially in terms of design.
The Google Pixel 5 looked like every other boring smartphone on the market: it was a flat slab with some camera lenses tucked into a corner. The Pixel 6, by comparison, is a standout device. It’s not just colorful, it’s polychromatic, and the colors are unique and refreshing in an industry of silver, blue, and depressing purples.
The Pixel 6 houses the cameras in a distinct, black bar across the top of the phone's back. If you see a Pixel 6 in someone’s hand, you know what phone they’re using. There’s nothing wrong with showing off the device you carry with you everywhere and use all the time. That’s the point.
How will the Tensor 2 work?
The other big question is what the new Google Tensor 2 chipset will bring to the devices. We’ve heard about a few new features from the leaks, but the Tensor 2 could play a major part in how well these features perform, and how much they impress us.
For instance, we’ve all used speech recognition when talking to Google Assistant or Apple’s Siri. When you talk to Google, it loads your speech to Google’s cloud and the cloud servers process your speech to understand what you want. With the Tensor platform in the Google Pixel 6, Google moved much of this processing to the phone. This made speech recognition much faster and more efficient (and maybe more private).
We’ve seen mention in leaks of features like macro focus mode in the camera, live language translation features, and even improvements to call quality. All of these presumably use Google’s AI magic. We’re curious to see if Google brings these features to life through the power of the Tensor 2, much as it moved speech recognition to the chip.
Until we have a chance to get hands-on with the phone, we just won’t know how these features perform. If the live translation feature is slow or relies heavily on a network connection, it won’t be as useful. If somehow Google has invented a portable universal translator device that works like the magical "Computer" on Star Trek, we’ll be blown away.
In fact, the entire phone experience is still a mystery, because we don’t know how well the new platform will drive Google’s Android 13 OS. We know about the refresh rate of the screen, but can the Tensor 2 really push the user interface to 120 fps and max out the display’s potential? Will the phone stutter when we load up three different mapping apps while scrolling through our TikTok feed? Those are questions we can only answer with the phone in hand.
We won't know until we've tried it
Maybe the Pixel 7 Pro won’t be the fastest phone on the market. Perhaps the new photo features won’t blow us away. The leaked photos of the Pixel 7 look an awful lot like a Pixel 6, just maybe a little grown-up.
We’re still reserving judgment on the Google Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro until we get our hands on them. The way it feels, the way it performs, these aspects are too important to make judgments in advance.
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Phil Berne is a preeminent voice in consumer electronics reviews, having reviewed his first device (the Sony D-EJ01 Discman) more than 20 years ago for eTown.com. He has been writing about phones and mobile technology, since before the iPhone, for a variety of sites including PCMag, infoSync, PhoneScoop, and Slashgear. He holds an M.A. in Cultural Theory from Carnegie Mellon University.
Phil was the internal reviewer for Samsung Mobile, writing opinions and review predictions about top secret new devices months before launch. He left in 2017. He worked at an Apple Store near Boston, MA, at the height of iPod popularity. He has been a High School English teacher at Title I schools, and is a certified Lifeguard. His passion is smartphones and wearables, and he is sure that the next big thing will be phones we wear on our faces.