Six months later, the Pixel 7 Pro is a smartphone that isn’t much the wiser

Six months later, the Pixel 7 Pro is a smartphone that isn't much the wiser

It was a pretty uninspiring conclusion. When I reviewed the Google Pixel 7 Pro last year, I walked away with the impression of a phone that was a little better in some important respects, but it wasn’t quite the super-smart, time-saving device that Google claimed it was. . It was just a good smartphone, not a smarter smartphone.

But that was more than six months ago, and one of Google’s strengths for its Pixel line is the way its devices continue to gain functionality and smarts over time. Then there are things like Direct My Call, a feature that automatically transcribes phone tree menu options that get better as more people use them, so they’re not always at their full potential at launch.

For all these reasons, I thought the Pixel 7 Pro was worth revisiting amidst the regularly scheduled Hot Foldable Summer schedule. What I have found and am sorry to disappoint with another predictable conclusion is a bit more of the same. Some things have improved a bit, but for the most part, the things I liked about the Pixel 7 Pro the first time around are the things I like now.

It’s not for lack of intelligence. More often than not, the limitations he faces are a result of the stupidity of the world around him and the systems within which he has to function. And then there’s the world itself: it hasn’t stopped even in the last six-plus months. While the Pixel tries to block or eliminate some of the annoyances of everyday life, the rest of the world is wise up and finds new ways to annoy us.

Take Direct My Call as an example. It debuted with the Pixel 6 series, but the Pixel 7 Pro introduced a new version of the feature where it sometimes shows phone tree menu options on screen before they’re spoken. It’s a really smart way to save a few seconds of time, and it works well with some of the major toll-free numbers that Google suggested I try. But even now, I still can’t get it to work with the places I call on a regular basis, like my pharmacy or PetSmart.

I tried Walgreens and came across a different problem: a robot

Thinking there might not be enough Pixel owners calling Bartells Pharmacy on a regular basis, I tried Walgreens and ran into a different problem: a robot. Instead of presenting you with a list of options to choose from, Walgreens does that cute thing where it asks, in a nutshell, tell me how can I help you or something. The Pixel 7 Pro is no help here, at least not now. I’m sure in the future our phones will employ robots to talk to other robots for you, which are indeed dream robots through and through and all but at the moment, I still have to scream talk to pharmacist into my phone without the benefit of features special technologies.

Then there’s spam. The Pixel 7 Pro is good at detecting and blocking spam calls, but not so much for messages. When testing the phone again, a couple of scam messages with fake Instagram password reset requests made it through unscathed. They were convincing enough that I wondered for a second if someone was trying to log into my Instagram account, but as far as I know, that wasn’t the case. In that case, all I needed was a good old-fashioned instinct to never trust anyone who called or texted me from an unusual number, not a fancy spam detection feature.

All I needed was good old-fashioned instincts

It wasn’t the only time it proved smarter to use my head than rely on my phone to outwit the rest of the world. The Pixel 7 Pro is generally a good travel companion. It enters your flight information in At a Glance and you can easily add your boarding pass to Google Wallet I was looking in the Delta app for an Add to Wallet option, but apparently, all you have to do is do a screenshot, and it will generate a step that you can add. Intelligent.

Where that system collapses is when other things change, namely my gate. I was confidently walking from security to the gate on my digital boarding pass when I glanced at a nearby screen. It seemed funny that there was another Delta flight to JFK leaving at the same time as my flight. It turns out that wasn’t the case; my gate had just changed and the boarding pass in my wallet hadn’t updated. I couldn’t see a way to update the pass itself, so I opened the Delta app, refreshed the page, and there it was: my new gate was confirmed. I would have crossed the hall wasting minutes minutes! of time I could have spent ordering a cappuccino if I hadn’t happened to glance at a table.

The Pixel 7 Pro’s best features are ones that have been around for a while, quietly improving year after year.

To be clear, all of the complaints I’ve made here amount to minor annoyances at best. But these are the kinds of minor everyday annoyances that the Pixel is designed to take the sting out of, and it falls short. It’s successful in other ways and I don’t want to overlook them. I also tested Clear Calling when it was released in January and it works really well to act as a sort of noise cancellation when you’re talking to someone in a noisy environment.

And I’m basically hooked on the Recorder app which records briefings and calls for me and transcribes them with astonishing accuracy on the device. When I want to check out a specific quote or number, all I have to do is look it up and I’ll find the right place in the recording so I can listen to it back. It saves me tons of time, and I know I’m not alone because whenever Recorder is mentioned in a room full of tech journalists, we all nod knowingly.

More familiar features like Magic Eraser didn’t really impress me at first, but lately I’ve seen more and more cases where it does a very convincing job of removing people from photo backgrounds. I used the 2x crop zoom and 5x telephoto in a dark theater just last night and got surprisingly good photos of performers on stage across the room.

Most of these features are not exclusive to Pixel 7 Pro or even Pixel 7 series recorder dates back to Pixel 4 and Magic Eraser is not even exclusive to Pixel phones. But they’re the kind of Google-smarty-pants features that really impress me, even if they’re not exactly the surprising and delightful new tech features that Google always promises. They’re things the company has iterated on year after year, eventually becoming good enough for you to notice you use them more often. This is where the Pixel 7 Pro comes into its own, and I think it will remain so even as we inevitably see an onslaught of new AI-powered features in the next Pixel phone this fall. If nothing else, I hope for a robot that will speak for me to other robots. It must be on its way, right?

Photograph by Allison Johnson / The Verge

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