The Google Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro are two excellent devices — possibly two of the best smartphones Google has ever made. But while they have some serious strengths, some problems and missed opportunities drag both phones down. This wouldn’t be a problem if the competition was standing still, but it’s not. The Apple iPhone 14 Pro refreshed the iPhone design for the first time in years, and the recently released Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra is quite possibly one of the best smartphones ever created. So what’s a humble Pixel to do?
Make some big changes, that’s what. You’ll win no prizes for guessing that the Google Pixel 8 is on the way, and the rumor mill about the Pixel 7’s successor is already in full churn. As we see it, there are five areas Google absolutely needs to focus on to make the Pixel 8 a much better smartphone. Here they are.
Google launched its own processor range with the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, and to say it’s been a rocky start is understating it. From the first release, it became clear the Tensor was powerful, matching the other top Android processors on offer. But reports quickly came in that it wasn’t particularly power efficient, reducing battery life, and — most worryingly — creating significant heat buildup during gaming and more intensive processes. Some of this has been improved with the Pixel 7’s Tensor G2 processor, and the new phones exhibit much-improved battery life — but the thermal issues remain. It’s clear it’s something of an issue for Google, and one that’s apparently difficult to fix.
So here’s a suggestion: skimp on the processing power upgrade this time around. That sounds crazy, but be honest for a moment and think about the last time you used a flagship phone that felt slow. A fresh flagship from several years ago will still offer great performance and enough processing power to handle every demanding game out there.
Heck, there now are budget phones like the Nokia G60 5G that can handle advanced 3D rendering with ease; why spend valuable research and development time on pushing that power even further? It’s clearly not needed, whereas fixing the thermal problems is an absolute must. Best of all, while Google’s at it, it can further boost the battery efficiency too.
Recent times (and the periscope zoom lens) have brought us some huge advances in optical zoom on smartphones. The Pixel 7 Pro has a 48-megapixel periscope telephoto lens with a 5x optical zoom, and it’s excellent. But there’s so much more Google could be doing here. The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra has brought startling improvements in smartphone zoom, and the key to this is the 10x periscope zoom lens. It’s high time Google added a 10x zoom to at least the Pro version of the Pixel 8.
It’s odd Google hasn’t added one already. It’s not as if it’s brand new tech Google hasn’t had the chance to study, as Samsung has been using a 10x optical zoom since March 2020. For some reason, most manufacturers are allowing Samsung free rein to rule over advances in smartphone zoom. The S23 Ultra took this to a new level, and, as the supposed smartphone photography king, it’s time Google started to catch up and really challenge Samsung.
This wouldn’t be as galling if Google didn’t already have such a strong background with zoom software. Samsung’s recent jumps center around processing the hybrid zoom at magnifications of 30x and 100x, and while still not perfect, it’s improving. Google was making huge strides in this area years ago with Super Res Zoom, and the company needs to take that to the next level. Boosting the camera array to a 10x zoom lens is the best way to begin that process.
For all its many strengths, the Google Pixel 7 (and Pixel 7 Pro) had one particularly strong flaw: software. Android 13 on the latest Pixel is unreliable and buggy, and Google really needs to get a handle on Android 14 for the next iteration of its flagship smartphone.
To be clear, the Pixel 7’s software isn’t bad; it’s just extremely unreliable. When it works, it works extremely well, and it looks fantastic to boot. But it’s just not a reliable experience — for example, Mobile Editor Joe Maring reported bugs and issues on his Pixel 7 Pro that Senior Mobile Writer Andy Boxall didn’t come across at all. Personally, I’ve come across a few bugs during my time with the phone, even if my experience has been broadly positive. The problem is it’s not consistent across devices, and there’s no way of knowing whether the Pixel 7 you buy will exhibit bugs and issues like Joe’s model, or be totally fine, like Andy’s.
This is especially important for Google to fix because the Pixel is supposed to be the Android showcase. Google owns and operates the Android operating system, and the Pixel is Google’s smartphone. Therefore, the Pixel should show Android at its very best. It should be the example we point people toward to prove why they should buy an Android smartphone. But it isn’t. It’s pretty far from it, in fact.
This needs to end with the Pixel 8. Google needs to get a firm grip on Android and use the new Pixel to show how very good Android can be. Give us a smooth, polished experience, and not just a platform for other manufacturers to build on and perfect.
While it’s made huge increases in sales numbers, it’s fair to say the Pixel doesn’t have the mass market recognition of Samsung’s Galaxy range, and certainly not that of Apple’s iPhone. Until it does, Google needs to keep offering the same value prospect it did with the Google Pixel 7. The Pixel 7 is our current pick for the best phone for value on our best smartphones list — thanks to its flagship processor, superb camera, good battery life, and a unique design that stands out.
We’re hoping the Pixel 8 will inherit the same price point as its predecessor, and really, it shouldn’t mean reducing the other improvements on this list. Of everything mentioned, only the telephoto lens will impact the price of the device, and that could be restricted to the more expensive Pro model anyway. So, there’s no real reason why Google can’t strive to keep the same strong value.
This is the last entry on this list, but it’s by no means at all the least important. In fact, this is probably the most important of the lot: give Google Assistant some new toys.
We’ve seen a lot of awesome new features added to the Google Assistant over the years, from more basic conversational-style speech to the much more advanced call-screening and call-holding tools. But that’s all old hat now. We want something new, and we don’t just want it to be another basic Google Assistant feature. Not after what we’ve seen come to fruition in recent months.
I’ll be surprised if 2023 isn’t hailed as the “Year of ChatGPT“. AI tools have exploded onto the scene these last few months, from AI-powered art to chatbots that actually seem to be able to hold a conversation, understand nuance, and create pieces of content (and, in Bing’s case, want to be human). It’s a stunning, but scary revolution, and we all know Google is hot on the trail of ChatGPT with its own software, Bard.
Bring it to the Pixel 8. It likely won’t be finished, but heck, I really don’t care. The Pixel line has always been known for sporting Google’s strongest AI-powered features and spearheading Google’s research, so why stop now? Launch Bard on the Pixel 8, and give people a real reason to buy into the Pixel line. The hype around chatbots has been huge, so capitalize on it.
In all likelihood, Bard won’t be tied into the Google Assistant at launch. But even if it isn’t, it would be cool for the Pixel 8 to be the world’s first smartphone with a built-in AI chatbot, and it would be an amazing addition to a smartphone line that’s always prided itself on cutting-edge AI tech. If Google does nothing else on this list, it should do this.
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