Google just took the Indian Android enthusiast by surprise. Barely three months after the Pixel 6A was launched in the country, Google has brought in both the Pixel 7 Pro and the Pixel 7 into the Indian market. On top of that, the new phones were made available at the same time as in the US, the home country. That sort of treatment wins hearts in India. Pre-orders quickly filled up and the phones went out of stock to begin with.

Google further disarmed its India customers by setting reasonable prices. Pixel 7 Pro costs ₹84,999 and the Pixel 7 ₹59,999. The previous Pixel 6A is ₹34,199. And is still worth considering for anyone on a tight budget. All of this is well-timed with the festival season and indeed there are various bank and exchange discounts to add to the appeal of these smartphones.

What makes a ‘Made by Google’ smartphone special is its quintessential Google-ness, merciful absence of bloatware from third party companies, a pioneering camera system with AI and computational photography, and smooth performance on a phone running the newest Android version. That makes it a favourite with tech enthusiasts but it also happens to be the simplest to use for just anyone.

Polished look

Both the Pixel 7 Pro and its slightly scaled down sibling the Pixel 7 have the distinctive Pixel look, making them stand out from the teeming millions of Android phones around. The stand-out element is a ‘camera bar’ on the back of the device that is made of single piece of  aluminium merging into the main body of the phone. The Pixels are well-built, with a recycled aluminium frame, Gorilla Glass Victus and IP68 water resistance, all packed in a rather elegant and smart design language. Our review unit is the Hazel variant, which is a blue-grey shade for the glass back and pale gold for the metallic camera bar. It looks most sophisticated.

The other variants are Obsidian or Snow, thought the signature colour for the Pixel 7 is a refreshing minty green called Lemongrass. The Pixel 7 Pro is the larger of the two phones with its 6.7-inch display and the Pixel 7 is smaller with a 6.3-inch display. The Pixel 7 Pro is glossy and will definitely need a case, not just to protect the glass and prevent slipping, but also to offset the camera bump, which doesn’t allow the device to lie properly flat on a surface.

Hardware assets

While the displays of the Pixel phones are not necessarily the maximum possible on specs, they are both rather very good. The Pixel 7 Pro uses a gorgeous LTPO AMOLED screen with a 120Hz adaptive refresh rate screen and a resolution of 1440 x 3120 pixels per inch. Its brightness peaks at 1,500nits. The Pixel 7 is just a shade behind it with a 90Hz refresh rate and 1080 x 2400 pixels resolution and a peak brightness of 1400nits. With the devices being brand new the experience on both is fast and fluid and more than good enough. The fact that both the hardware and software are under Google’s control makes for smooth integration for a better experience. Some users, however, have complained of issues with ‘sticky’ scrolling but the units we reviewed didn’t show up a problem.

Both Pixel 7 phones come with just 128GB of storage in India at the moment. This will be a  turn-off for some, but Google has always encouraged the use of its online storage, especially for images, so it’s no real surprise. RAM differs on the two phones with the 7 Pro getting 12GB and the Pixel 7 working with 8GB.

Both the Pixel phones work on Google’s Tensor G2 5nm chip. This processor is custom-made to handle all the AI needed by the camera, other machine learning tasks, and live speech recognition. It’s essential to the interesting new features that the camera, specially on the Pixel 7 Pro, brings. The Tensor G2 is less tuned for gaming. It does have the device getting a little warm, but manageably so.

The Pixel 7 Pro’s battery is a 5,000mAh with 30W fast charging provided you buy Google’s charging brick. The Pixel 7’s is 4,355mAh also with 30W charging. The battery life on these phones is perfectly good for a combination of ‘regular’ tasks such as checking mail, browsing social media and the web, a spot of photography, and phone calls and even some media consumption. In this scenario, it would last the day. If one were to do some intense photography and video sessions and gaming, the battery will deplete quickly. The phones get a little warm but by no means outright hot. Fast wireless Qi charging is supported. Use the battery saver and you can extend battery life significantly. Overall, battery life is mediocre and in real life, charging is slow.

The Pixel 7 phones use in-display fingerprint sensors. These work fairly well even if they are not lightning fast. There is also the option to face-unlock but usage is a mixed bag. Registering the face needs very good light and while the result is invariably accepted, it doesn’t always recognise a face.

Original Android

The Pixel 7 Pro and Pixel 7 work on the Android 13 and are really the same except for the software differences needed for extra camera and photo processing features on the 7 Pro. That means they’re quintessentially Google and come with no third party interference. The operating system as implemented on these phones is full of subtle and intuitive, well-integrated customisations to make the devices more helpful, useful and simple. There’s a great deal that can be done with the lock screen, home screens and wallpapers, themes and widgets. The Google Assistant is front and centre and always at hand. So is voice transcription, which is used with messages and recorded content working really fast and real-time. More transcription features are to come later.

Updates are to be frequent and for a long period of time to keep the device and the user’s data private and secure. This is the case for both the series 7 phones.

Pixel photo magic

For many, it’s the cameras on the Pixel phones that will be one of the strongest reasons to buy the phone. It’s really the Pixel 7 Pro that has the camera extras like a telephoto and macro lens, but the primary camera on the Pixel 7 is still very good. Anyone with a recent Pixel such as the 6A may not really need to upgrade to the Pixel 7, but the Pixel 7 Pro offers quite an effective zoom with the software quickly ‘fixing’ the photo to make up for any problems such as hand shake and blur. Cameras on a Pixel phone have always been designed to have the user do as little as possible. With very little tinkering and fussing, one can consistently and reliably get great photos.

The primary lens on the Pixel 7 Pro is 50MP using a Samsung GN1 sensor with f/1.85 aperture and optical image stabilisation. Anyone familiar with previous Pixel cameras will find a familiar performance with clean and crisp images with slightly strong colours, which use pixel binning to 12MP sizes. Photographs from this lens are not dramatically different from previous recent Pixel phones though a lot of machine learning and AI has been deployed to improve computational photography and remove problems to make a photo better. With the camera, the app on the phone and Google’s Photos app, there are many interesting features to explore.

The highlight of the camera set up on the Pixel 7 Pro is its new lenses — a 12MP f/2.2 ultra wide, also a Samsung GN1. It works without too much distortion with a 126 degree field of view and gives clean images but drops the light somewhat indoors and needs time to focus under some conditions. This lens doubles up as a decent macro camera.

More exciting is the new 48MP f/3.5 5x optical telephoto lens. It works rather well and allows for some room to frame a subject closer without noise and blurring. One can also zoom up to 30x on a software dimension and while it doesn’t mean it should be used at its maximum, certainly adds flexibility to how one composes a photo. The front camera is a 10.8MP that Google would do well to pay some attention to the next time around.

There are a set of interesting features that allow for using AI to make changes to photographs. One is Unblur, which appears as a button in Photos and clarifies images, including those shot elsewhere. The difference this makes, however, is not always evident. There is also the object eraser feature with which one can finger-paint a spot and get rid of something (or someone) in the image. This, too, needs to work a little better, without leaving behind smudges. There’s also background blur or bokeh, which is enhanced to the extent that several reviewers claim it gives their DSLRs a run for their money.

The Pixel 7 doesn’t have the telephoto lens. Other features are scaled down here and there, but the main camera nevertheless makes this a worthwhile bargain.

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