Knee-deep in Apple’s ecosystem could the Pixel Pro 7 tempt me…
An odd thing happened
The Pixel 7 Pro is actually pretty good – surprisingly good.
I’ve been using the Pixel 7 Pro for just under a month, giving me enough time to get a feel of what it’s like to use daily. It has not had my main SIM card in it, so it has very much been my backup phone but I’ve tried to reach for it as much as possible. It’s odd how even that simple task has an in-built muscle memory reaction – I’ve had to physically remind myself to pick the Pixel 7 Pro up instead of my iPhone 14 Pro.
This is the first time I have used an Android phone and the first time I have used anything other than an iPhone since about 2009 – back in my Blackberry days! If you were to ask any of my friends or family do you think I’d ever use anything other than an iPhone I can assure you the answer would be a resounding NO!
I am so far entrenched in Apple’s ecosystem that even I don’t probably fully register how much I rely on it. But when I am not in Apple’s walled garden I guess I’m in Google’s due to my YouTube channel and the YouTube Studio app.
So what’s the experience been like?
That was super easy and quick with no traumas to report. Even for an Android novice, I was able to set the phone up and get going with it ever so quickly. The only thing that surprised me was how hot it got during the setup process. It wasn’t quite untouchable, but hot enough to draw my attention.
Once I’d signed into my Google accounts and Gmail account the Pixel 7 Pro started to feel like mine. Getting used to the Play Store was fine and all the apps I wanted to get on the phone loaded quickly. I’d say the loading of apps was quicker than on my iPhone 14 Pro. It’s hard to measure but it just felt snappier.
The Android 14 OS that it’s running has never left me hanging or waiting and my first take on the Tensor G2 processor is nothing but positive.
So far so good.
When I first picked it up I wasn’t keen on its looks, but it’s really started to grow on me – certainly from the front. The handset I have is the oddly named Hazel version (it’s grey if you ask me, but there you go), and is glossy both front and reverse.
The camera layout I like – it feels less obtrusive than the huge bump on my iPhone, but the sun-visor banner that it sits in I’m not so sure about. It sits much better on your desk though because of that flatter bump.
I said I like it from the front, and I do – a whole lot. The wrap-around screen gives it a real sense of being edge-to-edge and bezel-free. The curves and thin sides make it feel very tactile – it’s a lovely phone to hold.
That tactility comes at a cost though – it is ever so slippery. I’m not a fan of cases and never use them on my iPhone, but if I were going to run with this handset as my daily driver, I’d almost certainly get a case for it. It just has that feeling of an expensive accident waiting to happen.
The Face ID and under-display fingerprint sensor work well every time. The always-on display is classy and refined and once unlocked it’s refreshing how the bank apps – two rows of them sit in the lower third. The wallpapers etc all look good too and show off the display well. The haptic feedbacks you get have a lovely reassuring click and ‘thud’ to them. The overall design feels quality.
Display & battery
The screen is the same size as an iPhone 14 Pro Max – the 6.7-inch LTPO OLED screen is great for general use and content consumption. The max 1500 nits of brightness are technically a little less than my iPhone’s 2000 nits, but those figures are a little misleading as they all have to do with max brightness and not sustained, average, daily use. All I can tell you is the screen is plenty bright enough to use comfortably on sunny days.
The way the Pixel 7 Pro displays your most recent messages is neat and the 120Hz refresh rate means scrolling is super smooth.
The 5000 mAH battery it’s packing I’m not convinced about. Google claim it’s ‘beyond 24-hour’ but that seems a little generous to me.
I’m not using the Pixel 7 Pro to track my fitness or using it to stream audio or navigation in the car, so the battery should be barely moving. But with the regular yet occasional use it’s getting, I am surprised how quickly it jumps down to 50% or below. I know the iPhone gets a hard time with its battery life, but honestly, it’s not that bad in comparison. It’s been interesting for me to finally compare batteries.
The Pixel 7 Pro charges via USB-C which is convenient, but now I’m converted to MagSafe I really miss it. The Pixel gives you the option of reverse charging though as a trade-off.
This phone has a ton of little quality-of-life improvements I like – for instance, when charging it tells you how long until fully charged. And in the control centre (old habits!) it also tells you how much charge you have left.
The speakers are a big letdown. With my iPhone, you could get away with listening to music for a while before I’d start to tire from them – but the speakers on the Pixel 7 Pro are thin and tinny even with adaptive audio enabled. I know I’m a bit of an audio snob, but I’d struggle to listen to the built-in speakers for any length of time.
The phone does come with Spatial Audio which will work with either suitable Bluetooth earbuds or wired headphones.
Bluetooth pairing is super simple and the Beats Buds + paired quickly and without fuss.
The call quality is all you’d expect – crisp and clear.
This is the bit that interests everybody and the results have been mixed.
The specs suggest that the cameras should give the iPhone a run for its money and it sometimes does. The colour reproduction is stunningly good and in bright light, in many instances, it outperforms my iPhone. If the sun suddenly goes in though the iPhone seems to react quicker though and will give you a more consistent result.
You have the option to switch to shooting RAW and in full resolution. In the camera app, you can shoot at either .5/1x/2x/5x. It’s packed with all the other options I’ve come to expect – Portrait and Motion. If you’re feeling brave there’s a 30x zoom option which I wasn’t a fan of but the Macro was every bit as good as my phone. I also love the on-screen spirit level graphic telling you if you’ve got your fame straight – one more of those quality-of-life features is the option to upload immediately to Instagram the moment you take a picture with no need to swipe or fiddle around.
The in-app editing is powerful with some cool functions like the unblur option and white/black point adjustments. There’s a massive array of filters too – possibly more than my iPhone. The camera app opens quickly and there doesn’t seem to be any appreciable shutter delay.
The rear-facing video camera can shoot 10-bit HDR 4K video at either 30FPS or 60FPS but sadly not at my preferred 24FPS. The cinematic option works well with a fairly natural blur to it. The ability to quickly alter the light and temperature with on-screen sliders is a good addition.
It may be me being a Pixel 7 Pro novice, but I couldn’t find a way to edit the amount of blur which has got me out of jail more than once with my iPhone.
The overall video and audio quality you out of the box with the Google phone is impressive and was a closer match to the iPhone than I’d have expected.
I’d say the iPhone still wins in a head-to-head battle of the cameras, but not by much. The iPhone 14 Pro just seemed to give a more consistent result both in video and photo mode, but you’d not feel disappointed or let down by what the Pixel 7 Pro gives you – far from it.
One of the Pixel 7 Pro’s party tricks is the speech-to-text. It is blindingly quick and accurate. From what I’ve seen you could certainly rely on it and use it daily. I’d heard it was good but it’s hard to believe how good it is.
Siri is legendary as to how poor it is, but this was my first experience of just how far it’s lagging behind. Google’s assistant was not only quicker to respond but offered a far more detailed response too. I get now why people moan about Siri – I’m sure Apple has something in mind for their voice assistant, but it needs to happen pretty quickly judging on what I’ve just experienced.
Yesterday was not a good day for Apple for me. After I’d been out shooting with both phones I can back and wanted to open the Photo app on my MacBook Air.
I’d not realised that I’d never used it on there before and it just would not open and launch – it’s still not working now. Part of why I love Apple so much is because everything works, so what’s going on with that I have no idea.
The two cloud services worked very differently yesterday too. The only way for me to get the photos and videos from the Pixel 7 Pro is to sync them to Google Photos and download them to my Mac (missing AirDrop).
Google Photos was much quicker than iCloud yesterday. All the photos I’d shot on the Pixel 7 Pro were there waiting for me, but the same number of photos in iCloud took an hour or so to appear. For some reason, Apple just wasn’t playing ball for me.
The big question is then would I swap?
The answer would be no, but the battle was far closer than I’d ever have thought. Part of why it would be so hard to switch would be the ecosystem. It’s a quiet winner – AirDrop, Handoff, iMessage and even the Apple TV remote control function…there is so much convenience that will keep me Apple & iPhone.
It’s been a great experience for me though sampling what another phone has to offer. From speech-to-text and Google Assistant to the screen and tactile design it’s made me realise Apple needs to spruce things up a bit. iPhone has not changed that much in a while now and there is nothing to suggest that iPhone 15 will spring any great surprises.
I went into this test expecting to feel let down and uninspired when it was the opposite that turned out to be the case.
If I was buying a phone now with no allegiance and no ready-built ecosystem in place, I’d honestly consider the Pixel 7 Pro although I’m surprised you can’t spec it with more than 256GB of storage.
The price is another winner. This year we hear that Apple will be raising the prices of the Pro phones while Google is currently offering a £150 discount! Today this phone would only cost £799. That’s a lot of phone for the money.
I’m still an Apple man. For me, it’s not just the phone but the Macs too and yesterday to one side, generally everything just works too well for me to consider changing. All I would say is – Apple there is room for improvement.
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