Why you can trust ZDNET
:ZDNET independently tests and researches products to bring you our best recommendations and advice. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission.Our process
'ZDNET Recommends': What exactly does it mean?
ZDNET's recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.
When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNET nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.
ZDNET's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form.
Once the keynote ended, those in attendance were given a chance to go hands-on with the new phones and wearable -- and so I did.
In a demo area like this, it's hard to get a lot of quality time with any new products. Everyone's trying to do the same thing; get a quick feel for whichever device is in front of them without feeling pressured to hurry up and move on to the next thing.
The Pixel 6 and Pixel 7 have similar, but different designs
At first glance, it could be easy to mistake last year's Pixel 6 for the Pixel 7 and the other way around. The designs are similar, but there are some telling differences. For instance, the camera bar on the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro is now metal, not glass, and wraps around the side of the phone instead of abruptly stopping on the edges.
The Pixel 7 Pro's camera bar also has an extra circular cutout for the third camera, which makes it easier to spot the 7 Pro over the 7 from across the room.
But the most noticeable design change I found when handling either model is how much lighter the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro feel compared with last year's crop. It's funny: On the flight to New York, I was using the Pixel 6 Pro and made a remark to myself about how heavy it felt compared with the iPhone 14 Plus.
Here's the kicker: The Pixel 7 Pro (212 grams) actually weighs slightly more than the Pixel 6 Pro (210 g). I know I wasn't alone in this observation as I heard a few other reporters make the same remark about the change in weight.
The Pixel 7 Pro's camera setup is going to be fun, if…
... Google nailed the camera features.
The demo area wasn't the best environment to test out Google's newest smartphone cameras, so take my anecdotal experience as just that -- anecdotal.
With dedicated zoom options ranging up to 5x optical zoom (not to be confused with digital zoom), it's easier to get up close to a sign, menu, or person from across the room. Of course, I'll need some time with both phones to test the new camera chops, but camera experience is something that Google takes a lot of pride in -- the amount of time spent talking about it during the keynote was telling enough -- and I'm sure the experience will be fantastic. Or, at least I hope it will be.
There's also a new cinematic blur video mode on the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro. I took a few seconds to test it out, and it looked great. You can switch between the foreground and background object -- adding or removing blur to or from either one in the process -- with just a tap, or by moving the camera and letting it automatically make the adjustment. Google is clearly going after the iPhone's Cinematic mode with this one.
The Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro have under-display fingerprint sensors, but the headlining biometric is Face Unlock, which makes a comeback here after two Pixel generations. The two features are not treated as equals, however. Google says the fingerprint sensor is a more secure verification method, so it's reliable enough to use for logging in to, say, banking apps. Face Unlock, on the other hand, exists as a quick and seamless way to unlock your phone. When it's triggered, there's a small light ring that beams around the front-facing camera, which is a nice touch.
The quick demo I saw of someone unlocking the Pixels was exactly that -- quick. The light would turn on, the phone would unlock and that's all there was to it.
Google's betting on a complete experience
You can order the $599 Pixel 7 and $899 Pixel 7 Pro right now, with deliveries starting next week on Oct. 13. My biggest takeaway from the event was that Google really wants you to buy into its ecosystem this year. The search giant turned hardware company finally has all of the parts and pieces for a complete Google ecosystem thanks to the Pixel Watch and the Pixel Tablet. The former arrives next week, while the latter won't ship until next year (I'd bet on a May release, around Google I/O).
Google's often had a leg up on Apple when it comes to software and services. But in the last few years, Apple has leveled that playing field, leaving Google to catch up with its own hardware and not rely on its partners to tout and move its various platforms forward.
I'm intrigued by the thought of living inside Google's walled garden of software, services and hardware, just to see how it compares to Apple's experience.