Google Pixel 7 Pro: first impressions
Although I despise cutouts and holes in smartphone screens I bought a Google Pixel 7 Pro Obsidian Black to replace my old Pixel 4 XL.
I hoped the Google Store would send me a discount but it never happened, I should have taken advantage of the Black Friday promotion just after the device's release. Anyway, I've been using the Pixel 7 Pro for the past week or so and these are my initial impressions.
For my daily driver smartphone I've always wanted a high-specced, supported, Google-made flagship featuring the Google experience, so the Pixel 7 Pro was an obvious replacement for my end of life Pixel 4 XL.
I could have waited a few months for the upcoming Pixel 8 Pro but the early rumors hinted at a smaller screen. My ageing eyesight strongly prefers large screens, which made a difference in favor of the Pixel 7 Pro.
Another reason not to delay the purchase is that, much as I despise screen cutouts and holes, this design fad is likely here to stay for at least one product generation or two. Getting the Pixel 7 Pro minimizes screen defacement while letting me weather the storm and wait for more tasteful design trends.
Finally, I wanted the Pixel 7 Pro because I was eager to try astrophotography with better optical zoom, 5X versus 2X of the Pixel 4 XL.
After several days the screen hole isn't bothering me as much as I expected. A related feature the reviewers of the Pixel 7 Pro frowned upon but I don't mind is the curved screen. It's not much noticeable to me and the thin bezel is enough to prevent most of the inadvertent screen touches.
The cheap, plastic touch of the screen is unusual but I guess this is the kind of tactile experience the material of curved panels is supposed to give. Still, it contrasts with the thicker glass feel of the Pixel 4 XL screen.
Speaking of the screen, the integrated fingerprint reader is okay but not as accurate and fast as I hoped. I'll miss the lightning fast and accurate screen unlock of the Pixel 4 XL. I think I won't turn on face unlock on the Pixel 7 Pro as it's not supported for biometric authentication, so it may not help much.
Another love or hate design feature is the sensor pod. So far I'm in the don't mind camp.
While optical zoom is important to me, I'm liking the 0.5 X wide angle lens too which, until last year, I didn't have a use for. Then I did a dream trip to the Space Coast and a wide angle lens would have come in handy for photographing space technology subjects.
In ordinary use the Pixel 7 Pro doesn't seem much faster than the Pixel 4 XL, but the former makes a difference for resource-intensive apps and runs them more smoothly, with less lag and jankiness.
On the Pixel 4 XL I was already using Android 13, the same version currently on the Pixel 7 Pro, so there are no significant differences.
The experience of setting up the Pixel 7 Pro, configuring the apps, and performing system updates was similar too. It took 6-8 hours most of which spent migrating banking and credential management apps, each with its own complicated, idiosyncratic, and poorly documented migration procedure.
The Android system updates were excruciatingly slow when setting up the Pixel 7 Pro, most likely because they were large and highly I/O bound.
Aside from these issues, I like Google's Android skin.