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Google Pixel 7: The features we want to see

Google Pixel 7

Google Pixel 7: The features we want to see

Without a doubt, the Pixel 6 family is the most premium line of phones Google has ever created. Featuring a unique design — a feat that’s becoming more and more difficult to pull off these days — a blazing-fast in-house-developed processor, incredible cameras with meaningful new features, and a sorely-needed visual overhaul to Android, the Pixel 6 was almost everything we ever wanted from a Google-branded phone.

That’s no doubt the Pixel 6’s biggest flaw, but there are a few other things we can think of that would improve a Pixel 7 when it eventually debuts. Here’s what we think the Pixel 7 will need to reclaim the top spot in the list of best Android phones.

Stable as a rock

Right now, the Pixel 6 family feels a bit like it had its foundation built upon sand. The launch looked very strong and former AC writer Ara Wagoner and I gave it high marks, calling them the best flagship phones of the year. But the foundation washed away pretty quickly, and, by December, the inadequacies of Google’s own Pixel software began eroding away at the goodwill that was made at launch.

Since then, we’ve seen a significant number of bugs and problems plaguing users. Some users have been able to look past these issues because the camera is just so darn good, but we’d be remiss not to mention the bugs as the number one issue Google needs to fix in the Pixel 6, much less a proper successor the company expects consumers to spend money on later this year.

To say the least, the number of Pixel 6 bugs is higher than any flagship in recent memory. While most of these bugs are just irritating, some, like the recent bug that rejects some calls without ever notifying the Pixel owner, are huge problems. Previously, we saw issues where folks couldn’t connect to their home’s Wi-Fi network and, worse yet, some folks that couldn’t achieve connectivity to cell towers.

Needless to say, Google is going to need to do better next time around unless it enjoys the ire of users it’s trying to keep on its platform.

Better fingerprint sensor

Initially, one of the only issues I had with the Pixel 6 hardware was the fingerprint sensor. Alone, it was a nuisance and only worked for me half of the time. When compared to almost any other smartphone with the same fingerprint sensor method, the Pixel 6 felt generations behind.

Now, to be fair, Google has improved the fingerprint sensor quite a bit since launch via software updates. Whether this is because they made it less secure in order to make it quicker or if they actually fixed something is anyone’s best guess, but the end result is a daily experience that’s much more tolerable.

Recently, we saw the reappearance of face unlock in the Pixel 6’s settings which could help alleviate some of the frustration of the fingerprint sensor for folks who don’t mind a less secure biometric authentication method. For anyone looking to buy a Pixel 7 when it eventually debuts, however, Google should just use a better fingerprint sensor like the one found in the Galaxy S21 or S22 series, or any of the sensors OnePlus has used in its phones for years.

More customizability

For the first time since Android introduced Material Design nearly a decade ago, Android had a clear and unique design that felt fresh and modern.

Not everybody liked it but there’s no denying it’s stylish and unique looking — again, like the phone’s hardware design, this is difficult to do these days without feeling unintuitive. With the Pixel 7, I’d love to see Google embrace its unique design further by offering even more customization to users. Folks who want more than four quick toggles should be able to cram a few more in there.

After all, if Google is going to advertise its phones as being as unique as its users, doesn’t it make sense to give them more choices beyond changing the color palette? Google made huge strides with customization in Android 12 and, even if it’s a stretch, I’d love to see the Pixel 7’s debut of Android 13 as a wholly customizable affair.

Wider wireless charging compatibility

Just about anyone who owns a Pixel 6 that has tried to use the wireless charging feature has probably realized just how finicky the phone is about wireless charging. You can put the Pixel 6 on any wireless charger and usually watch it register the charger’s presence but, more often than not, the phone will reject the charger and simply refuse to juice up at all.

I’ve got several different brands of wireless chargers at home, all of which have wide compatibility with most modern smartphones. That, of course, excludes the Pixel 6, which will only charge on one or two types of wireless chargers that I have. It’s annoying and I know I’m not alone in this request since I’ve seen it crop up regularly since the phone’s release. The Pixel 7 needs to work with more wireless chargers, just as Google’s competitors do.

Ditch the curved screen

This one might be more of a preference thing, but I’m still going to make the request. While the Pixel 6 shipped with an entirely flat display, the Pixel 6 Pro stuck with the waterfall display that marked the look of a premium Android phone for so many years. Yes, a display with curved edges looks nice but, in reality, it’s a pain in the butt to deal with.

First off, finding a decent tempered glass screen protector is more difficult than it should be. While a 3-pack of them costs roughly $10 for the flat Pixel 6, a similar quality curved glass protector for the Pixel 6 Pro is at least three times the price and you’ll get one less protector in the box.

I know the curved edges look nice and are a boon for gesture control but, unfortunately, the reality of the situation is that curved displays make phone care more difficult. It’s time to flatten that curve all the way across the line for any Pixel 7 model that makes a debut this year.

Less grain in the frame

Namely, very low light video captured from the Pixel 6 tends to be quite grainy looking when compared to the competition. In some cases, this creates a more detailed video but, otherwise, the Pixel 6’s low light video doesn’t look as good as what you can get from a Samsung phone like the Galaxy S22.

Likewise, zooming in and out while taking video isn’t as smooth as you’ll find on a Samsung phone or an iPhone. More specifically, when you cross over the threshold where the Pixel 6 changes between the camera lenses on back — that’s below 1x on either model or above 4x on the Pixel 6 Pro — there’s a very noticeable stutter that occurs.

Some of this stutter is at least partly unavoidable since each camera lens is in a different physical position and each has a different focal length, but software magic can go a long way to creating a more cohesive experience. If Samsung can do it then the master of amazing AI processing — that’s Google, if you were wondering — can certainly achieve similar results.

Zoom zoom

The Pixel 6 Pro delivered the first periscope lens on a Pixel phone and I’d love to see this concept taken even further on the Pixel 7. While the Galaxy S22 Ultra can zoom in up to 100x away with its camera, the Pixel 6 Pro stops at 20x. You can certainly digitally crop the photo to help “enlarge” the subject in the image but it’s just not the same as capturing it right from the viewfinder.

Outside of being simpler for the user, zooming in through the camera’s viewfinder yields superior quality results because of a combination of hardware and software tricks. Google will use the results of handshake to capture slight variations in detail in distant objects and combine those images into one, creating a more detailed end result.

A better Google

So far, everything is telling us that the Pixel 7 will simply be a refined version of the Pixel 6 instead of a revolutionary design change like we saw last year. That’s great since Google already made all the most important changes and just needs to smooth out some bumps in the experience.

When will we see the Pixel 7? So far, our best guess is that we’ll see the new flagship sometime in September, which is one month earlier than the Pixel 6 came in 2021. That’s great news for anyone looking to upgrade this year and it could also spell out some important software updates and fixes for the Pixel 6, as well.