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Google debuts Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro with big camera changes

Google’s Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro have arrived. The new smartphones, the latest in Google’s (GOOG, GOOGL) line of first-party devices, offer a number of major upgrades, including improved cameras, updated AI-powered apps like Google Assistant, and Google’s new Tensor G2 chip.

Starting at $599 for the base Pixel 7 and $899 for the Pixel 7 Pro, Google’s phones undercut both Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone 14 line, which starts at $799, and Samsung’s S22 line, which starts at $749, while still packing in the kind of features you’d expect from those pricier phones.

Here are some of its best features:

  • Relatively low starting price

  • Improved camera software

  • 5x optical zoom on Pixel 7 Pro

  • Promised 24 hours of battery life

Both Pixel phones get refined designs, specifically around their camera bars, which are now metal. The Pixel 7 also gets a slightly smaller display, 6.3 inches compared to the Pixel 6’s 6.4-inch panel. The Pixel 7 Pro keeps the Pixel 6 Pro's 6.7-inch screen.

Google's Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro get impressive camera improvements that could rival Apple and Samsung's capabilities. (Image: Google)
Google's Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro get impressive camera improvements that could rival Apple and Samsung's capabilities. (Image: Google)

Like the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro get in-screen fingerprint sensors, but this time Google is tacking on face unlock. You can use either to unlock your device, but Google says you’ll need to use the fingerprint reader for banking and other sensitive apps, since it’s more secure than the camera-style face reader Google offers.

But the biggest changes to the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro come in the form of new, more impressive camera capabilities. On paper, the cameras don’t look much different from those found in the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. In fact, outside of changes to the 7 Pro’s field of view and optical zoom, they’re virtually the same across the board.

But as is usually the case, Google’s software shines in making the cameras on both phones stand out. While the Pixel 7 only has a 50-megapixel main camera and 12-megapixel ultra-wide sensor, Google manages to also add the equivalent of a 2x optical zoom capability. It does this by cropping the 50-megapixel main sensor’s image to give a third focal length option.

It’s a slick feature, and one that ensures those who purchase the less expensive Pixel 7 still get the benefits of the equivalent of a digital zoom on their phones.

The Pixel 7 Pro now gets a 5x optical zoom. (Image: Google)
The Pixel 7 Pro now gets a 5x optical zoom. (Image: Google)

As for the Pixel 7 Pro, it gets a 50-megapixel rear camera, 48-megapixel telephoto camera, and 12-megapixel ultra-wide camera. That telephoto camera also now sports a 5x optical zoom, up from the 4x found on the Pixel 6 Pro. What’s more, the 7 Pro can crop that image to the equivalent of a 10x optical zoom.

On top of that, Google is adding a 30x Super Res Zoom that, while not as clear as the 5x or 10x zoom, still produces a relatively decent shot. At least that’s what I saw during Google’s brief demo. On the flip side, The Pro 7’s updated ultra-wide camera and autofocus mean you can take advantage of the phone’s new macrophotography feature. That means you can get an up-close look at everything from your furry friends to flowers.

The company has also worked to improve its Night Sight low-light capabilities, which are among the best in the industry, taking shots faster so that your subjects don’t have to stay still for too long. Real Tone, which ensures accurate skin tones across users’ ethnicities, has also been updated to work better in low-light conditions. Of course, there’s also the company’s Magic Erase editing feature, Face Unblur, and a slew of other software features, all of which are powered by the Pixel’s Tensor G2 chip.

As for battery life, Google says you’ll get more than 24 hours out of a single charge and as much as 72 hours using extreme battery saver on both the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro.

I’ll have more on the Pixel phones once I manage to get my hands on them. But for now, these look like some of the best Android smartphones you can buy, and at a heck of a price.

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