Google Pixel 7 could be weaker than expected - and that's okay

Google Pixel 7
(Image credit: Google)

When the Google Pixel 7 series was teased in May 2022, we were told that it had the Tensor 2 chipset, the Google-made chipset that follows on from the chip it debuted in the Google Pixel 6 series. We've just heard our first leak about this upcoming component, and it's a surprising one.

Bear with us here, because the source is convoluted: someone managed to buy a locked Google Pixel 7 Pro prototype, and sent its boot logs (the only remaining bit of accessible information) to Telegram channel Google News | EN (presumably nothing to do with Google's own news tool of the same name).

This channel then shared the key information: the upcoming phones apparently will have the same screens as their predecessors, and the Tensor 2 chipset will apparently be incredibly similar to the original. Take all of this information with a pinch of salt, due to the curious nature of the source - but it's interesting to dig into.

If there are limited component changes in the chipset, it means the Pixel 7 likely won't have that much processing power over its Pixel 6 predecessor - it doesn't mean it'll be identical, because Google could add more AI smarts, but don't expect a super-powerful Android.

That fact might disappoint you - after all, newer models of phones are expected to be more powerful - but in reality, it really isn't an issue.

Analysis: better is worse

Each new iteration of Android processor is supposed to be faster than the last. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 is supposed to be faster than the 888, which is supposed to be faster than the 865, which is supposed to be faster than the 855 (for example).

However, in practice things aren't that simple, and we can prove that by looking at benchmarks. At TechRadar, we use the Geekbench 5 test to see how fast phones are in a lab, though other sites use alternatives. And it's been showing us something very interesting of late.

Phones using 2021's top-end Snapdragon 888 chip generally performed equally to ones using its predecessor, the 865 - and those on the newest 8 Gen 1 frequently underperform both.

Partly, this is because these newer chips have horrible overheating issues, which can cause performance to drop rapidly under use - and there's something to be said for newer chips excelling in ways that benchmark tests don't pick up on.

But the simple fact of the matter is, phones have gotten to the point where they're fast enough. You don't need a mobile to be any snappier if your fingers aren't fast enough to need it, or if game graphics have topped out what small screens can do.

Instead, new chips focus more on power optimization and efficiency, new camera capabilities and improved AI smarts. Being powerful or fast isn't as important anymore as being smart is.

So it's likely that Google is simply catering to audience use, and is focusing less on power and more on everything else. And that'd fit with its modus operandi - it's always leaned heavily on AI smarts for things like photography and smart assistants.

So if the Pixel 7 doesn't wow in benchmark tests, that's okay - the phone will likely have improvements in many other areas, and it'll still be a contender for our list of the best smartphones.

Tom Bedford

Tom Bedford was deputy phones editor on TechRadar until late 2022, having worked his way up from staff writer. Though he specialized in phones and tablets, he also took on other tech like electric scooters, smartwatches, fitness, mobile gaming and more. He is based in London, UK and now works for the entertainment site What To Watch.

He graduated in American Literature and Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. Prior to working on TechRadar, he freelanced in tech, gaming and entertainment, and also spent many years working as a mixologist.